ITV has swung the axe on long-running cop series The Bill. Last year, it was given a revamp and a move to a new 9pm prime time slot but this failed to revive its fortunes.
The Bill’s ratings decline tells its own story; from a high of well over 12 million viewers to an average of just under four million for this year.
The Bill started life as a play called Woodentop in 1983. Thames Television commissioned a twelve part series which went on to become a mainstay from 1984.
The first three series consisted of one-hour episodes, but in order to compete with the soaps, the format was changed to half-hour episodes in 1988.
It was the gritty realism of the early years that made The Bill such compelling viewing: jerky camera shots, maintaining the viewpoint of the police officers, natural lighting etc.
But what really made the show fly were some of the greatest characterisations ever to grace a UK weekly serial: DCI Frank Burnside (Christopher Ellison), Sgt Bob Cryer (Eric Richard), DC Alfred ‘Tosh’ Lines (the late Kevin Lloyd), DI Roy Galloway (John Salthouse), PC Reg Hollis (Jeff Stewart), Sgt June Ackland (Trudie Goodwin), DC Jim Carver (Mark Wingett) and DC Terry Perkins (Bruce Byron), to name a few.
The beginning of the end for The Bill came when its solid dramatic background was sacrificed for blatant soap; out went a police procedural and in came sensationalist and farfetched storylines that left loyal fans aghast. Exhibit A: just look at what was done with PC Gabriel Kent. The nutter, played by ex-EastEnder Todd Carty, arrived at Sun Hill purely for revenge on June Ackland. He jumped from a bigot to a serial killer. Little wonder the series barely recovered after such a misstep.
The last revamp in 2009 saw The Bill once again embracing its grittier past and moving to the later 9pm slot. Beloved characters were dropped, the iconic theme tune dumped and the number of episodes halved. But the show struggled, repeatedly losing out to offerings on the BBC – even repeats.
Talking about the decision to axe The Bill, ITV director of television Peter Fincham said: ""Thanks to a superb production team, it’s been one of the great institutions of television drama. But times change, and so do the tastes of our audience." He added: "Whilst The Bill will come to an end in 2010, we will continue to invest more in drama programming than any other commercial broadcaster in the UK and viewers can look forward to a wide range of high-quality drama on ITV1."
Goodbye to The Bill then; a fantastic series in its heyday. Has ITV made the right decision? Are you sorry to see the show go? Have your say here but PLEASE keep it clean or your comment will be deleted.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – Nurse Jackie gets a third season in the US. I can’t wait!!!! Love that show.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – Such a shame about The Bill. But it had a good innings and I’m glad its been put out of its misery. It was soooo fab watching Tosh Lines, Burnside, Galloway and co. Thanks for the memories.