The Bill


The Bill
The Bill
Thebillnewsequence3-1.jpg
An image from the final opening title sequence of The Bill.
Created by Geoff McQueen
Starring Main cast
Theme music composer Andy Pask
Charlie Morgan
Composer(s) Simba Studios
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of series 26
No. of episodes 2400[1] (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Lloyd Shirley (1984–87)
Peter Cregeen (1987–89)
Michael Chapman (1989–98)
Richard Handford (1998–2002)
Chris Parr (2002)
Paul Marquess (2002–05)
Johnathan Young (2005–10)
Location(s) London, England
Running time 22–4 minutes
(commercial ½ hour w/1 break)
42–6 minutes (as of 2010)
(commercial hour w/3 breaks)
Production company(s) Talkback Thames
Distributor FremantleMedia
Broadcast
Original channel ITV Network
(also on ITV1 HD)
Picture format 4:3 (1984–98)
16:9 SD (1998–2009)
1080i HD (2009–10)
First shown in 16 August 1983 (1983-08-16) (Woodentop)
Original run 16 October 1984 (1984-10-16) – 31 August 2010 (2010-08-31)
Chronology
Related shows
External links
Website

The Bill is a police procedural television series that ran from October 1984 to August 2010. It focused on the lives and work of one shift of police officers, rather than on any particular aspect of police work. At the time of the series' conclusion in August 2010, The Bill was the longest-running police procedural television series in the UK and was among the longest-running of any British television series.

The series was produced by Thames Television, its name originating from "Old Bill", a slang term for the police and Geoff McQueen's original title for the series. It originated as a one-off drama, entitled Woodentop in August 1983. ITV commissioned a series, which started in October 1984.

The series attracted controversy on several occasions. A 2008 episode featured a fictional treatment for multiple sclerosis, and another in May 2008 resulted in litigation by MP George Galloway for defamation. The series has also faced more general criticism concerning the levels of violence it portrays, particularly prior to 2009, when it occupied a pre watershed slot.

The Bill won several awards, including BAFTAs, a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award and the title of "best drama" at the Inside Soap Awards in 2009, the latter being the series' fourth consecutive win. It has always been broadcast on ITV (now known as ITV1 in England and Wales). It has been repeated on ITV3, part of ITV plc's digital network, as well as digital channel Watch. In its final days The Bill was aired once a week in a one hour format.

On 25 March 2010, ITV announced that it did not intend to recommission The Bill and that filming would cease on 14 June 2010. The last episode was aired on 31 August 2010.


Contents

History

The concept of The Bill was originally conceived by Geoff McQueen in 1983, then a relatively new television writer, as a one-off drama. McQueen had originally titled the production "Old Bill".[2] It was picked up by Michael Chapman for production company Thames Television, who retitled it "Woodentop" as part of Thames' "Storyboard" series of one-off dramas and was broadcast on ITV under the title Woodentop on 16 August 1983.[2] "Woodentop" starred Mark Wingett as Police Constable Jim Carver and Trudie Goodwin as Woman Police Constable June Ackland of London's Metropolitan Police, both attached to the fictional Sun Hill police station.[2]

Although originally only intended as a one-off, "Woodentop" impressed ITV to the extent that a full series was commissioned, first broadcast on 16 October 1984 with one post-watershed episode per week, featuring an hour-long, separate storyline for each episode of the first three seasons. The first episode of the full series was Funny Ol' Business – Cops & Robbers. With serialisation, the name of the show changed from "Woodentop" to The Bill.[2]

The series changed to two episodes, each of thirty minutes, per week in 1988, increasing to three a week from 1993. Almost ten years later, in 1998, The Bill returned to hour-long episodes, which later became twice-weekly,[3] at which point the series adopted a much more serialised approach. When Paul Marquess took over as executive producer in 2002, as part of a drive for ratings,[4] the series was revamped, bringing in a more soap opera type feel to many of its stories, and with many veteran characters written out, leading to the Sun Hill fire 2002. Marquess stated that the clearout was necessary in order to introduce "plausible, powerful new characters". As part of the new serial format, much more of the characters' personal lives were explored, however, as Marquess put it, the viewers still "don't go home with them".[2] The change also allowed The Bill to become more reflective of modern policing with the introduction of officers from ethnic minorities, most notably, the new superintendent, Adam Okaro. It also allowed coverage of the relationship of homosexual Sergeant Craig Gilmore and PC Luke Ashton, a storyline which Marquess was determined to explore before rival Merseybeat.[2]

