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The Bill

From Academic Kids

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The current cast of The Bill

The Bill is a long-running British police drama shown on ITV1.

The setting is the Sun Hill district of the fictional London borough of Canley. Other police stations in the Borough, mentioned but (usually) never seen, are Barton Street, which is the location of Borough Headquarters, Stafford Row and Spicer Street. Canley is approximately contiguous with the real London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The Bill is somewhat unique among police shows: it takes a serial format and it does not focus on one particular area of police work. Instead, the show's time is equally divided between the work of officers on one shift in the Uniform division, and the work of the CID.

It started as a one-off drama for ITV entitled Woodentop: this pilot show starred Mark Wingett as PC Jim Carver and Trudie Goodwin as WPC June Ackland on Carver's first day on the beat at Sun Hill police station. It was originally devised by Geoff McQueen, and it impressed ITV so much that they decided to make a series out of it. Godwin continues to star on the now twice-weekly show, while Wingett left the cast in early 2005.

In October 2003, a special episode of The Bill was broadcast live from its London studios to mark the show's 20th year on air.

The Old Bill
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The Old Bill
Contents

The originals

The first episode of The Bill proper was transmitted in 1984 and, with the exception of Carver and Ackland, the cast was almost totally revamped (PC Dave Litten is still played by Gary Olsen and Colin Blumenau played the same character with a slightly different name - Taffy Edwards rather than Taffy Morgan. The character of DI Galloway was retained but recast while Reg Hollis is referred to but does not appear. The first episode also features an appearance by Christopher Ellison playing DS Burnside - although his first name here is Tommy). The original format was shows of fifty minutes in length. Only 35 episodes were made in the first three series of The Bill, and these are known as "the originals". They have their own unique title sequence, featuring images of the feet of two uniformed officers walking towards the camera interspersed with shots of the streets of Sun Hill. Then the camera zooms in on the male officer's helmet and the title of the show appears, along with the only credit to appear before the end: "Devised by Geoff McQueen". This is accompanied by the first version of the iconic title music: written by Andy Pask & Charlie Morgan and entitled Overkill.

In 1985, the titles were completely changed: now, they began with a shot of the Area Car approaching the camera with blue light flashing and siren wailing, and then its tyres screeching as the music began: the camera would end up with a close-up on the blue light atop the car. Two-second action shots of various members of the cast were then shown, interspersed with images of the blue light. "The Bill" and "Devised by Geoff McQueen" would then appear over a hold shot of the light, and then the episode would begin. The originals are also noted for their extremely long end credits, which last over one and a half minutes and feature the plodding feet again, this time walking away from camera.

Changing to serial format

After the conclusion of the 1987 series, the decision was taken to drastically change the format. The Bill would now run year-round, and instead of one 50-minute episode, two 25-minute episodes would air every week.

The title sequence was also updated with a new Area Car, new cast shots to reflect changes, and the first remix of Overkill, by Pask & Morgan: this version is better-known than the original. It also introduced another trademark to the titles: Sergeant Bob Cryer was always the last person to be shown. In this title sequence, he is talking and nodding.

The series continued relatively unchanged (except for cast) until 1992: new Area Car and cast footage, and Cryer is now shouting at someone. In 1994, the Area Car changed again and Cryer started looking up in amazement.

In 1996, an ingenious addition was made. Separate title sequences were created with specially-filled footage: one for episodes that took place during the day and one for those set at night. Again, a new Area Car in the credits, and the timing of the music was subtly changed. Instead of kicking in immediately after the screech of tyres, it now begun at the same time. In both title sequences, Cryer looks up for the camera.

Throughout this era, the focus of the show remained broadly the same: very much focused on police work, with very few personal stories for the characters unless they were on their way out. Episodes would often feature interesting crimes which were wrapped up by the end of the episode. A common plot feature would be an episode following two incidents in parallel, that started off seemingly unrelated would end up directly related. The twist was usually in how.

