Home Television Drama Bill, The

Bill, The

1 9 8 4 – 2 0 1 0 (UK)

The Bill was created from a one-off drama called Woodentop (a CID nickname for officers in uniform) in the 1983 Storyboard season and began life as a one-hour weekly series.

In its fourth year it changed to two half-hour shows per week and went from strength to strength, and in 1993 it changed to three half-hour episodes per week. A new rule was also introduced: there had to be a police officer in every scene.

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Handheld camera work was introduced to provide a touch of on-the-streets realism and it certainly helped with the pace of the programme, although characterisation and plot development were victims of the truncated format.

Three different production teams were on the road all working at the same time on different episodes. They were dubbed the Red, Blue and Gold teams.

According to the creator of the show, Geoff McQueen, the format changed to half-hour episodes to allow a greater input from dissimilar creative types.

In Australia, it was not seen until 1986, and it was not until 1995 that the ABC began to copy the three episode per week schedule of Britain (though two of them were screened together on Saturday nights).

In 1988, the famous ‘plodding feet’ title sequence was dropped (to the dismay of some fans) and later that year, with ratings falling, The Bill reverted to a one-hour format.

The Bill was set in the (fictitious) Sun Hill Police Station, which was supposedly located somewhere in the East End of London, although the exterior of the fake police station was at 63 Windsor Avenue, Wimbledon, and most of the locations were actually shot in South London.

There were characters in civilian clothes, members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and the uniformed members. Sometimes the CID were short-staffed and placed some of the Uniform Division in plainclothes. Viewers saw squads from different shifts, but mostly from “A Relief”

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Criticised by some real policemen for its portrayal of policing methods (but loved by other members of the force), The Bill was also attacked for suggesting – years ahead of the Stephen Lawrence tragedy and subsequent enquiry – that racism was a facet of today’s force.

Nevertheless, the series continued to show just how coppers cope with the realities of the modern world, showing officers of the law as people with a job to do, however unpleasant that job may be.

Head of the station was Chief Superintendent Charles Brownlow (Peter Ellis), a man mainly concerned with the image of his force, and beneath him worked an ever-changing squad of inspectors, sergeants, detectives and constables.

Most notable were Sergeant Bob Cryer (Eric Richard), the paternal station officer, the hot-headed DCI Galloway (John Salthouse) who was never afraid to bend the rules, and his devious successor DCI Frank Burnside (Christopher Ellison) who was given his own spin-off series, Burnside, in 2000.

Young PCs “Taffy” Edwards (Colin Blumenau) and Jim Carver (Mark Wingett), the hypochondriac Reg Hollis (Jeff Stewart), ambitious Dave Litten (Gary Olsen), impetuous Ted Roach (Tony Scannell), well-groomed Mike Dashwood (Jon Iles), scruffy “Tosh” Lines (Kevin Lloyd) and dependable WPCs Ackland (Trudie Goodwin) and Martella (Nula Conwell) were also prominent favourites.

The series was finally cancelled in 2010 after 26 years of broadcast. It continues to be shown in re-runs in many countries, from Brunei to Zambia, Gibraltar to Norway, and Israel to Saudi Arabia.

TRIVIA
The show is called The Bill because “Old Bill” is an English nickname for the police.

AUDIO

WPC/Sgt June Ackland 
Trudie Goodwin
DS Don Beech 

Billy Murray
Sgt Matt Boyden 

Tony O’Callaghan
Chief Supt Charles Brownlow 

Peter Ellis
DI Frank Burnside 

Christopher Ellison
DC/PC Jim Carver 

Mark Wingett
Chief Insp Philip Cato 

Philip Whitchurch
Chief Insp Conway 

Ben Roberts
DC Suzi Croft 

Kerry Peers
Sgt Bob Cryer 

Eric Richard
WPC Norika Datta 

Seeta Indrani
DI Galloway
John Salthouse
PC Taffy Edwards 

Colin Blumenau
PC George Garfield 

Huw Higginson
DS Alistair Greig 

Andrew Mackintosh
PC Reg Hollis 

Jeff Stewart
DC Duncan Lennox 

George Rossi
DC ‘Tosh’ Lines 

Kevin Lloyd
PC Dave Litten 

Gary Olsen
PC Steve Loxton 

Tom Butcher
WPC Viv Martella 

Nula Conwell
DCI Jack Meadows 

Simon Rouse
Insp Andrew Monroe 

Colin Tarrant
DC Dashwood
Jon Iles 
WPC Polly Page 

Lisa Geoghan
PC Dave Quinnan 

Andrew Paul
DS Ted Roach 

Tony Scannell
DC Rod Skase 

Iain Fletcher
PC Tony Stamp 

Graham Cole