In 2005, Johnathan Young took over as executive producer.[2] The serial format was dropped and The Bill returned to stand-alone episodes with more focus on crime and policing than on the personal lives of the officers. 2007 saw the reintroduction of episode titles, which had been dropped in 2002.[4] In 2009, The Bill moved back to the 9pm slot it previously held and the theme tune, "Overkill", was replaced as part of a major overhaul of the series.[4][5]

Cancellation

On 26 March 2010, ITV announced it would be cancelling the series.[6][7] Announcing the cancellation, ITV said that it reflected the "changing tastes" of viewers.[8] The last episode of The Bill was filmed in June 2010 and broadcast on 31 August 2010[9] followed by a documentary titled Farewell The Bill.[10] Fans of the show started a 'Save the Bill' campaign on social networking website Facebook in an effort to persuade ITV to reconsider the cancellation,[11] and some radio broadcasters, including BBC Radio One's Chris Moyles[12] presented special features on the programme's cancellation.

Tribute to members of the Metropolitan Police Service at the end of the final episode

At the time of the series' end in August 2010, The Bill was the United Kingdom's longest-running police drama and was among the longest-running of any British television series.[13] The series finale, entitled "Respect", was aired in two parts and was dedicated to "the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Service past and present".[14] The finale storyline concerns gang member Jasmine Harris being involved in the murder of fellow member Liam Martin who dies in the arms of Inspector Smith after being stabbed.[1] Jasmine is then gang raped because she talked to the police and when Callum Stone finds the person responsible he is held at gunpoint. Of the title for the finale, Executive Producer Johnathan Young said "It's called "Respect" and we hope it will respect the heritage of the show". The finale episodes featured all the cast and the final scene was specially written so all cast members would be featured. Following the final episode, ITV aired a documentary entitled Farewell The Bill which featured interviews from past and present cast and crew members.[15] The finale was watched by 4.4 million viewers with Farewell The Bill averaging 1.661 million viewers.[16]

Broadcasting and production

Filming locations

Throughout the series, there have been three filming locations for Sun Hill police station. From the first series, the police station consisted of a set of buildings in Artichoke Hill, Wapping, East London.[17] However, these buildings were next to the News International plant and during the winter of 1985–86 there was much industrial action which resulted in some altercations between the strikers and what they thought were the real police but were actually actors working on The Bill. Working conditions got so dire, that the production team realised they needed to find another base to set Sun Hill police station.[18] The second location was an old record distribution depot in Barlby Road, North Kensington in North West London .[17] Filming began here in March 1987. In 1989, the owners of the Barlby Road site ordered The Bill out, due to their redevelopment plans for the area. After an extensive search, two sites were selected, the favourite being a disused hospital in Clapham. However, this fell through and the second option was chosen—an old wine distribution warehouse in Merton, South West London. The move was made in March 1990 and the move was disguised on screen by the 'ongoing' refurbishment of Sun Hill police station and then finally, the explosion of a terrorist car-bomb in the station car-park, which ended up killing PC Ken Melvin.

Filming for the series takes place all over London, mainly in South London and particularly the London Borough of Merton, where the Sun Hill set is located.[2] Locations used when the show is filmed on a housing estate are:

  • Cambridge Estate, in Kingston, south-west London[19]
  • High Path Estate, in South Wimbledon, south-west London (approx. 10 minute walk from the Sun Hill set)
  • Phipps Bridge, Mitcham[20]
  • Roundshaw Estate opposite Mellows Park in Wallington, London[21]
  • Sutton Estate, which includes Durand Close in Carshalton, where a housing block regularly used by The Bill for filming was demolished in November 2009.[22]

Scenes are often filmed in east London, most notably the London Docklands,[23] with other scenes filmed in Tooting,[24] Greenwich[25] or Croydon.[26]

"Sun Hill"

The Bill is set in and around Sun Hill police station, in the fictional "Canley Borough Operational Command Unit" in East London. Geoff McQueen, creator of The Bill, claimed that he named Sun Hill after a street name in his home town of Royston, Hertfordshire.[2]

The fictional Sun Hill suburb is located in the fictional London borough of Canley in the East End, north of the River Thames. The Borough of Canley is approximately contiguous to the real-life London Borough of Tower Hamlets,[27] and in the first few years of The Bill, Sun Hill police station was actually stated as being located in Wapping in Tower Hamlets. Sun Hill has a London E1 postcode (the 'address' of Sun Hill police station is given as '2 Sun Hill Road, Sun Hill, Canley E1 4KM'.[28]), which corresponds to the real-life areas of Whitechapel and Stepney.

