The Upper Hand

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For the film, see The Upper Hand (film).
The Upper Hand
Genre Sitcom
Starring Joe McGann
Diana Weston
Honor Blackman
Kellie Bright
William Puttock
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 94
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel ITV
Original run 1 May 1990 (1990-05-01) – 14 October 1996 (1996-10-14)
Related shows Who's the Boss?

The Upper Hand is a British television sitcom, produced by Central Independent Television and Columbia Pictures Television (then as Columbia TriStar Central Productions) and broadcast by ITV from 1990 to 1996. The programme was adapted from the American sitcom Who's the Boss?.

As in the former series, an affluent single woman Caroline Weatley, raising her son with the help of her mother Laura West, hires a housekeeper only to have a man called Charlie Burrows apply for the job.


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

Both Caroline and Charlie repeatedly attempt to find love elsewhere, denying their blossoming feelings for one another. For years they lead the viewer on a will-they-won't-they chase, lasting 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.


  • 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 in the hope of giving 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 somewhat) 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, young-at-heart mother (she is a man-eater) 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 somewhat.
  • 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 naive 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 oftens treats him as an annoyance as she gets older).

Minor and recurring characters[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 somewhat shady character, Nick spends time in prison for fraud; the revelation which of upsets Jo, who had been told by Charlie 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.


Series 1 (1 May 90 – 14 Aug 90)
  • 1 Just The Job: Charlie Burrows and his daughter Joanna leave London. On arriving at his new job, Charlie meets his new boss Caroline for the first time.
  • Briefless Encounter: Charlie decides to take a bath in Caroline's bathroom but he gets more than he bargains for when he goes in there.
  • 2 Dinner For Two: Caroline orders in a dinner for two for her date but her date gets stuck in Brussels. Charlie forfeits his date to stay with Caroline.
  • 3 The Old Girl Network: An old friend of Caroline's comes to stay and makes a play for Charlie.
  • Caroline's First Fight: Joanna and Tom get in to trouble for fighting and they run away to Joanna's old neighbourhood. Charlie and Caroline go after them but soon Caroline finds herself in trouble.
  • 4 Who's Who: Both Caroline and Charlie are mistaken for people they are not but they don't admit to their mistaken identities which makes things difficult with their respective dates.
  • 5 Growing Pains: Charlie needs to accept that Joanna is growing up and Laura and Caroline are on hand to help.
  • 6 Paint Your Wagon: Employer and Employee lines are crossed when Charlie makes a decision about Caroline's car.
  • 7 Welcome Home (Part 1): Charlie finds himself in the way when Caroline's adventurer husband returns from the jungle. Guest starring Nicky Henson.
  • 8 Welcome Home (Part 2): Whilst the relationship between Caroline and her husband becomes strained, Charlie find himself a perfect new job but something is missing.
  • 9 Just Like Charlie: Tom steals a car hub cap as a prank, in order to emulate Charlie in his younger days.
  • 10 First Kiss: It's Caroline birthday but everyone seems to have forgotten, even Charlie. She goes out for a meal with friends and returns home drunk, as does Charlie. Charlie feels bad for forgetting her birthday and so they head in to the kitchen to bake a cake.
  • 11 Requiem (Christmas Special): Why is Charlie short of money? Laura trails him and suspects a woman. But the truth is that Charlie can't say goodbye. Caroline helps him move on.

Series 2 (18 Feb 91 – 20 May 91)
  • Common Entrance: Joanna's friend Camilla is transferring to St Hilda's School for Girls; the same school that Caroline attended.
  • When Worlds Collide: Caroline invites Charlie's poker playing cronies to play in Henley on Saturday night; unfortunately, she has forgotten she has an old friend coming for dinner on the same night.
  • Wedding Bells (Part 1):Caroline's ex-husband, Michael, plans to remarry in the south of France and drops a bombshell on Caroline.
  • Wedding Bells (Part 2): The whole family is still in the South of France and Caroline is still coming to terms with Michael's request for joint custody of Tom.
  • Cupid's Arrows: Tom sets up a romantic blind date for his mother and Charlie.
  • The Babysitter: When their regular babysitter lets them down, Caroline and Charlie agree that Joanna can babysit for Tom.
  • Playing To Win: Tom is encouraged by his school to take a more active role so he chooses gymnastics. When he breaks his shoulder, Caroline blames Charlie for the accident.
  • The Heiress: When Laura inherits some money from a mystery man Caroline does a bit of innocent digging to find out who he was, and comes across a secret that was meant to stay buried.
  • A Friend In Need: Caroline foolishly lets her neighbour, Diana Wilkinson, stay on the sofa for a few nights after she catches her husband cheating.
  • And The Winner Is ...: Caroline loses out on an advertising award but she feels even more aggravated that the winner is a young prodigy whom she trained. When Charlie wins a darts competition, she believes she is even more of a failure. After receiving an invitation to the advertising awards ceremony, it takes a great deal of strength and decorum on Caroline's part to act benevolently when Charlie persuades her to attend.
  • She's My Girl: Tom gets upset went a girl he likes gets a crush on Charlie.
  • The Anniversary: Charlie and Caroline celebrate his first anniversary as her housekeeper.

