ATV Reports: The Bill revamp aims for the axe rather than ratings?

ATV Reports welcomes guest-writer Andy Hunter to dish his opinion on last night’s new look The Bill from Thames Television and ITV.

There are several ways to annoy and alienate your core audiences, in other words your fans. Those loyal viewers who tune in week in and week out and never miss an episode. Those viewers who defend the show and stick with it through the light and the dark. Those loyal members of the viewing public you really shouldn’t p**s off. Below is a short-list of several ways you can piss off your fans.

  • Modernise your show even thought it doesn’t need to be
  • Move it around in the schedules
  • Axe an episode or two
  • Axe some popular characters
  • Axe the theme tune and opening titles
  • Replace theme tune and opening titles with something suitably awful
  • Patronise your audience by telling them the show HAS TO CHANGE

The list can also be applied to “how to get a show axed”, see Crossroads or London’s Burning for examples of this. Last night’s episode of The Bill seemed to be targeting fans of American imports like CSI and NCIS rather than appealing to its own fans to stick by it despite all the changes. So The Bill has gone for a darker, grittier image with incidental music [which is actually a good move] and moody shots but rather than coming across as CSI or Law and Order it rather came across as an episode of Holby Blue or even worse, Mersey Beat.

That’s not to say it didn’t have some good things because it did. The use of incidental music, as mentioned, is good and the characters used within the piece were also good, strong and popular with audiences; Smithy and Jack Meadows. But the dialogue is still clichéd. Honestly do Police Officers really shout “Oi Come Back” and “Oi Police, Stop”? If they do, which I can’t believe for one second they do, then the question is do they really expect someone to stop?

The opening titles and new music were barely on-screen long enough to get a real feel for them other than they’ll never live up to the iconic status of previous Bill titles. Ditching that brilliant theme tune for something more akin to a dodgy ITV2 documentary is mind boggling.

But overall there is light at the end of the tunnel for The Bill. This new look could be a hit with audiences if given a time to establish itself but really if I were a producer of The Bill I’d given serious consideration to bringing back the old theme tune. Fans are a loyal bunch who don’t like such radical change and if you lose them as part of your audience, you’re doomed.

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