Production details

When filming The Bill, some scenes are re-enacted indoors with microphones surrounding the actors and the extra sounds being "dubbed" on later. Some of the more aggressive scenes are also filmed indoors either for dubbing or safety reasons.[29] When filming scenes involving police cars, a camera is attached to the outside of the car which feeds back images to a computer in the back of the vehicle. This technique was used to film the new opening titles of The Bill.[30] The sirens used in the series are added later in the dubbing suite as The Bill does not have permission to use sirens while on location. However,[31] the police uniforms used in the series are genuine, again making The Bill unique amongst police dramas.[2][32][33] When the series ended, London's Metropolitan Police Service, after talks with the production company, bought 400 kilograms of police related paraphernalia, including flat caps and stab vests etc. to prevent them falling into the hands of criminals or those that would seek to use them for criminal activities after the programme's production ceased.[34]

The Bill is unique amongst police dramas in that it takes a serial format, focussing on the work and lives of a single shift of police officers, rather than on one particular area of police work. Also unique is that The Bill adapted to this format after several series, whereas comparable series started with the serial format.[35]

Broadcast in the United Kingdom

The Bill has been shown on the ITV network (branded ITV1 in England and Wales since 2001), a free-to-air commercial network. When Scottish ITV franchisee STV cancelled the series in 2009, ITV started airing repeats on ITV3 to enable Scottish viewers to continue watching the programme.[36] It is also currently shown on Watch where it is on at 9 am and 10 am every weekday morning.

As of 2010, The Bill is broadcast on ITV1 (and UTV in Northern Ireland) at 9 pm every Tuesday evening for one hour.[37] The series used to be broadcast on Scottish channel STV, however on 5 July 2009, the News Of The World reported that The Bill was to be cancelled in Scotland.[38] The final episode of The Bill shown on STV, "Conviction: Judgement Day", was aired on 23 July 2009 at 8 pm. After being cancelled in Scotland, The Bill was the subject of legal proceedings between ITV and STV. ITV allege that STV owe them money for opting out of showing programmes like The Bill and are currently preparing to sue STV for £38 million.[39] STV has now submitted a counter-claim that ITV owe them over £30 million in unpaid advertising revenues and they have warned that more claims are likely.[40]

The Bill was repeated on UK digital satellite channel UK GOLD from its launch on 1st November 1992 until 6 October 2008 when the following day after UK GOLD was rebranded as G.O.L.D.[41]

Broadcast outside the UK

The Bill has been broadcast in over 55 different countries:[2][42]

  • In Australia The Bill was shown on ABC1. The final episode was shown on 16 October 2010, with Farewell The Bill shown the following week on 23 October.[43] Repeats of the show begin on 7TWO in May 2011.[44]
  • On satellite and cable in Australia and New Zealand, older episodes are broadcast on UKTV.
  • In Belgium the series is broadcast on één.
  • In Denmark the series was retitled "Lov og Uorden" (Law and Disorder). Two episodes of the series are broadcast every afternoon on TV2 Charlie.
  • In Ireland the series is broadcast on RTÉ television,[45] first starting in the early 1990s on RTÉ Two, in the early 2000s RTÉ began broadcasting it on RTÉ One at 5:30 pm each weekday, splitting hour long episodes into 2 part half hour episodes, RTÉ discontinued this in 2009 moving the show to Monday Nights on RTÉ Two. RTÉ shows episodes from 2005. An hour long episode is now shown once a week. In 2010 RTÉ move the show from its prime time slot on RTÉ Two to a midnight slot on RTÉ One on Thursday nights, however the show remains on the RTÉ player.[46] Fans of the show and TV critics in Ireland have nicknamed it as the "Old Bill", as viewers in Ireland can watch the same episodes as the UK, on UTV.
  • In Sweden the series was retitled "Sunhillspolisstation" (Sun Hill Police Station) by broadcaster TV4. It is now broadcast daily on Kanal 9 in the early afternoon with a repeat early the following morning.
Country Network
Australia Australia ABC1
UKTV
7TWO
Belgium Belgium één
Denmark Denmark TV2 Charlie
Republic of Ireland Ireland RTÉ One
RTÉ Two
New Zealand New Zealand UKTV
Sweden Sweden TV4
Kanal 9

Theme tune and title sequence

The Bill's original theme music was known as "Overkill" and gained iconic status in spite of the various re-workings it has seen. It was first heard in the series one starting episode Funny Ol' Business – Cops & Robbers.[47] It was replaced in 2009 as part of a major overhaul of the series, however, producers still claim that the new theme tune contains "subtle echoes" of "Overkill".[48][49]

The original opening sequence to The Bill consisted of a two police officers (one male and one female) walking down a street interspersed with images of Sun Hill. In the second series this changed to a police car (in this case a Rover SD1) racing down a street with its siren and blue light on. The car would screech to a stop and the camera would zoom in on the blue light. Various clips were then shown from the series of the characters in action, often chasing suspects. The original end titles simply showed the feet of two police constables pounding the beat (always 1 male and 1 female).[50] The original title music was composed by Andy Pask and Charlie Morgan.[51]

Variations to the opening sequence had included the sequence starting with just a flashing blue light without a police car coming into view in the 1992 series and from 1993 the scene of a police car coming into view had used a Ford Sierra.

