The Bill became hot property in British television for it’s hardline depiction and dramatization of the London Metropolitan police in 1984. Originally titled Woodentop for it’s pilot episode for ITV in 1983, the series later changed the title of the show to The Bill. Created and Devised by Geoff McQueen in 1984, with the furnishing talents of Mark Wingett (Quadrophenia) as “Pc Jim Carver” and Trudy Goodwin as “WPc June Ackland”, later promoted to sergeant, amongst John Salthouse as Di Roy Galloway and Peter Ellis as “Chief Superintendent Charles Brownlow”. Both actors, prior to The Bill, played background policemen in An American Werewolf in London, directed by John Landis. In earlier episodes, the shows title sequence was comprised of slideshow photos of Sun Hill but later improved by showing montages of the cast in action with Goodwin and Wingett as the main leading stars of the earlier seasons.
Later they were joined by other acting talents from Graham Cole (once Dr Who stuntman) as “Pc Tony Stamp” who in earlier episodes was just seen in the background, but became more prominent in later episodes. Cole already held a professional police driving license and became the face of the Police Stop! trilogy a close circuit camera series in the early 90’s for both ITV and SKY also on VHS that follows everyday crimes through the eyes of a camera with Cole as narrator and host, in which he’s the only actor that can drive police operation vehicles. Chris Ellison was the electrifying “Di Frank Burnside” with Ellison’s prior works being a performance as a car mechanic in a commercial for Guinness that blends comedy and music. Also he starred mainly as a right hand henchman in Dempsey and Makepeace that came out the same year as The Bill. The show’s inception originally started as an 25 episodic seasonal ran .
Until in the earlier 1990s, when it became a year round show. It was set in the metropolitan London area of Sun Hill, where crime was on the rise in which the boys and girls in blue were on the case to restore order by concentrating on crimes of robbery and assault, that were originally assigned to the Elite Crime Investigation Division, often branded as “Superstars” by the uniformed police officers. Carver had no inspirations of getting promoted into the Elite Squad after Ackland asked him in an earlier episode in Season One .
But in later Seasons he did, but sadly it wasn’t long before he was back in uniform. Ellison injected humour to the show that enabled him to act dramatic and comedic at the same time, so that his Character “Di Frank Burnside” became an pop culture icon. The late Eric Richard, who starred in the series as the no-nonsense, but kind at heart sergeant Bob Cryer , whose job it was to keep law and order simple. In real life, Richard loved riding motorcycles and was very passionate about unfortunate children in crisis and in care homes and the gig enabled him to found a charity organisation called “Honda Goldwings” that toured around England by raising funds for Children’s Homes every Christmas time and for taking kids to Theme Parks during summertime.
The Bill showcases the future talent’s of some top names in Hollywood, from Sean Bean to Kate Winslet, also including Jaime Murray the daughter of Billy Murray who played “Ds Don Beech” and also Keira Knightley, amongst rock legends like Roger Daltrey and comedic talents like the late Rick Mayal and Hugh Laurie as a court barrister. Last but not least, it also starred Ray Winstone and James McAvoy .
The show received syndication in Australia under it’s TV distribution company Fremantle Media and with Australian distribution home media company network for DVD and VHS, the show closed with the theme tune, accompanied of visuals of a couple of police officers strutting along to the beats. Goodwin and Wingett wer asked to do the walk but both actors declined, fearing for their safety and welfare due to walking on dangerous cobble stones, plus risking insurance claims and with and over eager shows producers and episode director demanding reshoots so to save insurance costs and damages. So the walk ended up being performed by their stunt doubles that you only seen the lower half of the shot and you can hear the title theme “Overkill” by Mark Ayers
In the mid Noughties the shows viewing started to decline due to branching way too much into the lives of the cast of characters that lead to its prompt demise in 2010, but it still has a cult following today with constant repeats on satellite and cable network channels. Over the years, the show garnered Bafta and TV award nominations and wins, alongside tough competition of rival drama shows like Casualty that also debuted in ’84 and other British dramas, including EastEnders and Brookside.
Goodwin spoke about the shows cancellation in an interview expressing that she disliked the direction of the show went, as the writers had deviated away from the original essence of the show by having its characters developing emotional relationships, apractice that often spells doom in any police drama series. And it was revealed that both the fictional Sun Hill police station and the Saint Hughes hospital exteriors were filmed in an converted warehouse and that a secret door of the police station leads towards the hospital soundstage, in a behind-the-scenes show for the ITV network channel back in the mid 90’s.
However, the cast of the bill still often produced spoof episodes and musical set pieces to raise money for Children in need for the BBC.
Lastly, here is the theme tune.
the bill police walk during end titles.