Series 3 (5 Nov 91 – 11 Feb 92)
  • Bedtime Story: Caroline is interviewed at home by the famous local reporter, Becky Barnes.
  • First Date: After Caroline takes an escort to the advertising awards, Charlie decides it is time that he took her out for a date. He decides that a Comedy Club is the ideal place for a first date however, Caroline is not impressed.
  • Once Bitten, Twice Shy: Joanna unsuccessfully tries to hide from Charlie the love bite the coolest guy in the school, gave her. He tries to warn her about how teenage boys can be manipulative with girls.
  • Older Than Springtime: Caroline pursues an advertising account with a trendy, young fashion design agency.
  • Neighbours: Problems ensure when new neighbours decide to re-establish their garden boundaries. More problems occur when Charlie and Caroline catch the neighbours' daughter kissing Tom.
  • Old Flames: An old friend of Caroline's, Brian Thomas, appears at the door and declares that he's Caroline's husband. Note: William Puttock (Tom) is credited for, but does not appear in, this episode.
  • Wheels: Charlie is torn about replacing the van.
  • The Honeymooners: Charlie takes Caroline to a footballers' reunion with Kevin Keegan. Charlie bumps in to an old flame and pretends he and Caroline are married.
  • The Whiz Kid: Charlie starts to get jealous when Caroline is spending all her time with the new guy at work. Guest starring Martin Clunes.
  • Family Ties: Charlie's father-in-law Nick turns up, but their relationship isn't the best. However, things change when Nick claims he is dying - but are things what they seem? Guest starring Anthony Newley.
  • The Proposal: Geoffrey creates a special evening for Caroline and confides in Laura that he's going to offer her a share in his timeshare, but Caroline is expecting an entirely different proposal. Guest starring Simon Williams.
  • Business And Pleasure: Charlie isn't pleased when Caroline is spending all her time with her new colleague.
  • Pillow Talk: Caroline is distraught when she realises she's been talking loudly in her sleep.

Series 4 (20 Oct 92 – 22 Feb 93)
  • Come Dancing: Caroline and Charlie go dancing and make some new friends who are about to make a big commitment.
  • Blind Date: Charlie convinces Caroline to go on a pity date with his recently divorced friend Trevor.
  • Sex, Lies And Exercise Tape: Caroline joins a health club and feels insecure about fitting in with the "in-crowd".
  • Summoned To The Head: Tom's school wants him to move a year ahead and Caroline is thrilled, but has decide whether to cope with the influence of the older children.
  • The Girl Next Door: Charlie takes the family to help Auntie Pat at the summer fayre and meets up with some people he used to know, including the only girl from his neighborhood who refused to date him.
  • Charlie's Auntie's Uncle: Auntie Pat's uncle Al needs someone to help him mend his criminal ways and Charlie volunteers.
  • Match Of The Day: When Charlie agrees to coach Caroline's volleyball team, she is the one that gets left out.
  • Surprise, Surprise: Laura's innocent dinner party throws up some surprises.
  • The Fugitive: Joanna is devastated to discover that, according to Charlie, her grandfather is not in Spain, but in prison.
  • You Shall Go To The Ball: Laura takes on Caroline's identity so that she can gatecrash a society ball, but bites off more than she can chew.
  • To Let Or Not To Let: Charlie and Caroline can't agree over Charlie's choice of tenant for Caroline's cottage.
  • Big Bad Burrows: A boxing match is used as a school fundraiser.
  • Working Girls: Charlie agrees to let Joanna spend a week with him on work experience. However, she soon wishes she was back at school.
  • A Model Grandmother: When Laura strikes a sexy pose for a magazine, it hampers Tom's chances of becoming form rep.
  • The Manageress: Charlie tries to stop Joanna from managing Al's band, but when he changes his mind and tries to help her it causes a bigger row.
  • Wish You Were Here: On a family trip to the Caribbean, Charlie feels left out, but a walk with Caroline in the moonlight soon turns out to be very revealing.
  • A Walk On The Mild Side: Charlie fears Caroline is asking for trouble when she asks out the youth club's wildest member.
  • Take Your Pick: Charlie's godmother and mother find their passions aroused by the same man, forcing Charlie and Caroline to take sides.
  • Tunnel Of Love: It's time for declarations of love - or is it?

