ITV announced last month it was cancelling the police drama The Bill after 27 years on-air, ATV Today editor Doug Lambert suggests in this issue of ATV Reports that the show should carry on – elsewhere.
Having fiddled with the format of the drama several times over the last decade, thereby having eroded viewing figures, ITV decided to cut their losses. This shouldn’t mean the end of The Bill though but a new chapter in its history – another broadcaster SHOULD step in.
There’s an old saying: if something isn’t broke why break it? The same could be applied to The Bill: many times over the past decade or maybe even longer – maybe over 12 years – the show has seen changes that have proved unhelpful to the series. In 1998 the first big change in the format of the police drama in years was made when it reverted back to the one-hour episode format, dropped those iconic plodding feet from the end titles, and slowly adopted a more “soap” format which continued in 2000 when the series was revamped again.
The 2000 revamp saw the exit of most of the CID characters, replaced on the whole with bland “token” characters and the introduction of a new Superintendent, Tom Charndler. Then in 2002 another revamp happened as ITV were not happy with eroding ratings for the series; perhaps they were eroding because ITV had already mucked about with the show twice already to the irritation of fans.
We could go on and talk about the 2002 revamp which saw the drama totally adopted a soap format with sensationalist storylines akin to Brookside or the 2009 revamp which saw the soap adopt a CSI style approach. Our point is though that all these revamps over the years have had their impact and the show fans once enjoyed is long gone because of them. So we go back to that old saying; if it isn’t broke why break it?
Folllowing all these revmaps ITV have decided that the low figures – for which they should accept responsilbity for – mean The Bill has to end. Okay so be it – but only on ITV. If ITV don’t want it – which seems to have been obvious for some time now – then another broadcaster should be stepping in and snapping up The Bill. The end of The Bill on ITV should be the start of a new chapter for the cop-drama; on another channel.
The figures recently for the series haven’t been good but that’s only if you are a big broadcaster like ITV. Now other broadcasters such as Channel Four, Five and Sky would love to have ratings of over 3 million viewers per week. Shameless on C4 performs well but it doesn’t regularly top 3 million viewers nor do Home & Away, Neighbours and the various American imports on Five.
Now considering Five snatched Neighbours away from the BBC in 2008 and the fact that Five’s parent company own The Bill’s production company it should be relatively easy for the series to transfer over to Five. Isn’t it time that Five showed some commitment to British drama and gave The Bill a new home? It doesn’t really matter who saves The Bill as long as it is saved.
The Bill isn’t just a British insitution, not just an icon of television; it’s a training ground for new talent. It’s a vital resource for actors, writers, directors and producers to cut their teeth in the world of television drama. It’s a big employer and a vital resource in these hard times – it has fans all over the world and it’s a showcase for the talent of British drama.
Shame on you ITV for cancelling it! Shame on you others for allowing this opportunity to pass you by!