In 1997, the opening credits changed, although the theme tune remained the same. The opening credits still showed a police car racing down a street with its sirens blaring, this time a Vauxhall Vectra overtaking a Leyland Titan bus before screeching to a halt. It then changed to show clips of the various actors in the series, with each clip interspersed by the image of the flashing light. The end credits remained the same and the title music was still put together by Andy Pask and Charlie Morgan.[52]

In 1998, the opening credits changed again. This time there was no police car racing down the street, the opening credits still had the police siren wailing but this time various police procedural images such as someone being shown into a police cell were shown along with police stripes being flashed across the screen. Also gone were any clips of the actors. The theme tune was revamped with a jazz feel as it was mainly played by a saxophone.[53] The end credits also changed, showing various parts of the police uniform including the Metropolitan Police badge with police stripes at the bottom of the screen. The music for this version was arranged by Mark Russell.[54][55]

In 2001, the opening credits were changed to show the faces of all the police officers on The Bill. In the background the police siren is still wailing.[56] Designed by company "Blue", the end credits were revised to feature items of police equipment, accompanied by a new arrangement of the theme music by Miles Bould[57] and Mike Westergaard.[58][59]

The 2003–2006 opening titles featured generic police images such as a police car and a police uniform. The wail of a police siren can still be heard in the background. The end credits also changed this time to feature a preview of the next episode. The background to the end credits, designed by company "Roisin at Blue", is simply a police shade of blue, with a new arrangement of the theme music by Lawrence Oakley.[60]

In 2007, the opening credits again changed to focus more on scenes involving police officers. In the sequence, the wail of the police siren is still heard and the sign identifying the building as Sun Hill police station is included.[61] The closing credits follow a police car on patrol and the music is again arranged by Lawrence Oakley.[62]

In April 2008, Episode 588 was broadcast, entitled, "Overkill".

In 2009, the programme underwent a major overhaul, moving to a post watershed slot to allow for grittier story lines and to enable ITV to cut its cost in the light of the recession.[5][63] As a result, the credits were again changed, with the old theme tune replaced and the addition of incidental music.[64][65] The new closing credits follow a police car on patrol and the music is now by Simba Studios.[66]

For the final episode a remixed version of "Overkill" was used.

Episodes

When The Bill was first commissioned as a series by ITV, it started with twelve episodes per year, each an hour long with a separate storyline.[2] In 1988 the format changed to year round broadcast with two thirty minute episodes per week. In 1993 this expanded to three thirty minute episodes per week. In 1998 the broadcast format changed to two, one hour episodes each week. Episodes were now recorded in 16:9 widescreen digibeta. In 2009 The Bill began broadcasting in HD and as part of a major revamp, was reduced to broadcasting once a week. The Bill finished in 2010, with 2400 episodes broadcast.

Special episodes

The Bill has broadcast two live episodes. The first was in 2003 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the pilot, Woodentop.[67] The second was in 2005 to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of ITV.[68]

The live episode in 2003 was episode #1818, originally broadcast on 30 October 2003 at 8 pm, and produced with a crew of 200 staff including seven camera crews.[3][67] It was reported to be the first live television broadcast of a programme where filming was not largely confined to a studio.[67] Detective Constable Juliet Becker and Constable Cathy Bradford are being held hostage by a man called Mark. As they are being held hostage in a carrier in the station yard, Cathy Bradford raises the custody suite alarm. When the rest of the station arrive outside, Mark makes it known that he intends to kill Juliet Becker. The police get permission to break into the carrier, only to find that Juliet has been stabbed. She is rushed to hospital, but attempts to resuscitate her fail. The episode was watched by around 11 million viewers.[68]

The live episode in 2005 was episode #349, broadcast on 22 September 2005 at 8 pm. In this episode, it was revealed that PC Gabriel Kent had assumed a false identity. It is revealed that he has been operating under his brother's name and is, in fact, David Kent. In this episode the "real" Gabriel Kent arrived in Sun Hill to meet his mother, Sergeant June Ackland. In this episode, Sun Hill police station is hosting a reception party and, as the police arrive, they are taken hostage by a distraught father whose son was killed by a stolen car. A struggle ensues in which a shot is fired, alerting others in the building the incident. After an evacuation of the station, Superintendent Amanda Prosser encourages PC Dan Casper to attempt to overpower the man. As he does so, both Casper and the real Gabriel Kent are shot. The real Gabriel Kent is rushed to hospital where the false Gabriel Kent threatens him in order to keep the identity switch a secret.

