Thursday 28 April 2016
- Police drama The Bill enjoys revival on UKTV Play - six years after last episode aired
- Series famous for giving stars first break means viewers can play 'spot the celeb' for likes of Keira Knightley, Russell Brand, Alex Kingston and David Walliams
- Actor Eric Richard who played Sgt Bob Cryer for two decades: "The show kick-started people's careers"
A TV police drama whose final episode was broadcast six years ago is proving a hit with viewers all over again - as they play 'spot the celeb before they were famous'.
The Bill, which ran for 26 years from 1984 to August 2010, is regularly topping the most-watched lists of on demand service UKTV Play UKTVPlay.co.uk - with droves of devotees set to tune in over the Bank Holiday weekend and watch box sets of entire series.
The weekly drama, which followed the men and women in blue from the fictional Sun Hill Police Station as they enforced law and order in east London, is fondly remembered for giving celebrities their first break - with superstars including Keira Knightley, Robert Carlyle, David Walliams, Alex Kingston, David Tennant, Emma Bunton and Russell Brand appearing as unknown extras during its three decades.
And six years after the last ever episode was broadcast, fans of the show and a whole new generation of TV viewers alike are enjoying The Bill's timeless characters such as Sgt June Ackland, DI Frank Burnside and Sgt Bob Cryer - while playing 'spot the unknown celeb'.
Emma Boston, general manager, UKTV Play, said,
The Bill has always had a cult following among viewers but we've been surprised at how it's regularly topping our most-watched lists.
"Over the years, the series has become known for giving so many famous actors their first break - which gives an added dimension to our viewers' enjoyment of The Bill it seems. It's grown into one of our most popular on demand drama series over the last six months as word of mouth has spread online, and we expect to see a 15% rise in viewing figures over the Bank Holiday, as fans use the extra free time to enjoy whole box sets. We're adding more episodes now for people to enjoy.
"Millions of TV viewers grew up with The Bill, and there's clearly still a great deal of affection for the men and women of Sun Hill."
UKTV Play is the on demand TV service from UKTV which allows viewers to watch shows from Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama - including Storage Hunters, Suits, Crackanory, Dave Gorman Modern Life is Goodish, Taskmaster, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted and Forbidden History.
To celebrate The Bill this bank holiday, UKTV Play has identified the 10 greatest actors who got an early break in the series, together with a fast-facts guide:
- Robert Carlyle: the James Bond baddie, also known for his roles as Begbie in the film Trainspotting and Gary Schofield in The Full Monty, guest starred in 1991 episode The Better Part of Valour,
- David Walliams: The Britain's Got Talent judge appeared in a 2002 episode of The Bill as an animal rights activist who takes part in an anti-vivisection march,
- Alex Kingston: the English actress who went on to star in global TV medical smash hit ER before becoming Doctor Who companion River Song made one of her first TV appearances in The Bill in 1988,
- Emma Bunton: before the world had ever heard of The Spice Girls, Bunton played a troubled teenager in 1993 episode Missionary Work,
- David Tennant: The Doctor in TV's Doctor Who made an appearance as kidnapper Stephen Clements in 1995,
- Russell Brand: the notorious stand-up comedian and Hollywood actor debuted in The Bill as a cocky young thief in 1995 when he was 18,
- Omid Djalili: the British/Iranian actor and comedian, who has completed several headline tours and starred in films such as The Infidel, made a guest appearance in the episode Chasing Shadows,
- Keira Knightley: the Hollywood star kicked off her early acting career playing ten-year-old troublemaker Sheena Rose in 1995 episode Swan Song,
- Hugh Laurie: the comedian, actor and national treasure made a guest appearance playing defense counsel Harp in 1998 episode Good Faith: Part 1,
- Meera Syal: the comedian, writer and producer who rose to prominence as one of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me made an appearance as a solicitor in a season seven episode of The Bill. Other celebrities who appeared in The Bill - many before they became household names - include James McAvoy, Rik Mayall, Ray Winstone, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Catherine Tate, Ralf Little, Darren Day, Les Dennis, Liz Smith, Denise Van Outen, Roger Daltrey, Sean Bean, Pauline Quirke, Paul O'Grady, Lorraine Kelly and Michelle Collins.
The Bill by numbers:
- There were 2,425 episodes of The Bill
- Originally produced by Thames Television, it first appeared in 1983 as one-off drama Woodentop, with The Bill following in 1984
- In 1989 it was transmitted in half-hourly episodes, twice a week, with an extra instalment added in 1993, but reverted to its old hour-long format in 1998
- The classic theme tune, although tweaked over the years, remained Overkill by Charlie Morgan; the end titles are remembered for featuring the feet of two officers on the beat, although this was dropped in 1988
- There were three filming locations for Sun Hill police station: for the first series, the station consisted of a set of buildings in Wapping, East London; the second location was an old record distribution depot in North Kensington in North West London; and from 1990, Sun Hill was filmed at an old wine distribution warehouse in Merton, South London
- PC June Ackland, later promoted to sergeant, who was played by Trudie Goodwin, was on-screen for 24 years, from the 1983 pilot to 2007, making her both the show's longest-serving character AND at the time the world's longest-serving TV police character
- In October 2003 the show celebrated its 20th anniversary with a live episode, a move subsequently replicated by EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale
- The Bill has been broadcast in over 55 different countries
- A two-part crossover episode with the German series SOKO Leipzig was broadcast in November 2008
Actor Eric Richard played one of The Bill's most enduring characters, desk sergeant Bob Cryer, which he portrayed in the series for 17 years, from the show's inception. A model officer who cared about his job deeply, Sgt Cryer was a father figure for many of the characters on The Bill - and he made his final appearance in 2004 when he helped solve the mystery of DS Ted Roach's death. Since leaving the show, Richard has appeared in Holby City on BBC One and performed in a stage version of 19th century countryside novels Lark Rise to Candleford.
Any TV show which runs for over 25 years will have something special about it - and The Bill was no exception. It featured great casting, great plots and most of all a certain magic that clearly helped take it to the nation's hearts.
"There was also an incredible depth of acting talent and behind-the-scenes staff - I worked with more than 5,000 actors while I was in The Bill and there aren't many shows that can claim that. And of course so many famous actors got their big break on it. Actress Alex Kingston, for example, went on to huge success in the US as Dr. Elizabeth Corday in medical drama ER.
"She wasn't well known when she appeared in The Bill, but you could tell she was going to be something special. The show kick-started people's careers.
The Bill Collection is available for free via www.UKTVPlay.co.uk.
More info: Howard Bowden on 07720 839 852 or Joe Dyble on 07771 825 359
About UKTV Play
UKTV Play is the on demand TV service that lets you watch shows from Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama whether you're on the bus, at work (we won't tell) or on the sofa. Among the gems on offer are Storage Hunters, Suits, Crackanory, Dave Gorman Modern Life is Goodish, Taskmaster, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted and Forbidden History, so it's never been easier to fill your boots with great stuff from UKTV. You can get UKTV Play on PC and Mac and there's also an app for iPhone and iPad. Or you can put your feet up and watch on the telly, thanks to Virgin TV, YouView, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. If you're an M+ subscriber on Virgin Media or BT TV customer, shows from other great UKTV channels - Gold, Watch, Alibi, Good Food, Home and Eden - are on the menu as well.
Get the iOS app on iTunes, download the Android app here or to view UKTV Play on PC or Mac, visit UKTVPlay.co.uk