Wednesday 9 August 2017
- Drama channel brings back The Bill from the beginning for first time since much-loved cop series first aired
- To celebrate, Drama reunited cast with original police car from the series
- The Bill, from the beginning for the first time, Weekdays from Monday 14 August, 12pm on Drama and available to catch up on UKTV Play
Classic TV police series The Bill is returning to the small screen, with the Drama channel set to repeat every episode for the first time since the show aired in 1984. To celebrate the occasion, six former cast members reunite along with an original 1990s police car used in the series.
The gritty drama, based on the work and lives of police officers at fictitious Sun Hill station, ran for an astonishing TWENTY-SIX years until 2010 - and now the Drama channel is re-showing every episode from this Monday (14/8), starting with the first installment from 1984.
For the first time ever since the original broadcasts, all 2,421 episodes will be shown in chronological order - and as well as being broadcast from the very beginning on weekdays at 12-noon on Drama, episodes will also be available to catch up on UKTV Play.
Originating from police slang term 'Old Bill', The Bill was one of the UK's longest-running TV series ever. It was highly-acclaimed by fans and critics, winning several awards including BAFTAs, a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award and Best Drama at the Inside Soap Awards for four consecutive years. It was also broadcast in 55 different countries around the world.
Ex-cast reunited for the first time included Mark Wingett, who played DS Jim Carver from the very first episode, Eric Richard (Sergeant Bob Cryer), Trudie Goodwin (Sergeant June Ackland), Graham Cole (PC Tony Stamp), Lisa Maxwell (DI Samantha Nixon) and Chris Simmons (DC Mickey Webb) - complete with a 1999 Vectra police car used in the series.
Mark Wingett, in the role of Jim Carver, also appeared in one-off drama Woodentop, broadcast in 1983, from which The Bill was developed the following year - and he went on to appear in 787 episodes over the next 21 years.
It was a tough job because we'd be working six days a week, involving 12-hour days after which I'd go home and learn my lines for the following day - so you had to get by on about six hours sleep a night.
"But it was a wonderful thing to be part of, particularly because we were custodians of our characters, who we knew so well, and if we disagreed with the script we could make suggestions that would be used.
"One of the biggest stars of The Bill was London itself, and it's fascinating to watch old episodes and see how the capital changes on screen from the mid-80s onwards.
"The early episodes were filmed in docklands at Wapping, and I remember one scene we filmed there in a house where the owners had previously used newspaper to cover the walls as a cheap alternative to expensive wallpaper - if you go back to Wapping now, you find newspaper used to cover the walls in the most exclusive restaurants and homes."
There were three filming locations over the years for Sun Hill - Wapping in East London, North Kensington in North West London, and finally Merton and the surrounding South West London area.
The Bill is fondly-remembered by cast and TV industry colleagues alike as one of the first series to use hand-held cameras to follow the action in a documentary-style. This is a technique which is now commonly used across major US and UK drama series.
Eric Richard, who played Sgt Bob Cryer from 1984 to 2001, said:
Many of the cameramen we used had previously only worked covering football, horse racing or other sports, so they provided a whole new energy. It meant we were one of the first drama series here or in the US to be shot on the streets in a deliberately 'wobbly hand', single-camera style.
"Now it's become an established production norm across TV and film, and it's fantastic to recall how we helped set the precedent.
"The Bill was in a long tradition of great British police dramas, including the likes of Dixon of Dock Green in the 50s and 60, and The Sweeney in the 70s. I don't think there's been another since The Bill finished, but I hope there'll be another one soon."
Eric also revealed that Sgt Cryer was written as a West Ham supporter, because the original series was set in East London - but as a life-long Arsenal fan, Eric demanded that production staff change his character to a 'Gooner' supporting their north London rivals, complete with Arsenal mug which was placed on his Sun Hill station desk from episode one.
Adrian Wills, General Manager of Drama, said:
The Bill is one of the most loved and recognisable TV dramas of the last 30 years. We are delighted to bring back this iconic show from the beginning in 2017 for our viewers to enjoy all over again. It is fantastic to celebrate the occasion with this exciting reunion of the brilliant cast members.
Trudie Goodwin, whose character June Ackland also featured in 1983 one-off drama Woodentop, appeared in The Bill from the first episode in 1984 until leaving in 2007 - making her both the longest serving cast member AND setting the world record for the longest time an actor has portrayed a police character.
The actor, whose daughter is La Roux lead singer Ely Jackson, added:
It was a ground-breaking series which meant a lot to so many people, and we're all extremely proud to have been part of it. And if the Drama channel re-run is going to take another 26 years to show, let's hope we're all still here so we can come back again in 2043 and celebrate The Bill once more."
The Bill, from the very beginning for the first time, weekdays from 14 August, 12pm on Drama and available to catch up on UKTV Play.
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