The 1998 revamp

The second major revamp of the show took place in 1998, as Richard Handford took over as Executive Producer of the show from Michael Chapman. The show's focus was altered and became more soapy: interactions between the officers became more important. Feeling is very mixed as to whether this was a good idea. The look of the show was also updated: the old titles were thrown out entirely: the opening titles were replaced by images of police things: dayglo jackets, hats, a suspect being interviewed, and a map in CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) among other things. The theme tune was also completely revamped. Episodes moved to beng 1 hour long later in 1998, though for quite a while the times & days the episodes were shown varied, along with the number of episodes a week (for a period in Spring 2002, only one episode was shown a week), but by late 2002, it had finally settled at 8PM on Wednesdays & Thursdays, which is still the case as of June 2005.

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New Look The Bill

In late 2000, Handford was replaced by Paul Marquess, who immediately sought to make sweeping changes to the cast. Chief Superintendent Brownlow (Sun Hill's first Sub Divisional Officer) was removed and replaced by the smooth, enthusiastic Chief Superintendent Tom Chandler. DS Don Beech was given an explosive exit which featured him turning corrupt and running away to foreign climes (which led to his own series, which screened exclusively in Australia, home to one of the The Bill's largest audiences). His corruption led to the suspension of the whole of CID and the resignation of Supt. Charles Brownlow. PC Eddie Santini also appeared in the dock, charged with murder. He died.

More changes followed in 2001, as Marquess continued to stamp his own style on the programme. Sgt Bob Cryer was forced into early retirement by an accidental shooting (the perpetrator was the now Duty Sgt Dale Smith), and was replaced by Sgt Craig Gilmore. Don Beech returned for a showdown with DS Stanton, and PC Des Taviner arrived to drive the Area Car: he was to form an odd-couple friendship with long-standing PC Reg Hollis that would provide some of the series' greatest moments.

Also, a new trend emerged thanks to the influence of Marquess: no more would cases be solved in 25 or 50 minutes: now, they spanned many episodes, and quite often a minor offence dealt with by Uniform a few weeks ago would re-appear as part of the major case in CID. He also refocused the show even more on the officers' personal lives.

2002 saw the final major changes of the retooling period. Early in the year, an explosion ripped through the station. Six officers were killed in the incident caused by PC Des Taviner: he would escape for two years before finally being forced to face the music. Later in the year, Tom Chandler (who took his own life) was replaced by Superintendent Adam Okaro, a black superintendent played by Cyril Nri. The titles were changed again to include static cast photographs and the music was remixed to take it back closer to the 1988 Pask/Morgan mix of Overkill. Other changes included the decision not to replace the Chief Inspector, a rank that Marquess found desk-bound and boring, following the demise of Derek Conway.

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The New Bill
Since 2002, the format of the show and its cast has remained reasonably steady: officers still depart and arrive on a fairly regular basis, but the retooling period begun to an extent in 1998 and accentuated by the change of executive producers is now more-or-less complete and the show's format is pretty much fixed for the foreseeable future: mainly combined Uniform-and-CID efforts to solve a big case that spans several weeks, with smaller cases and personal relationships filling the rest of the screen time, with the odd major event such as a large road traffic accident or an in-depth study of the handling of armed robbery and hostage situations. The main titles and music were changed again in 2003 to their current look: more generic police images, but the theme has been totally changed and now resembles a pumped-up version of the original 1984 version of Overkill.

The ultimate change was made in 2004 when the programme announced the departure of DC Jim Carver. Carver had been in the programme since the start; in fact the show was originally about a new police officer called Jim Carver with Jim saying the first line. Many fans were irate that the show could fire someone seen as indispensible and had caused the birth of the show, but this was the way of the then executive producer Paul Marquess.

Fortunately the show has had the sense not to kill the character, although a return is unlikely, with Carver deciding that he must leave Sun Hill for good in order to sort his life out.

In early 2005, the station suffered another explosion, this time caused by disaffected PCSO Colin Fairfax, who drove a van into the front of the staion, killing DC Ken Drummond, (who was in the back of the van) SRO Marilin Chambers and PC Andrea Dunbar. Shortly after the episode aired, Paul Marquess was signed away by Endemol, the makers of Big Brother, to head their new drama division. His replacement is Jonathon Young.

