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Two decades on from its launch and last Thursday night (30 October 2003)
witnessed The Bill's first foray into live drama with a special live-to-air
episode in celebration of the show's 20th anniversary.
During the last 10 years, greater proliferation of television channels in the UK and the audience fragmentation which ensues, has inevitably meant that for any terrestrial television serial to survive in a prime time slot, the screen has to keep moving. And, while Britain's most enduring police drama may ordinarily be renowned for its car chase sequences and location shoots in and around London - thereby depicting a gritty, social realism of modern policing - the logistics of a live broadcast dictated that this episode's action be primarily concentrated to a select number of studio sets, thereby posing a dilemma for programme chiefs in maintaining audience interest. Clever direction, however, using multiple mobile camera units, coupled with shorter-than-usual scenes, enabled the drama to build pace despite these limited confines.
When the programme makers behind TV's Coronation Street "went live" some three years earlier, there was little by way of a plot, while numerous actors fluffed lines and a small number of technical glitches were in evidence. Contrast this with the polished professionalism of The Bill and its powerful script, witnessing the murder of DS Juliet Becker (Rae Baker) and marking the reappearance of the wayward Des Taviner (Paul Usher). In the episode's closing stages, the apparent killer of PC Gary Best's father was also seen to fall to his death from the station roof, possibly the first time a major stunt of this nature has been performed live on television. And, for any who doubted the programme's "live" status, the script even included a cheeky reference to the birth of Sir Paul McCartney's daughter which was prominent in that day's news.
For the viewer, this episode was a triumph, seemingly passing off flawlessly with fine performances all round from a word-perfect cast. This was testament to its 40 per cent audience share. Indeed, if ever two actors were worthy of greater recognition, they are Mark Wingett (Jim Carver) and Trudie Goodwin (June Ackland).
I raise my glass to all at Sun Hill. It's clear there's still plenty of life left in the old woodentops yet.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Bill is one of the best programmes on TV at the moment and is British drama at its best.
The recent storyline involving Chandler shooting himself was one of the best in recent months. I liked the DS Beech storyline as well, especially the episodes filmed in Australia. The Bill is more like a soap these days, but is still, if not better now.
A lot of familiar faces have left over the last couple of years, including some of my favourite characters. These include Cryer and Burnside. Pity these can't come back. At least Reg Hollis is still in it. Sun Hill wouldn't be the same without him.
Many guest stars have appeared in this over the years, especially ex and current EastEnders stars. These include the Watts clan, Leslie Grantham, Anita Dobson and Letitia Dean. Some ex EastEnders are now in the Bill for good including Roberta Taylor who plays Gina Gould. There is even an ex EastEnder directing some episodes now, Susan Tully. Todd Carty has just joined the cast too, but we won't see him until early Spring 2003.
Along with the soaps I watch and 60's police drama Heartbeat, this is my favourite programme on TV at the moment.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
The Bill has wonderfully in depth and well thought out characters, played perfectly by the actors. Unlike most US shows, and to a point Australian shows, the Bill includes character dynamics in the writing and direction. It means the actors have credible reactions to certain situations that fit in with their characters' personalities, instead of just whatever fits in with the plot in that particular episode. So its not just exciting plots and action that draw you in, but also realistic and interesting people that you can identify with and learn from.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you watch The Bill outside the UK, I won't give too much away about a
very recent storyline which we've just seen here, but DS Beech has a major
part to play. Internal Corruption, Prostitution and murder are just smaller
elements of perhaps the most dramatic situation Sun Hill have ever
I've been watching it on & off since it started, and never could count it as one of my favourites, particularly since UK Gold seem to devote 12 hours of its Saturday schedule showing re-runs. However, the recent story hooked me straight back in and now it's unmissable.