A series of special episodes titled The Bill Uncovered were produced to reflect the stories of select characters and events. The first was The Bill Uncovered : Des and Reg (2004) – The story of the unusual friendship between PC Des Taviner and PC Reg Hollis, traversing their history from Des's first day at Sun Hill to his death in a Sun Hill cell.[69] The second was The Bill Uncovered : Kerry's Story (2004), the story of PC Kerry Young, who met her death outside Sun Hill.[70] The third special was The Bill Uncovered : Jim's Story (2005), the story of DC Jim Carver – from his first day at Sun Hill (in the pilot "Woodentop"). The last was The Bill Uncovered: On The Front Line (2006), in which Superintendent Adam Okaro recounts the extraordinary events that have surrounded Sun Hill over his time in charge.[71] A review of the second of these specials criticised the "increasingly degenerative plotlines" of the series, and characterised the special as a "cheerless outing" covering The Bill's "travesties of plot".[70]

In 2008, a special programme called "The Bill Made Me Famous" in light of the show's 25th anniversary was broadcast, which saw former actors and special guest stars telling their accounts of working on the show and how it changed their lives. It included old favourites such as Billy Murray (DS Don Beech), Chris Ellison (DI Frank Burnside) and popular TV personalities such as Paul O'Grady and Les Dennis.

The last special was called "Farewell The Bill" and it was air directly after the last episode of The Bill. Farewell The Bill talked about the show and gave viewers a back stage view of the filming of the last episode. This special was later release onto DVD in Australia region all.

Cast

The Bill has a large regular cast to support the number of episodes that are produced each year. Working on The Bill has become something of a rite of passage in British acting, with 174 actors having formed part of the series' main cast since the series began.[72] A number of cast members have played multiple roles in the series, and in other British soap operas and dramas.

Notable cast members

There are numerous actors who have either appeared on The Bill for some considerable length of time, or on whose careers The Bill has made a significant impact. The following is a concise list of the most notable, an expanded version is available at List of characters of The Bill.

  • Eric Richard played Sergeant Bob Cryer from 1984–2001,[84] the character leaving after being injured when he was accidentally shot by then PC Dale Smith.[85] The character later made brief re-appearances in the series, including in one storyline involving his niece Roberta who later joined the station. Prior to appearing in The Bill, Richard appeared in a number of TV programmes including Open All Hours, Made In Britain and Shoestring.
  • Kevin Lloyd played DC Tosh Lines from 1988–98, the character was written out as having accepted a position in the Coroner's Office[86] after the actor was sacked for turning up drunk. The actor died a week after his dismissal.[87]
  • Jeff Stewart played PC Reg Hollis from 1984–2008. In 2008, the character was written out with the character resigning after being traumatised by the death of colleagues in a bomb blast.[88] After learning of his axing from the show, Stewart attempted suicide on set by slashing his wrists.[89]
  • Graham Cole played PC Tony Stamp from 1984–2009. The character was written out (taking up a driving instructor's post at Hendon) as part of the 2009 revamp after producers felt that he didn't fit the new show. Cole's last episode was shown on 5 November 2009 and his departure meant the end of a 25 year association with the programme.[90][91]
  • Trudie Goodwin played Sergeant June Ackland from 1983 to 2007, appearing first in Woodentop.[92] The character retired in 2007 after her on-screen relationship with DC Jim Carver came to an abrupt end. When Goodwin left The Bill in 2007 she was not only the longest serving cast member in the history of The Bill, but also held the world record for the longest time an actor has portrayed a police character.[93][94]
  • Alex Walkinshaw has played Inspector Dale "Smithy" Smith since 1999. Walkinshaw made three "one off" appearances in the series prior to becoming a regular cast member and has made appearances in several other British soaps and serial dramas.[95]
  • Chris Simmons played DC Mickey Webb from 2000 to 2010.[99] He appeared twice on the show playing different roles, most notably as a criminal in 1999, before joining the cast as a regular in the following year. He left the series temporarily in 2003, as the culmination of a storyline where his character was raped. He made several guest appearances before returning as a regular in 2005.

