The Bill (ITV, 1984-2010)
I don’t usually review what can be considered to be straightforward drama series (with the exception of some soaps, and one of two others), because this isn’t my favourite TV genre. But as this was a long-running series that plenty of people will be familiar with, and even I was a regular viewer for a while, I thought that I might as well do a review.
The Bill is a series all about the police force that started out as a rather hard-hitting one-off called Woodentop. The decision was then made for there to be a full series, which would usually be shown once or twice a week. This was set in the fictional area of Sun Hill, but once again, as seems to happen with so many TV shows, I believe that this is supposed to be not too far away from where I live in London, that might not be something to be too proud of.
And of course, there was a rather large cast that changed a lot, but the various constables, sergeants, detectives and the like soon became familiar to viewers. To pick one out as an example, there was the corrupt officer played by Steven Hartley, who had previously appeared in EastEnders and Married… With Children, and he went on to be the booming voice of just about every trail on radio station TalkSport.
And that’s the thing about The Bill really. As this was shown rather frequently, there would be a lot of things covered in the space of an average year, and although some critics claimed that this was “conveyor belt drama”, there’s no better way to try and give your acting career a boost by standing in the background of an episode, or if you’re really lucky, you could even have some dialogue.
This could lead to better things, one day you might even appear in the background of an episode of EastEnders too, and what can be better than that. Episodes also varied between being half-an-hour and an hour, and there was a brief period when this was extended to three episodes a week, but curiously all of this didn’t really fit on a Saturday night, and didn’t last long in that timeslot.
As the years went by, there were some ambitious ideas, and every new series seemed to promise to be grittier than the last, but there’s only so far that you can end up going, and after about 25 years, the station was finally closed down and left the screen. And about after five minutes after the final episode ended, there were the first rumours of a revival, but this still hasn’t happened.
Some of the earlier episodes have been released on DVD, and there were some spin-off series too. There was a repeat run on UK Gold, and more recently on Drama, which started a repeat run from the beginning, although this was soon abandoned, and they just jumped to the point of the episodes that they have already repeated several times over anyway.