The Upper Hand is a British television sitcom with dramatic elements broadcast by ITV from 1 May 1990 to 14 October 1996. The programme was adapted from the American sitcom Who's the Boss?

The Upper Hand
Created byMartin Cohan
Blake Hunter
StarringJoe McGann
Diana Weston
Honor Blackman
Kellie Bright
William Puttock
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series7
No. of episodes94 (list of episodes)
Production locationTelevision House[1]
Running time25 minutes
Production companiesCentral in association with Columbia Pictures Television (Seasons 1-5)
Columbia TriStar Central/Carlton Productions (Seasons 6-7)
Original release
Release1 May 1990 (1990-05-01) –
14 October 1996 (1996-10-14)
Who's the Boss?

As in the former series, affluent single woman Caroline Wheatley, raising her son with the help of her mother Laura West, hires a housekeeper and a man called Charlie Burrows applies for the job.[2]

Premise edit

Down on his luck, former footballer Charlie Burrows (Joe McGann) moves from a deprived area of London to leafy Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire to make a better life for his teenage daughter Joanna (Kellie Bright), by taking a job as housekeeper for well-off advertising executive Caroline Wheatley (Diana Weston). Although Caroline is unsure about employing him, her man-eating ageing mother Laura West (Honor Blackman) talks her into it. Soon the two become friends, Caroline's son Tom (William Puttock) comes to see Charlie as a father figure, and Joanna enjoys having a female influence in her life following the premature death of her mother.

Both Caroline and Charlie repeatedly attempt to find love elsewhere, denying their blossoming feelings for each other. For years they lead the viewer on a "will-they-won't-they" chase that lasts until the end of the sixth series when the pair marry. After initial plans to end the series there, ITV commissioned a seventh series featuring Charlie and Caroline as husband and wife, which went beyond the premise of the original American version.

Cast and characters edit

Main edit

  • Charlie Burrows (Joe McGann) - A former footballer whose career was curtailed by injury, Charlie is also a single dad to daughter Joanna since his wife Debbie's death. Down on his luck and living in a deprived area of London, Charlie takes a housekeeper's job in Henley-on-Thames to give Joanna a better life. Confident, charming and something of a joker, he is a contrast to the more serious Caroline and helps to loosen her up over time. A running joke is that, while Charlie sees himself very much as a traditional man, he enthusiastically embraces a stereotypically female job and its tasks.
  • Caroline Wheatley (Diana Weston) - A successful advertising executive who, while confident in the business world, struggles in her personal life. Separated from her unreliable husband, Caroline shares her life with her son Tom (whom she over-indulges) and her young-at-heart mother Laura, who constantly tries to find her daughter a man. She is somewhat buttoned-up, but begins to take a more relaxed approach to life under Charlie's influence.
  • Laura West (Honor Blackman) - Caroline's glamorous and young-at-heart mother who lives in an annex of her daughter's house. Something of a man-eater, she dates a string of different men throughout the course of the series. It is Laura who initially hires Charlie, mainly because of his looks, but when she spots the chemistry between him and Caroline she does everything she can to encourage a relationship between them. Although Laura frequently makes cracks at Caroline's expense, she genuinely loves her daughter and can be very protective of her.
  • Joanna Burrows (Kellie Bright) - Charlie's daughter; an outgoing, confident girl who is something of a tomboy in early episodes, but becomes more typically "girly" as she reaches her teens. She initially resents Caroline, finding her stuck-up, but comes to appreciate having a woman around as she goes through puberty. Just as Caroline is influenced by Charlie, Jo's confidence rubs off on Tom.
  • Tom Wheatley (William Puttock) - Caroline's son, whom she over-indulges somewhat to compensate for the lack of his father's presence. Although academically intelligent beyond his years, Tom is socially naïve and struggles to make friends. He comes to see Charlie, who encourages him in more typically "boyish" pursuits such as football, as a father figure, as well as becoming close to Jo (although she often treats him as an annoyance as she gets older).