Ratings

The Bill has become a popular drama in the United Kingdom and in many other countries, most notably in Australia.[35][100] The series attracted audiences of up to six million viewers in 2008 and 2009.[101] Ratings during 2002 peaked after the overhaul of the show which brought about the 2002 fire episode, in which six officers were killed[102] and the 2003 live episode attracted ten million viewers- forty percent of the UK audience share.[103] Immediately following The Bill's revamping and time slot change, it was reported that the programme had attracted 4.5 million viewers, 19% of the audience share, however, it lost out to the BBC's New Tricks[104] with the Daily Mirror later reporting that ITV's schedule change was behind a two million viewer drop in ratings.[105]

In 2001, prior to Paul Marquess' appointment as executive producer, The Bill's ratings had dropped to approximately six million viewers and advertising revenues had fallen, in part due to the ageing demographic of its viewers, leading ITV to order a "rejuvenation" which saw the series adopt a serial format.[2]

In 2002, The Independent reported that The Bill's Thursday episode was viewed by approximately 7 million people, a fall of approximately 3 million viewers in the space of 6 months.[106] After the cast clearout resulting from the Sun Hill fire in April 2002, BBC News reported that The Bill attracted 8.6 million viewers, the highest figure for the year to that point,[102] and by October 2003, the program had around 8 million viewers each week.[3]

In 2005, The Bill was averaging around 11 million viewers, in comparison to Coronation Street, which was attracting around 10 million viewers.[107]

In 2009, The Daily Mirror reported that The Bill was to be moved to a post-watershed slot to allow it to cover grittier storylines. It was reported that it is the first time in British Television that ITV have broadcast a drama all year in the 9 pm slot.[108] The changeover happened at the end of July 2009. Before the move, The Bill was averaging 10 million viewers between the two episodes each week. BARB reports that the week 12–18 October 2009 saw 3.78 million viewers watch The Bill.[109]

The show is rated  M  in Australia and  M  in New Zealand for its medium level violence.

Awards

The Bill has achieved a number of awards throughout its time on air, ranging from a BAFTA[110] to the Royal Television Society Awards.[111] and the Inside Soap Awards, particularly the "best recurring drama" category, in which it has won six times, of which four were consecutive[112][113]

In 2010, The Bill was nominated for a Royal Television Society award for Best Soap/Continuing Drama, beating both Coronation Street and Emmerdale on to the nominations list. The only soap to be nominated was EastEnders and the results were announced on 16 March 2010.[114]

Impact and legacy

The Bill was Britain's longest running police drama.[115]

It has been compared to Hill Street Blues due to the similar, serial, format that both series take.[116] However, The Bill has seen little direct competition on British television in the police procedural genre over its twenty-five year history, though the BBC has twice launched rival series. The first was Merseybeat, which ran from 2001 but was cancelled in 2004 due to poor ratings and problems with the cast.[2][117][118][119] The second, HolbyBlue, launched in 2007, was a spin off of successful medical drama Holby City (itself a spin off of the long running Casualty). It was scheduled to go "head to head" with The Bill, prompting a brief "ratings war", however HolbyBlue was also cancelled by the BBC in 2008, again, largely due to poor ratings.[120][121]

When The Bill started, the majority of the Police Federation were opposed to the programme, claiming that it portrayed the police as a racist organisation, however, feelings towards the programme have now mellowed[33] to the extent that Executive Producer Johnathan Young met with Sir Ian Blair, then Commissioner of the Met in 2006 and it was decided that the editorial relationship between the police and the programme was sufficient. However, Young stressed that The Bill is not "editorially bound" to the police.[33]

Despite better relations with the police, The Bill has still not been without controversy. The Bill has been repeatedly criticised for the high levels of violence portrayed in its scenes, especially prior to 2009 when it occupied a pre-watershed timeslot.[50] Specific story lines have also come under fire in the media, such as that surrounding a gay kiss in 2002,[2] as well as an episode broadcast in March 2008 which featured a fictional treatment for multiple sclerosis, leading the MS Society to brand the plot "grossly irresponsible".[122] In May of the same year, George Galloway, MP issued legal proceedings against The Bill for defamation after an episode, viewed by six million people, which featured a corrupt MP who smuggled antiques out of Iraq before the war, which Galloway alleged was a portrayal of him.[123][124][125]

The series has also been criticised by the tabloid press for the replacing of the iconic theme tune as part of a revamping effort.[126]

Spin-offs and related series

During its 26 year-run, The Bill spawned several spin-off productions and related series in German and Dutch languages, as well as a series of documentaries. The following is a list of the most notable of these.

