A special live episode (The Bill: 162 (2003)) was broadcast on the 30 October 2003 to celebrate twenty years of the show since the pilot Storyboard: Woodentop (1983). In a shock move the character of DC Juliet Becker (Rae Baker) was stabbed to death by a drunken man (played by Charles Dale), having only been in the show for four months. On the 22 September 2005 a second live episode (The Bill: 349 (2005)) was shown to celebrate the 50th birthday of ITV, the network that broadcasts the show. The storyline involved the armed siege of Sun Hill police station by the distraught father (Stuart Laing) of a boy killed by a car thief.
Burnside (Christopher Ellison) was originally called Tommy when he guest starred in series one and two, but when he appeared as a regular character from 1988 onwards his first name was changed to Frank. This was because there was a real-life Tommy Burnside serving in the Metropolitan police at the time.
Jeff Stewart (PC Reg Hollis) was the last original cast member to leave the series. His character's resignation was announced in The Bill: Lucky Lucky Lucky (2008) which aired in May 2008, although his last appearance was in The Bill: Heat on the Beat (2008) which aired in March. Trudie Goodwin left in March 2007, after playing WPC/Sgt. June Ackland since 1984. Mark Wingett (PC/DC/DS Jim Carver) left the series in February 2005, but returned briefly for Goodwin's leaving storyline. Peter Ellis (Chief. Supt. Charles Brownlow) and Eric Richard (Sgt. Bob Cryer) left in 2000/01, although both returned briefly for guest starring spots, as did Larry Dann (Sgt. Alec Peters).
In November 2006, thieves stole editing machines and master tapes from the shows studios in Merton, South West London. Posing as a worker and wearing a high-visibility jacket, one of the thieves followed a real worker into the studios and took the equipment, walked out with it and was driven off in a getaway van. Two episodes (468 and 469) were dropped from the schedules in late December 2006, and it is rumored that the stolen tapes contained scenes from these episodes. These scenes were re-filmed and the episodes aired in May 2007, titled as The Bill: Blood Money (2007) (episode 468) and The Bill: To Honour and Obey (2007) (episode 469).
The UK police rank system is organized thus: Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, Chief Superintendent. (Uniformed officers are referred to as Police Constable, Police Sergeant, etc.; detectives are Detective Constable, Detective Sergeant, and so on.)
The closing title sequence during the 1980s and 90s was famous for showing just two pairs of feet, belonging to a male and a female police officer, walking away from the camera along a cobbled street. This sequence was parodied in Hot Fuzz (2007) when Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman were pounding the beat.
In 2009, when the series was moved to a 9pm slot at the end of July 2009. "The Bill" was made given grittier story-lines and the series was made much darker, with a darker new theme tune and incidental music and the series had an average 10 million viewers between the two episodes each week.
Episode titles were dropped in 2002 when the show became serialized under new executive producer Paul Marquess. The last episode to have an on-screen title was The Bill: Set in Stone (2002). A six-part storyline followed which had no on-screen titles but is referred to as "Quinnan" parts 1-6 by fans, as this storyline marked the departure of long-term character PC Dave Quinnan (Andrew Paul). Subsequent episodes were numbered, beginning with The Bill: 001 (2002). These numbers did not appear on-screen but were given on the show's official website. This numbering system remained in place for five years until The Bill: 489 (2007), which was the final episode of original character Sgt. June Ackland (Trudie Goodwin). Episode titles returned in 2007, resuming with The Bill: Sweet Revenge (2007), marking a shift away from serialization towards standalone episodes and multi-part storylines.
Three different buildings served as the location for the fictional Sun Hill police station, where the series is set. The first - used for seasons one and two (1984-1986) - was in Wapping, East London. Production on season three was halted and the show was forced to move due to a lengthy strike at a nearby newspaper plant, when actors in police uniforms were mistaken for real police. The second location - used for season three (1987) and 1988-89 - was in Barlby Road in West London. The show was forced to move again in 1989 when the owners of the site wanted to redevelop the area. As the show was running continuously at this point production could not stop, and the move was explained in storylines as the station being renovated. The new site was a disused warehouse in Merton, near Wimbledon in South London, which was used for over twenty years until the series ended in 2010.
Space was so tight in the building used for the set of the first Sun Hill station that Chief Superintendent Brownlow's (Peter Ellis) office doubled as producer Michael Chapman's office, and the canteen set was the actual canteen used by cast and crew.
In the early years of the show, the location of Sun Hill was given as the real London borough of Tower Hamlets. At some point later on the location was changed to the fictional borough of Canley, which corresponds to the real borough of Tower Hamlet on maps.
When the show ended in 2010, Simon Rouse was the longest serving cast member - he had played DCI/Supt. Jack Meadows regularly since 1992. He also made several guest appearances as the same character between 1990 and 1991 before joining the regular cast. Other long serving cast members include Alex Walkinshaw (PC/Sgt./Insp. Dale Smith - 1999 to 2001, and 2003 to 2010) and Chris Simmons (DC Mickey Webb - 2000 to 2003, and 2005 to 2010). Long serving cast member Graham Cole made his final appearance in November 2009 after playing PC Tony Stamp since 1987, although he had appeared in the series since 1984 as an uncredited extra.
The producers of the show clear all new regular police character names with the Metropolitan police service to ensure there are no current serving officers with the same name. However if a person with the same name were to join the service at a later date, the show would be entitled to continue using the name.
The format of the show still follows Geoff McQueen's original guidelines: the story is told through the eyes and by the actions of the Police, as such any given scene will always have one or more police officers in it.
Rick Wakeman was offered the chance to write the theme tune either for this series or for Lytton's Diary (1985). He chose the latter, believing that it had the best potential of the two to be a long running series. It ran for two seasons.
In July 2009 the series was relaunched having undergone significant changes to provide viewers with a more immersive experience. Given a later time-slot at 9pm, the series was intended to be darker, grittier and more hard-hitting drama which would dig deeper into characters to tell stronger and more challenging stories. Now shot in high definition, the series also started using incidental music for the first time and featured new title credits and theme music. ITV announced that it was going to become the first drama on British television that would run all year round in the 9pm slot.
There is a long-standing tradition that any cast or crew member who leaves the programme is given a personalised wooden policeman's truncheon engraved with their name, the dates they worked on the programme, and the wording "The Bill: Sunhill - SO - Division of Talkback Thames".
The final edition, part two of "Respect", was transmitted on ITV1 on Tuesday 31st August 2010 (27 years after the pilot Storyboard: Woodentop (1983) aired on Tuesday 16th August 1983). The episode bore a closing caption over a shot of Sun Hill Station: "Dedicated to the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Service, past and present."
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Sun Hill police station has been blown up three times. The first time was in The Bill: Trojan Horse (1990) when a car bomb meant for the car's owner exploded in the Sun Hill courtyard, killing PC Ken Melvin (Mark Powley). The second explosion was in The Bill: 008 (2002), when the station came under attack from rioting youths. PC Des Taviner (Paul Usher), trying to destroy some counterfeit banknotes that he had given to a colleague's memorial fund, seized his opportunity and threw a petrol bomb into a ground-floor room that - unbeknown to him - was being used to store a workman's gas cannisters. The resulting explosion killed six officers who were inside the station. The third explosion, less than three years later in The Bill: 288 (2005), killed another three officers. Recently fired PCSO Colin Fairfax (Tim Steed) drove a van full of petrol cannisters into the station reception area.