UKTV’s video-on-demand service UKTV Play has secured exclusive rights to police procedural drama The Bill following a deal with Fremantle.

Originating from police slang term ‘Old Bill’, the series followed the lives of policemen and women working at the fictional Sun Hill Police Station in East London. Series 1-5 of The Bill will start streaming on 1 May at 10am, with a further series being made available at the start of each month.

“The Bill is wildly popular on UKTV Play so I’m delighted we’ve been able to secure the back catalogue, bringing more of The Bill to fans.” – Charlie Charalambous, Acquisitions Manager, Fremantle

ITV franchise holder Thames Television secured the rights to a one-off drama written by Geoff McQueen, changing the title from Old Bill to Woodentop before airing it in August 1983. The drama impressed ITV to the extent that a full series was commissioned, first broadcast on 16th October 1984 with one post-watershed episode per week, featuring an hour-long, separate storyline for each episode of the first three series. In 1988 The Bill moved to half-hour episodes twice a week, but a decade on the episode length increased once more.

In 2017, UKTV announced its intention to reshow The Bill in its entirety, bringing the early episodes to UK screens for the first time in many years, however, to the dismay of fans, the broadcaster abandoned the repeat run after only four series.

Long-running characters Trudie Goodwin as PC June Ackland and Mark Wingett as PC Jim Carver

The Bill 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.

Many well-known faces cut their teeth on the programme which was broadcast in 55 different countries around the world. Celebrities including actress Keira Knightley, entertainer and author David Walliams, actor Sean Bean, singer Emma Bunton and comedian Russell Brand all appeared as extras in the series.

In 2010, The Bill departed ITV screens – cancelled by the broadcaster following a failed revamp, in the previous year, which aimed to turn the drama into a CSI style series.

“We’re delighted to support UKTV to bring more classic episodes of the Bill to UKTV Play at a time when we know audiences are looking to rediscover some of their favourite TV moments.” – Jamie Lynn, EVP Head of EMEA Distribution, International at Fremantle

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