Produced by Thames Television the series launched in October 1984, following a pilot in 1983, and proved a popular part of the primetime schedules for nearly 30 years as the London crime series mixed criminality with the personal lives of the staff at Sun Hill. Legendary characters include Frank Burnside a tough-as-nails copper, who didn’t always follow the book to the word but was a decent copper, June Ackland who was dubbed “Aunty June” by Inspector Gina Gold. June was someone that people could go to with their problems and get a sympathetic ear and Bob Cryer the tough but fair sergeant.
Over the years storylines included social issues from abortion, teenage pregnancy, rape, human trafficking, homosexuality, drug addiction, gambling and alcohol addiction, murder, incest and rape to name but a few of the issues covered not just through the various investigations conducted by the Officers but also some experienced by the Officers of Sun Hill themselves.
Luke Aston struggle to accept his sexuality and doomed marriage to Kerry Young was one memorable storyline from the early 2000s. A love triangle between Luke, Kerry and Sergeant Craig Gilmore gripped millions of viewers and produced the first on-screen gay kiss between two uniformed officers on British television. Poor Kerry Young wasn’t exactly bless with luck though; she married a gay man, had a miscarriage, was raped by the deranged Gabriel Kent, falsely accused Dale Smith of raping her and was shot and killed.
The beat of Sun Hill must be the most dangerous anywhere in the world as the number of officers killed in the line of duty in The Bill is very high – though the majority are from the past decade. One of the earliest officers to be killed on duty was in 1990 when PC Melvin died after a booby-trapped bomb exploded in a car outside the station. In 1993 Viv Martella was shot dead by armed robbers in an episode watched by 18 million viewers and in 1995 DC Jo Morgan was also shot dead.
It was the 2000′s when the officers began dropping like flies with 2002 seeing Chief Inspector Derek Conway, PC Sam Harker, WPC Cass Rickman, WPC Di Worrell, DC Kate Spears, PC Paul Riley, PC Ben Hayward and Inspector Andrew Moroe are killed off with the subsequent years seeing characters such as Des Taviner, Juliet Beckett, Tom Chandler, Lance Powell, Marilyn Gates, Andrea Dunbar and Ken Drummond all killed off as well – and that isn’t even the complete list!
The rampage of PC Cathy Bradford was also a memorable storyline with her murderous antics keeping viewers entertained for months as the storyline unfolded. The mentally unhinged Cathy could lie her way out of any situation – she was the master of it. Just some of the lies Cathy told included being HIV positive and having been viciously attacked – though it was usually Cathy who dished out the vicious beatings. Amongst her victims were Bobby Cryer who she hospitalised and the ex-wife of Brandon Kane who she murdered. Cathy, despite being thoroughly racist, was attracted to the Asian Officer to the point of obsession and it all came to a head when she kidnapped his children and held them hostage underneath the station. Cathy was later sectioned…
In March 2010 it was announced that ITV had terminated the show after a failed revamp saw ratings decline as the format took on a more Americanised CSI style.
Lorraine Heggessey, CEO of Thames said at the time, “We are devastated that after 26 successful years on ITV, The Bill will be coming to an end. One of the show’s strengths has been its ability to evolve over the years as can be seen with the latest challenge of transforming itself into a 9pm primetime show.
“We are incredibly proud of what the show has achieved. It is a credit to everyone who has worked on The Bill that the series will be signing out on a creative and editorial high with both critical and industry-wide acclaim and a loyal fan base who have supported the show throughout.”
A huge campaign by fans of the show to keep it on air saw over 30,000 viewers join a ‘Save The Bill’ Facebook page. However the last episode aired in August 2010.
Now with The Bill still being repeated on satellite television and its fan-base still strong the home of the Thames Television production – the independent Wimbledon Film and Television Studios – have announced the sets of the police saga will open to the public.
The Official Bill Tours start for 6 successive weekends from 22nd September 2012, giving viewers the opportunity to see inside the complex where the internal and external structure of Sun Hill still stands.
Tours will take place at 10am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd of September and Sat 6th, Sun 7th, Sat 13th, Sun 14th, Sat 20th, Sun 21st, Sat 27th and Sun 28th of October.
To book tickets visit the studios website here