The Bill Facebook fans have released a statement offering their view on the real reason the popular Thames drama has withered in the past decade.
“Like all the other fans, we are extremely annoyed and saddened by the fact that our beloved police drama has reached this point and we also find it extremely offensive that ITV are blaming us for The Bill’s downfall. So that’s why we feel we should stand up and speak for ourselves by sharing with everyone the people who are really to blame for the show’s downfall.”
Fans of the show, who have come together via the social networking website Facebook, place the blame not with the production company – but with ITV who have ‘meddled’ with the format for a number of years.
”Peter Fincham feels that the ratings dropped over the years because the viewers changed, but that is not the case; the viewers didn’t change – the show changed. The Bill has been on your screens for 27 years and has charmed so many people during that reign.” Says Amy Growcott of the Save The Bill group.
The format of the police drama has changed a number of times, but since the late 1990s more sever changes have been made, and last year the biggest of all saw the show undertake a major new feel, format and direction.
“ITV blames us, the fans, but we are not the reason the show has reached this point – they are. Now of course, they will deny everything we say because that’s what they do; they say anything to stop themselves from looking like the villains here, but… …they’ve been the villains in this situation for quite sometime now.” Amy adds.
The Facebook group also point out that while ITV felt the show needed a change, the powers that be in the South Bank HQ have pushed the show in the wrong direction. Rather than take the show back to its most popular eras, and its roots, the broadcaster has requested Thames – who have produced the show since episode one – take the serial into a new darker style, emulating the kind of programmes seen on Five, such as American import CSI.
“Once it moved to 9pm, it was far too different and it has not looked like The Bill anymore – all it’s really been is a very poor copy of CSI. Changing the theme tune, bringing in music, axing older characters who weren’t young and sexy enough, matching the show up to CSI and other American crime shows – none of it was a good idea; that’s why people stopped watching it at 9pm because it wasn’t The Bill anymore.” Adds Amy of Save The Bill on Facebook.
The fans also feel The Bill has suffered from a lack of promotion by ITV.
”For some bizarre reason during this current era, promotion has more or less disappeared – the sort of promotion used by [previous producers] has not been used in this era. In Australia, the ratings there are very high because they promote it right; whoever’s decision it was to let the show lack promotion here, it was not a wise decision. But the truth is, there have been quite a lot of decisions made during this era that have been very wrong to make.” Amy says.
Anyone would think ITV have been doing “a Crossroads” to the series, by deliberately changing the format, theme tune, tone and style of the show into something they hope would become unpopular. While Crossroads and The Bill are not the only ITV shows to suffer from such internal politics, these are the two most high profile serials to suffer such a demise. The question of course is why.
Why would ITV sabotage a ratings banker? In Crossroads’ case they were tired of the image of the show created unfairly by television critics. But The Bill, has always, generally, been well received by critics and viewers alike. One possible reason is they may feel it could have been poached by another broadcaster – such as Five, who swiped Neighbours away from the BBC after two decades airing on the corporation. But that was just fan speculation. The executives who have revamped the show, and ultimately axed it, are the only ones who know the real reason.
Amy, from Save The Bill, adds: “The biggest mistake came when ITV decided to move the show to 9pm. The show didn’t need a revamp to get the viewers back; like I said, what it needed was to go back to previous eras that were successful. Darkness and grittiness does not suit The Bill. The fans were not happy with the decision to change the timeslot because everything was fine at 8pm.
“The Bill is full of lightness, brightness, comedy, drama, action and emotions, not grittiness and darkness; Graham Cole was absolutely right when he said that the show shouldn’t have been called The Bill anymore because it really isn’t The Bill anymore.”
ITV in Scotland – which is still an independent broadcaster outside of ITVplc – STV are also on the hit list of Bill fans. Back in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 1980s each region made its own schedule and shows would appear at the local ITV companies choice of time. For example in some regions, such as STV, Emmerdale aired at 5pm, while other regions showed it at 6.30pm, while YTV in Yorkshire aired it at 7pm. STV last year decided to ‘go back to its basics’ and tried to restore a more local flavour into the Scottish Television output as seen in decades earlier:
“STV’s decision to axe one of Britain’s greatest television shows in their region was extremely selfish and excessively vain; it didn’t make their country look any better, in fact it made them worse because it turned a lot of people against them – the fans in the Scottish region were so upset, their anger was all over the papers, they started petitions and campaigns and even got in touch with STV. But it’s not just people in Scotland who were and still are very angry by STV’s selfish decision, but also people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; the fans are blaming STV just as much as they’re blaming ITV.”
And while STV takes some of the blame, The Save The Bill Facebook group lay ultimate blame at the door of former BBC executive Peter Fincham.
“The downfall of The Bill is all Fincham’s doing, not ours and that’s why we’re fighting to save the show we all love – so Britain will not lose one of its greatest institutions and so that good, innocent people will not be punished for someone else’s careless wrongdoings. We will continue to fight to save The Bill and that’s why we’re calling on all the other channels of British Television, every other part of the media and everyone in the United Kingdom and even the world to help us. Our aim of our campaign is to persuade ITV to reconsider their decision, but if they don’t, one of you can still keep the show going.”
Not since Charles Denton sacked ATV presenter and actress Noele Gordon in 1981 has a television executive been so hated. Back then Denton received dog faeces in the post, death threats, national newspaper campaigns against his decision, radio stations playing a protest song released by radio and TV presenter Bill Buckley and demostrations outside the ATV Network studios. Fincham, however, seems undeterred by the uproar.