Monday 27th April 2020
Stars of The Bill took a virtual trip down memory lane via special video call reunion over the weekend to celebrate the iconic show coming to UKTV's free video-on-demand service UKTV Play - right from the very first episode.
The much-loved police procedural drama series followed the lives of policemen and women working at the fictional Sun Hill Police Station in East London and ran for 26 years from 1984 to August 2010.
The reunited original cast featured fan favourites Trudie Goodwin (WPC June Ackland), Chris Ellison (DI Frank Burnside), Eric Richard (Sgt Bob Cryer), Mark Wingett (PC Jim Carver) and Graham Cole (PC Tony Stamp). The stars answered a series of questions, including ones submitted by fans via UKTV's social channels and included their most memorable moments on set, behind-the-scenes gags and what the series would look like in 2020 if it was ever re-made.
The cast shared how they're coping with being 'in lockdown' themselves - confessing their strategies varied from 'drinking wine and eating nibbles' (Chris) to 'playing the trumpet' (Mark), with Eric revealing how he's planning to shoot a film about being in 'lockdown' with his director daughter, Sophie.
The Bill bobbies even started the call 'in the slammer' themselves, as they changed their video call backgrounds to jail cell bars - a cheeky throwback to Sun Hill's once infamous police cells - before heading back to Sun Hill station and even 'meeting up' with their younger selves from their 1980s cast photos.
When asked about their fondest memories on the show, Chris recalled that he shot the car scenes 'with our trousers off, not because we were too hot, just bored, haha!'. The most abiding memory for Mark was 'the belly laughs we had every day' admitting that at least once a day the team would be in 'fits of giggles' - with Trudie adding that 'a lot of corpsing went on as well'.
Talking about the now famous extras, Graham pretended he was outraged that Keira Knightley 'never phoned' after he worked with her on one of her first ever TV episodes.
When discussing how The Bill would look like today, Chris jokingly admitted that 'if it was the same cast it would look like One Foot In The Grave.'
Trudie added that the most noticeable difference would be the 'lack of police on the streets' nowadays, but she thought otherwise it wouldn't be markedly different with the exception of seeing more female and ethnic minority officers now too.
When Chris and Mark imagined how their characters would fair in 2020, Mark revealed that he thought Carver would 'be alright' but Chris jokingly confessed that 'Burnside would be in prison!
Tom Davidson, UKTV Play general manager, commented,
The Bill is an iconic cop classic that's full of that lovely warm feeling of nostalgia. Kicking off with the very first series from 1983, we hope that audiences enjoy being back on the beat at Sun Hill.
The Bill: The Early Years - encompassing Series 1-5 - will be available for streaming on 1st May at 10am on UKTV Play (uktvplay.co.uk), while series 6-9 will join the service in the months to come, with one series being added each month from the start of June.
About The Bill:
The Bill was originally conceived as a one-off drama by television writer Geoff McQueen, who titled it 'Old Bill'. The programme was picked up by Michael Chapman for ITV franchise holder Thames Television, who retitled it Woodentop as part of their "Storyboard" series of one-off dramas and was broadcast on ITV on 16 August 1983.
ITV then went on to commission a full series, broadcast from 16 October 1984 as weekly one-hour episodes. The first three series featured a separate storyline for each hour-long episode, before moving to half-hour episodes in 1988.
If you were to watch the first nine series of The Bill from start to end in one sitting, it would take 28 days*.
The series was also renowned for giving a raft of celebrity stars their first break, including actress Keira Knightley, entertainer and author David Walliams, actor Sean Bean, singer Emma Bunton and comedian Russell Brand, who all appeared as unknown extras on the show.
About UKTV Play
UKTV Play is an on demand TV service providing instant access to shows from UKTV's free-to-air channels - Dave, Yesterday and Drama.
With the easy-to-use UKTV Play app you can browse and stream hundreds of shows for free via your computer, tablet or smart phone. You can also watch on the telly thanks to Amazon, Apple TV, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Freeview, NOW TV, Roku and YouView.
If you're a Sky, Virgin Media, BT TV or TalkTalk TV customer, shows from other great UKTV channels - Gold, W, Alibi, and Eden - are also on the menu.
UKTV has been at the forefront of branded television for over 25 years, entertaining the nation with programmes they love. Its leading brands - Dave, Gold, W, Drama, Alibi, Eden and Yesterday - span comedy, entertainment, natural history, factual and drama, and are delivered to audiences through UKTV Play, Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, BT, TalkTalk, YouView, Freesat and Amazon Fire. The broadcaster is a significant investor in British creativity and is committed to working with new and established writers, directors and programme-makers.
UKTV is part of BBC Studios, the UK's most-awarded production company, a world-class distributor with international branded services, and a commercial subsidiary of the world's leading public service broadcaster, the BBC.
NOTES TO EDITORS The Bill: The Early Years - Series 1-5 launches 10am on 1st May on UKTV Play. Series 6 available from 1st June, Series 7 from 1st July, Series 8 from 1st August and Series 9 from 1st September.
*28 days of consecutive viewing of The Bill series 1 - 9 was calculated by: Total number of hours of all 656 episodes from season 1-9 = 345.5 hours 345.5 hours divided by 12 hours in a waking day = 28.79 days