  • SOKO Leipzig: German interpretation based on a similar format. SOKO Leipzig has been broadcasting since the late 1990s, but became better known when a crossover episode with the British series, entitled "Proof Of Life", was broadcast on 4 September 2009.[127] It has been announced that further episodes of the series have been commissioned following the British version of The Bill ending in Germany in early 2011.
  • Bureau Kruislaan: Dutch interpretation of the series. Produced by Joop van den Ende for VARA Television, the programme lasted for four series running from 1992 to 1995. In 1995, the show was nominated for the Gouden Televizier Ring, an award for the best television programme in the Netherlands. All four series of the show have been released on DVD there.
  • Die Wache: German interpretation of the series. As decent script-writers were hard to find at the time, the German producers were given the licence to utilise (re-use) scripts from the British series. The series was produced by RTL Television, running for nearly 750 episodes from 1994 to 2006.[128]
  • Burnside: Spin-off from the main British series, following ex-DI Frank Burnside in his transfer and promotion to the National Crime Squad. The programme lasted for just a single series of six episodes, debuting in the UK on 7 July 2000. The series was created and produced by Richard Handford. On 8 October 2008, the series was released on DVD in Australia in a 3-Disc set.
  • Beech is Back: Spin-off from the main British series, focusing on the adventures of ex-DS Don Beech, who eloped to Australia in an attempt to avoid DS Claire Stanton, who was pursuing him for the murder of her boyfriend, DS John Boulton. The pilot episode, "Beech on the Run", was broadcast in 2000, with a series of six episodes debuting in the UK on 4 April 2001. The series has yet to be released on DVD.
  • MIT: Murder Investigation Team: Spin-off from the main British series. Lasting for two series, the drama began with a group of MIT officers investigating the drive-by shooting of Sgt. Matthew Boyden, who had been at Sun Hill for eleven years. The first series consisted of eight one-hour episodes. The second series consisted of four ninety-minute episodes. The series was created by Paul Marquess, produced by Johnathan Young and starred ex-Bill DS Eva Sharpe (Diane Parish).
  • The Trial Of Eddie Santini: A one-off special focusing on the trial of ex-PC Eddie Santini, who was last seen in 1998. The special has been released on DVD.

Merchandise

DVDs

All The Bill Region 2 DVD's releases, as of 15 March 2010. Excludes Promotional Taster and Series 1-3 box-set.
DVD release name Episodes Years of Series UK Release Date

(Region 2)

North American Release Date

(Region 1)

Australian Release Date

(Region 4)

Worldwide

(Region All) (Region 0)

Series 1
& Woodentop
1–12 1985 6 June 2005[129]
5 June 2007[130]
N/A 3 August 2011[131]
Only released in Australian
Series 2 1–12 1985–1986 26 October 2005[132]

N/A

N/A

3 August 2011[133]
Only released in Australian

Promotional Taster
Includes Woodentop and The Chief Super's Party
1–2 1985–1986 16 April 2007[134]

N/A

N/A

N/A

Series 3 1–48 1987 28 May 2007[135] N/A N/A 3 August 2011[136]
Only released in Australian
Series 1-3 1–36 1985-1987 19 November 2007 [137] N/A 16 November 2009[138] N/A
Series 4 1-48 1988 N/A N/A N/A 31 August 2011[139]
Only released in Australian
Series 1-4 1-84 1985-1990 N/A N/A 5 October 2011 [140] N/A
Series 4-5 ? 1988-1989 Volume One (Series 4)
Episodes 1–13
30 June 2008[141]
N/A 16 November 2009[142] N/A
Volume Two (Series 4)
Episodes 14–26
2 March 2009[143]
N/A
Volume Three (Series 4)
Episodes 27–39
11 May 2009[144]
N/A
Volume Four (Series 4)
Episodes 40–48 (Series 5) 49-52
15 March 2010[145]
N/A
Volume Five (series 5)
Episodes 53–65
11 July 2011[146]
N/A
The Trial of Eddie Santini N/A 1999-2000 7 October 2002[147] N/A N/A N/A
Farewell The Bill N/A 2010 Special N/A N/A N/A 5 October 2011 [148]
Only released in Australian

Note: Box art states 'Series 4-5' but only contains series four (48 episodes).
Note 2: Table Correct as of 5 September 2011 if a substantial amount of time has passed please check for new releases and amend as appropriate.