The series has produced some fine actors over the years however, it is now becoming a "soap" and seems to be drifting away from the storylines that have made it into such a "must see" series. I think that it is now time for the series to finish before it becomes another "Coronation Street" or "Ramsay Street"
This series is one of the UK's most popular series which has been running since 1984 and is still running today back to its original 1 hour shows once a week. The more recent episodes have seen some very juicy and saucy storylines and it was an excellent move to go back to the hour shows as the half hour ones were far too short and quick, even though they often would spread over several episodes, one storyline, unfortunately sporting event would disrupt these. The old episodes are being shown on UK Gold on Cable and Satellite which I am really enjoying these as well and do not clash with the ITV current series. My favourite characters old and new are DC Carver, PC Loxton and Sgt Cryer. It was sad to see Loxton go, but most come and go but Carver and Cryer have been there from the start. If you get the opportunity to see this series, even only one episode, it's a great series.
This long-running English police series deals with the everyday adventures of both the uniformed and plain-clothed (CID) officers of Sun Hill, a 'manor' in London's East End. The unique feature of 'The Bill' is that you, the viewer, only ever see events from the police point of view. There are no extraneous plot developments outside to distract from the often real life based stories, developed by a large team of writers who hold regular meetings to discuss the many characters, who arrive (and leave) on a regular basis. In some ways 'The Bill' can be compared to 'Hill Street Blues'. But not really. See it for yourself.
Once upon a time there was a British police drama called "The Bill". It
a good series. Fast paced, well acted and as the name implies, about
doing the things police do.
A few years ago, "The Bill" was replaced by another series, also called "The Bill" with much the same cast. That however, was where any similarity to the original series ended.
The new "The Bill" is a turgid soap where the main occupation of the cast is keeping up with who is in bed with who, who is gay, who is a psycho, who is stabbing who in the back and who is bent. Who is bent seems only of passing interest though as the other issues are far more important.
The remaining five minutes of any episode may actually contain some police issues but that is fairly optional.
Perhaps the use of police uniforms and vehicles is meant to cover the fact that the present series is but a shadowy reflection of a once excellent drama called "The Bill".
It would do the producers of this appalling soap a power of good to get a reel or two of the episodes made ten years ago and watch them a few times. Maybe then they would realize what a disgrace the current effort is.
'The Bill', along with the BBC's medical shows 'Holby City' and 'Casualty' has been transformed from a popular drama series into a straightforward soap opera. The clearest sign of this is the steady replacement of the old cast over recent years with refugees from 'East Enders', 'Coronation Street' and 'Brookside'. The problem with this is that instead of the old format where crimes would be investigated each week with characters' personal lives providing occasional subplots, the two have become merged. Each crime in Sun Hill now involves one of the regular's wife/lover/child/brother etc. Long lost friends and relatives appear out of the blue to be gunned down or abducted. Like Holby City in particular the plots have become ever more sensational and ludicrous. Several of the cast who were to be written out perished in a fire at the Police Station-started by one of the other characters!This character is still in the show and his crime has now been quietly forgotten. Another character was kidnapped and murdered by a female serial killer who was so over the top she practically foamed at the mouth.The Superintendent went mad and shot himself, but not before getting another of the characters pregnant. Every regular is having an affair with or secretly fancies one of the others. At least three of the regular characters are seriously deranged, one is a drug addict and another a complete crook. Some of the characters, including the new ones are engaging and well acted-my interest in the show always revives when Suprintendent Okaro, Inspector Gina Gold or DCI Jack Meadows are involved and actually carrying out police work. The Bill's revamp has apparently increased its audience significantly, but can it avoid sinking under the weight of its increasingly top-heavy and absurd plotlines?
Yes, some plots are a bit hard to follow, and The Bill does have a tendency to get violent, but it is actually an engrossing show, that I try not to miss. A vast majority of the episodes are very exciting and quite tense, and the acting is fairly good, though I do miss Roberta Taylor as Inspector Gina Gold and Todd Carty as Gabriel Kent. I will admit, I prefer the older episodes to the newer episodes, and it is a bit of a shame that the programme is now after the watershed, as I found it easier to watch when it was at 8.00. Still, why I like The Bill is because not only it is engrossing, but the cliffhangers at the end do make the next episode unmissable. It is true though, that it is more melodramatic than it was, but I really like this programme as a programme that doesn't try to take itself too seriously. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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