Keith Waterhouse's most famous creation was Billy Liar, and there's more than a touch of Billy Liar in his comic creation who went by the false name Mike Upchat. 'The Upchat Line', a Thames TV sitcom, featured John Alderton as a mysterious bloke whose every waking moment is devoted to the fine art of 'pulling birds' ... in other words, getting laid. Our lad has no fixed abode; he keeps all his possessions and clothes in a locker in Marylebone Station. He calls himself Mike Upchat, which is clearly a nom de guerre (Upchat likes to 'chat up' the women, geddit?) ... but this is hardly his only alias. Upchat has an infinite supply of fake names and false backgrounds. Like George Costanza in 'Seinfeld', Upchat will claim for himself whichever identity or occupation he thinks is most likely to impress whatever woman happens to be handy. Object: sexual conquest.
The one certainty we know about Upchat is that he is genuinely homeless. Thus, his constant ongoing attempts to smooth-talk his way into a woman's bed (ANY woman's bed) carried a double urgency. If a lady doesn't invite Upchat home to spend the night at her place, he'll be sleeping rough with no bed at all. Upchat's desperation lent a sharp and bitter edge to the comedy of this offbeat series.
'The Upchat Line' ran for seven episodes in 1977, and would have returned for another series of seven episodes in '78, but Alderton didn't want to continue playing the character. Waterhouse recast the role with Robin Nedwell as Mike Upchat in a new series, 'The Upchat Connection'. Cleverly, the casting change was explained in an appropriately offbeat fashion: the original Mike Upchat (Alderton) had supposedly emigrated to Australia, financing his trip by raffling off the key to his Marylebone locker: the winner (Nedwell) not only inherited the 'Mike Upchat' identity, but also inherited Upchat's address book, his list of pseudonyms, and a blind date to start off the new series. This has got to be the most original explanation ever used for the familiar TV syndrome of 'same role, different actor'.
'The Upchat Line' and its sequel 'The Upchat Connection' deserve to be repeated. I hope they'll be issued on video.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?