Upright, season 2, review: Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock's oddball road trip is irresistible
The first series of Upright (Sky Comedy/NOW), an Australian comedy-drama created by the polymath muso-comedian Tim Minchin, began with a car crash. I remember at the time (2019) thinking that any writer so desperate to bring two characters into each other’s orbit that he literally crashes them into one another could do with some new plot ideas. (The Tourist then did the same thing a year later.)
But all was quickly forgotten because Meg (Milly Alcock), a tearaway teen from the boondocks, and Lucky (played by Minchin himself), a perennially bemused musician, were such great company. Their comic odyssey from Sydney to Perth in a beat-down truck with an upright piano in the back was a hoot. Who cared if their initial meeting was a contrivance?
The series ended with them apart again, and so in story terms at least, we were back to where we started. As so often, however, the demands of television executives clashed head on with the basic tenets of reality: for Meg and Lucky to head off on a second whirlwind adventure… well, what could possibly bring them back together?
Delightful to report that Minchin and his co-writers are once again not that bothered about the "how". It’s four years later and Lucky has achieved the musical success he dreamed of, but it’s brought him nothing but boozing and bother. And then – poof! – Meg turns up. Even better, she has a quest that looks suspiciously like it might be just the thing for an eight-part television drama (she wants to find her long-lost mother up in Queensland). And so off they go again.
As fun as it is to shout, "That would never happen!" repeatedly at your TV, it’s worth suspending your 10-gallon disbelief once more because Minchin and Alcock are more than the sum of their parts. Plonk them shotgun in a car, as happens repeatedly as they bomb up Australia’s Gold Coast, falling out and then falling back in again, and you’ve got yourself a very watchable scene.
Since series one of Upright aired just before the pandemic, Alcock has gone on to greater things, being cast in HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon as a formidable young princess who is endlessly underestimated. Watching her in Upright you can see why the HBO casting bigwigs bet the house on a diminutive Aussie unknown – she is a bomb blast, with gimlet eyes and cutesy smile masking an iron will. Meg is the same combination of sneer and heart and pluck as Rhaenyra Targaryen, just updated to modern Australia (and with a much fouler tongue).
As such the story of series two of Upright – a rambling picaresque up to Cairns and back again reminiscent of everything from Don Quixote to Planes, Trains and Automobiles – is, it turns out, slightly irrelevant. Upright isn’t really about what happens, it’s about the people it happens to.