VHS

UK

Title UK Release Date Series / Episode No.
The Bill Volume 1: Snouts & Red Herrings / Suspects[149] 1989 Series 2, Episodes 1 & 2
The Bill Volume 2: Don't Like Mondays / Pick Up / Trojan Horse / Rites[150] 1990 Series 5, Episodes 59 & 60
Series 6, Episodes 41 & 42
Woodentop[151] 12 June 1993 Series 1, Episode 1
The Originals Volume 1: Wooden Top / Funny Ol' Business[152] 23 October 1995 Series 1, Episodes 1 & 2
The Originals Volume 2: A Friend In Need / Clutching At Straws[153] 23 October 1995 Series 1, Episodes 3 & 4
The Originals Volume 3: Long Odds / A Dangerous Breed[154] 6 November 1995 Series 1, Episodes 5 & 8
Target[155] 11 March 1996 Series 12, Episodes 89 & 90
Spill / Death Of A Nobody[156] 23 June 1997 Series 12, Episodes 74, 75, 138 & 139
The Burnside Files[157] 14 July 1997 Series 6, Episodes 7, 21 & 50
Series 9, Episode 27
The Roach Files[158] 11 August 1997 Series 5, Episode 59
Series 6, Episodes 31 & 104
Series 9, Episode 57
The Trial Of Eddie Santini[159] (Also Released on DVD) 9 October 2000 Series 15, Episode 36
& Series 16, Episode 21

Australia

Title AU Release Date Series / Episode No.
The Bill: Burnside Knew My Father/ Dinosaur/ Information Received [160] 1996 Series 6, Episode 21
Series 8, Episode 7
Series 17, Episode 3
The Bill: Scores/ A Clean Division / If it Isn't Hurting[161] 1996 Series 6 Episode 50 & 7
Series 9 Episode 27
The Bill: Beg, Borrow or Steal/Street Life/ When Opportunity Knocks[162][163] 1996 Series 10, Episode 139
Series 11 Episode 17 & 47
The Bill: Waiting for Frank /Cast No Shadow[164][165] 1996 Series 12, Episode 103
Series 14, Episode 99
The Bill:A Bunch of Fives /Death of a Nobody [166] 1996 Series 13, Episode 61
Series 12, Episode 138
The Bill: Saved/ True to Life Player/ Gentleman Jim[167] 1996 Series 11, Episode 126
Series 13, Episode 17 & 83
The Bill: In on the Game/ Spill[168] 1996 Series 14, Episode 40
Series 12, Episode 74

Novels

A series of six novelisations of The Bill were published between 1985 and 1992, by Thames/Methuan Publishing (under the Mandarin imprint). Each book was written by John Burke,[169] and adapted from television scripts by Geoff McQueen, Barry Appleton, Ginnie Hole, Christopher Russell, Lionel Goldstein, Al Hunter, Nicholas McInnery, JC Wilsher, Jonathan Rich and Robin Muckherjee.

All the novelisations were published in paperback editions. The first two books were also published in hardcover editions.

Novel Title Year Published Episode Cover Photo
The Bill 1[170]
1985
Adapted select episodes of Series 1 (1984)
PC Jim Carver chasing a suspect
The Bill 2[171]
1987
Adapted select episodes of Series 2 (1985)
Sergeant Bob Cryer in civilian clothing
The Bill 3[172]
1989
Adapted select episodes of Series 4 (1988)
Sergeant Bob Cryer and Inspector Christine Fraser in Sun Hill station carpark.
The Bill 4[173]
1990
Adapted select episodes of Series 5 (1989)
DC "Tosh" Lines and DC Mike Dashwood
The Bill 5[174]
1991
Adapted select episodes of Series 5 (1989)
DS Ted Roach
The Bill 6[175]
1992
Adapted select episodes of Series 6 (1990)
Inspector Andrew Monroe and DI Frank Burnside

Books

Book Year Published Cover Photo Notes
The Bill: The Inside Story[176]
1 November 1999
A Picture of 5 cast members, Police Car and The Bill logo.
Paperback
Burnside: The Secret Files[177]
17 July 2000
A Picture of Christopher Ellison and a checker band 3 quarters of the way down.
Paperback
The Bill: The Complete Low-Down on 20 Years at Sun Hill[178]
1 September 2003
The Bill Logo and Metropolitan Police Crest.
Hardcover
The Bill: The Official History of Sunhill[179]
1 September 2004
The Bill Logo and Metropolitan Police Crest.
Paperback
The Bill: The Official Case Book[180]
1 November 2006
A Picture number of different pictures of the cast from the show merged into one..
Hardcover
On The Beat: My Story[181]
5 October 2009
A Picture of Graham Cole in his Tony Stamp costume and a checker band at the bottom.
Hardcover

See also

References

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