Minor and recurring edit

  • Michael Wheatley (Nicky Henson) - Caroline's unreliable estranged (later ex-) husband; a documentary maker who spends most of his time in the jungle. The two briefly attempt a reconciliation, but this fails when Michael struggles to settle down. He later remarries and plans to fight for custody of Tom, until his much younger wife Tiffany decides she is not ready for motherhood.
  • Nick Murray (Anthony Newley) - Joanna's maternal grandfather, who has a difficult relationship with Charlie, having never believed him good enough for his late daughter Debbie. A shady character, Nick spends time in prison for fraud; the revelation which of upsets Jo, because Charlie had told her that her grandfather had moved to Spain.
  • Auntie Pat (Lynda Baron) - Charlie's godmother; a lively, kind-hearted woman with a habit of pinching people's cheeks in greeting (to the point that other characters instinctively protect their faces on seeing her).
  • Al (Charlie Creed-Miles) - Auntie Pat's uncle (although several years younger than her). A former young offender, he attempts to turn his life around by training as a hairdresser. Charlie takes him under his wing, but is less keen on having him around when he spots an attraction between Al and Jo.
  • Katie (Joanna Forest)
  • Tom (Jack Bernhardt) An easily confused handyman who has a brief affair with Laura.

Theme tune edit

The theme music was written by Debbie Wiseman. A piano version of the theme titled Joe & Diana was released in 2011 on her album Piano Stories.[3]

Episodes edit

SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1131 May 1990 (1990-05-01)27 December 1990 (1990-12-27)
21218 February 1991 (1991-02-18)20 May 1991 (1991-05-20)
3135 November 1991 (1991-11-05)11 February 1992 (1992-02-11)
41920 October 1992 (1992-10-20)22 February 1993 (1993-02-22)
5169 September 1993 (1993-09-09)23 December 1993 (1993-12-23)
6146 January 1995 (1995-01-06)8 April 1995 (1995-04-08)
772 September 1996 (1996-09-02)14 October 1996 (1996-10-14)

Home media edit

The Upper Hand was first released on VHS format in the United Kingdom, where three volumes containing various episodes were made available from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment. All seven series of The Upper Hand have been released in 2010 and 2011 in the United Kingdom via Network.


Title Episodes # Tapes Release date BBFC rating Ref
Volume 1: The Best of Series I & II

"Just the Job"
Caroline's First Fight
Wedding Bells (Part 1)
Wedding Bells (Part 2)

1 16 January 1995 PG [4]
Volume 2: Caroline & Charlie's Romance

"First Kiss"
"The Anniversary"
"Tunnel of Love"
"Happy Ever After? (Part 2)

1 6 March 1995 PG [5]
Volume 3: The Wedding

"The Wedding"

1 1995 PG [6]


Title Episodes # Discs Release date BBFC rating[7] Ref
The Complete First Series 13 2 18 January 2010 PG [8]
The Complete Second Series 12 2 10 May 2010 PG [9]
The Complete Third Series 13 2 26 July 2010 PG [10]
The Complete Fourth Series 19 3 27 September 2010 PG [11]
The Complete Fifth Series 16 2 25 October 2010 PG [12]
The Complete Sixth Series 14 2 24 January 2011 PG [13]
The Complete Seventh Series 7 1 20 June 2011 PG [14]
The Complete Series 94 14 8 December 2014 PG [15]

References edit

  1. ^ "Ex-ITV Regional Studios". TV Studio History. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  2. ^ "BBC - Comedy Guide - The Upper Hand". Archived from the original on 5 December 2004. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Debbie Wiseman Piano Stories". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  4. ^ "The Upper Hand: The Best Of Series 1 And 2 [VHS]". 16 January 1995. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  5. ^ "The Upper Hand: Volume 2 - Caroline And Charlie's Romance [VHS]". 6 March 1995. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  6. ^ "The Upper Hand - Vol. 3 - The Wedding [1990]". 11 October 2004. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  7. ^ BBFC rating:
  8. ^ "The Upper Hand - Series 1 [DVD]". 18 January 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  9. ^ "The Upper Hand - Series 2 - Complete [DVD] [1990]". 10 May 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  10. ^ "The Upper Hand - Series 3 - Complete [DVD]". 26 July 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  11. ^ "The Upper Hand - Series 4 - Complete [DVD]". 27 September 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  12. ^ "The Upper Hand - The Complete Fifth Series [DVD]". Amazon UK. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  13. ^ "The Upper Hand - The Complete Sixth Series [1995] [DVD]". Amazon UK. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  14. ^ "The Upper Hand - The Complete Seventh Series [DVD]". Amazon UK. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  15. ^ "The Upper Hand: The Complete Series [DVD]". Amazon UK. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2018.

External links edit