Current cast

Uniform

Detectives

Sergeants

Senior Officers

Civilians

Other recurring characters

  • DCI Morrell (Tanya Franks) Morrell is a DCI in the Murder Investigation Team, who frequently takes over the investigation of crimes committed on Sun Hill's patch. She was promoted to DCI in Episode 304, following a stint covering for DI Neil Manson.
  • Sgt. Mark Rollins (Stefan Booth) PC Powell's partner. The two had a commitment ceremony in early 2005.
  • Alan Kennedy (James Clyde) A rapist from whom DS Nixon had already got a confession, but whose trial collapsed on a technicality.

Popular characters from previous series

  • DC Jim Carver (Mark Wingett) As mentioned above, Carver was the subject of 'Woodentop'. He left Sun Hill in early 2005 in order to sort his life out. It is unknown if he has resigned or transferred.
  • PC Luke Ashton (Scott Neal) [transferred]
  • DS Don Beech (Billy Murray) Wanted for corruption, he fled abroad to Australia to escape imprisonment. He returned to organise a robbery, but was captured and imprisoned. He escaped again and is currently on the run (exact location or circumstances unknown). Reports have come in of him being sighted in the East end of London.
  • Sgt. Matthew Boyden (Tony O'Callaghan) [deceased (shot)] After twelve years in Sun Hill Boyden was shot dead by his daughter's drug-dealing boyfriend (at her request).
  • PC Cathy Bradford (Connie Hyde) [sectioned (http://www.thebill.com/episodes/episode_206.html)]
  • Ch. Supt. Charles Brownlow (Peter Ellis) Felt obliged to tender his resignation after the full corruption of Don Beech emerged.
  • DCI Frank Burnside (Christopher Ellison (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0255177))
  • SRO Marilyn Chambers (Vickie Gates) [She Died]
  • Ch. Insp. Derek Conway (Ben Roberts) [deceased (car was firebombed shortly prior to the Sun Hill 2001 explosion)]
  • Sgt. Bob Cryer (Eric Richard)[retired on injuries] Cryer was seen as institution by fans and was the 'father figure' sergeant to his relief. He was shot by 'friendly fire' from the then PC (now Sgt.) Dale Smith during a hostage situation. He survived the shot, but was unfit to return to the job. He has returned for guest spots three times since his departure - once for the memorial service of Inspector Monroe, once to help his niece Roberta, then the station's front desk officer, solve a case, and again alongside Sgt. Peters for DS Roach's funeral.
  • DI Chris Deakin (Shaun Scott) [forcibly transferred]
  • Sgt. Craig Gilmore (Hywel Simons) [transferred]
  • DC Ken Drummond (Russell Floyd) [deceased]
  • PC Andrea Dunbar (Natalie J. Robb) [deceased]
  • PCSO Colin Fairfax (Tim Steed) [arrested and awaiting trial after causing the 2005 explosion]
  • DC Danny Glaze (Karl Collins) [AWOL - wanted for conspiracy]
  • PC Nick Klein (Rene Zagger) [in Witness Protection]
  • DC Duncan Lennox (George Rossi) [transferred to M.I.T.]
  • DC Alfred 'Tosh' Lines (Kevin Lloyd) [transferred to Coroner's Office]
  • DS Debbie McAllister (Natalie Roles) [resigned]
  • PC Polly Page (Lisa Geoghan) [resigned (http://www.thebill.com/episodes/episode_206.html)]
  • Sgt. Alec Peters (Larry Dann) [retired]
  • DS Ted Roach (Tony Scannell) [Resigned - Now Has Sadly Passed Away]
  • PC Cameron Tait (Daniel MacPherson) [resigned (http://www.thebill.com/episodes/episode_230.html)]
  • PC Des Taviner (Paul Usher) [deceased (http://www.thebill.com/episodes/episode_199.html)]
  • DC/DS Mickey Webb (Chris Simmons) [transferred to M.I.T., and then National Crime Squad as DS. Returned in Episode 302 to see if DI Neil Manson was a murderer]
  • PC Kerry Young (Beth Cordingly) [deceased (http://www.thebill.com/episodes/episode_254.html)]
  • DC Kate Spears (Tania Emery) [deceased (killed in the 2001 explosion)]

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