Series 5 (9 Sep 93 – 23 Dec 93)
  • Not In Front Of The Children: Charlie and Caroline at last admit that they're in love. Charlie, however, wants to keep it secret.
  • Misery: Caroline has sprained her ankle and is laid-up in bed. She becomes alarmed by Charlie's possessive behaviour.
  • Cheers: Joanna is allowed to go to a party however she gets drunk and is very ill as a consequence.
  • Duck Soup: Who shot Caroline's biggest client? Charlie and Laura have some explaining to do.
  • Minder: Charlie repays a favour owed to an old friend by taking their unruly daughter on to help with the housekeeping.
  • Wheel Of Fortune: When Laura is stood up, Charlie takes her and Caroline to the Casino as planned.
  • The Price Is Right: Charlie, disillusioned by the materialistic motives of a footballer, falls out with the rest of the family.
  • Housewife's Choice: When Charlie and Caroline swap roles, Caroline comes off worse.
  • Who's The Boss?: When Charlie feels henpecked, he tries to let Caroline know who the real boss is with disastrous results.
  • The Far Pavilion: Joanna asks Charlie to help her get a job,but he's reluctant, remembering the disaster he had on his hands after he helped Tom.
  • The Porridge Diet: Nick is released from prison and Caroline invites him to stay as he has nowhere else to go.
  • Mixed Doubles: Charlie becomes jealous of a long legged friend of Caroline's, while Caroline is spending time with someone very familiar...
  • Full House: Al is flat hunting but Charlie messes things up. Caroline has to market a new soft drink which tastes disgusting.
  • Keep It In The Family: Caroline is tempted by an offer to merge her company with another advertising agency, but Laura is not part of the package.
  • Happy Ever After? (Part 1): Charlie promises not to put pressure on Caroline to marry him. They take an adventure holiday in which they go hiking and cycling.
  • Happy Ever After? (Part 2): Caroline doesn't want to forgive Charlie for the way in which he proposed.

Series 6 (6 Jan 95 – 8 Apr 95)
  • Moonlighting: Now that Charlie is engaged to his boss, he is anxious to show he is not a kept man. He buys Caroline a painting he cannot afford and is forced to do a little moonlighting.
  • Fatal Attraction: Charlie is left feeling guilty when his tennis opponent, Fred, drops dead on the court. The arrival of Fred's twin, Ted gives him an opportunity to make amends, but when Ted begins to take advantage, Charlie loses his cool and challenges him to a tennis match.
  • Granny Get Your Gun: Caroline's domineering grandmother comes to stay and announces whe will prevent her marriage to Charlie. She suggests a pre-nuptial agreement, and once the solicitors are brought in the negotiations soon turn into a slanging match.
  • Surgical Spirit: Caroline is forced to take in her mother when Laura's flat is damaged by fire.
  • Father Of The Bride (Part 1): Joanna brings her new boyfriend home to meet her father and announces that they are engaged.
  • Father Of The Bride (Part 2): Joanna and her new-found fiancé, Dan, elope to Gretna Green, but are followed by their relatives who drive through the night to catch them.
  • Married ... With Parents: Newly-weds Joanna and Dan are back from their honeymoon, but the university has thrown them out of the halls of residence, and they move in with Charlie and Caroline. The idea of Joanna and Dan sharing a bed keeps Charlie awake at night.
  • No Place Like Home: A visitor to the house offers a significant sum to sell up so Charlie and Caroline go house-hunting.
  • Hard Times: Caroline's business goes through a bad patch and she uses money from the household account to support it. Charlie's shopping cheque bounces, and he imposes an economy drive on the family. Caroline, however, cannot stop spending money.
  • Hit The Road: Tom tries to impress a girlfriend from school by using Charlie's jeep despite the fact that he is too young to drive legally.
  • Home Improvement: When a water leak in the ceiling downstairs is traced to Caroline's bedroom, Charlie decides it would be a good time to give the whole bedroom a makeover.
  • Quantum Leap: Charlie is knocked out and dreams that he has remained a football player with all the money and trappings associated with it.
  • Second Thoughts: Charlie has an allergic reaction every time he is forced to think about getting married.
  • The Wedding: It's Charlie and Caroline's wedding day and everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

Series 7 (2 Sep 96 – 14 Oct 96)
  • A Lion Called Laura: Charlie and Caroline are happily married and facing their first nights apart as Caroline goes to Brussels for work. But why is she so upset? And how will she react to the surprise that Charlie has awaiting her return?
  • Friends: Charlie and Caroline reminisce about their honeymoon.
  • In Marriage We Trust: Caroline invites a man-eating friend for dinner; Laura's date is Caroline's ex. Jealousy threatens to mar the evening - until Charlie & Caroline trust their marriage.
  • The Chunnel Of Love: Dan gets a job in Paris but Jo doesn't want to go. Charlie can't resist interfering - but will he make things better, or worse?
  • Nobody's Child: Laura is feeling neglected and unloved - until an old friend turns up and invites her on a world tour. But 2 stars in one small room means Star Wars.
  • A Couple Of Charlies: Charlie meets an old girlfriend now married to another Charlie. His insecurities mounting, this Charlie challenges Charlie at pool. One Charlie wins, one loses, and both discover new depths to their marriages.
  • Oh Baby, Oh Baby: Charlie and Caroline are still trying for a baby. The pregnancy test is positive - but whose is it? Caroline's? Or Joanna's?

DVD release[edit]

The seven series of The Upper Hand have been released in 2010 and 2011 by Network DVD.

DVD Year(s) Release date
The Complete Series 1 1990 18 January 2010
The Complete Series 2 1991 10 May 2010
The Complete Series 3 1991-
19 July 2010
The Complete Series 4 1992-
27 September 2010
The Complete Series 5 1993 25 October 2010
The Complete Series 6 1995 24 January 2011
The Complete Series 7 1996 20 June 2011
The Complete Series 1 to 7 1990-
8 December 2014

External links[edit]