The Bill proves a hit with UKTV viewers

The Bill ITV / Thames final episode

ITV’s former police drama The Bill is providing popular with UKTV viewers.

“It’s grown into one of our most popular on demand drama series over the last six months as word of mouth has spread online, and we expect to see a 15% rise in viewing figures over the Bank Holiday, as fans use the extra free time to enjoy whole box sets. We’re adding more episodes now for people to enjoy. Millions of TV viewers grew up with The Bill, and there’s clearly still a great deal of affection for the men and women of Sun Hill.” – Emma Boston, general manager, UKTV Play

The Thames Television production, which ended six years ago – amid much protest after a failed revamp – is now proving a hit with viewers all over again as it regularly tops the most-watched lists of on demand service UKTV Play – with droves of devotees set to tune in over the Bank Holiday weekend and watch box sets of entire series.

The Bill, which ran for 26 years from 1984 to August 2010, was set in the fictional Sun Hill Police Station and followed the men and women in blue as they enforced law and order in east London. The show is still fondly remembered for giving celebrities their first break – with superstars including Keira Knightley, Robert Carlyle, David Walliams, Alex Kingston, David Tennant, Emma Bunton, Paul O’Grady (in drag) and Russell Brand appearing as unknown extras during its three decades.

And six years after the last ever episode was broadcast, fans of the show and a whole new generation of TV viewers alike are enjoying The Bill’s timeless characters such as Sgt June Ackland, DI Frank Burnside and Sgt Bob Cryer – while playing ‘spot the unknown celeb’.

“The Bill has always had a cult following among viewers but we’ve been surprised at how it’s regularly topping our most-watched lists. Over the years, the series has become known for giving so many famous actors their first break – which gives an added dimension to our viewers’ enjoyment of The Bill it seems.” – Emma Boston, general manager, UKTV Play

UKTV Play is the on demand TV service from UKTV which allows viewers to watch shows from Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama – including Storage Hunters, Suits, Crackanory, Dave Gorman Modern Life is Goodish, Taskmaster, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted and Forbidden History.

Sun Hill The Bill

To celebrate The Bill this bank holiday, UKTV Play has identified the 10 greatest actors who got an early break in the series, together with a fast-facts guide:

Robert Carlyle: the James Bond baddie, also known for his roles as Begbie in the film Trainspotting and Gary Schofield in The Full Monty, guest starred in 1991 episode The Better Part of Valour

David Walliams: The Britain’s Got Talent judge appeared in a 2002 episode of The Bill as an animal rights activist who takes part in an anti-vivisection march

Alex Kingston: the English actress who went on to star in global TV medical smash hit ER before becoming Doctor Who companion River Song made one of her first TV appearances in The Bill in 1988

Emma Bunton: before the world had ever heard of The Spice Girls, Bunton played a troubled teenager in 1993 episode Missionary Work,

David Tennant: The Doctor in TV’s Doctor Who made an appearance as kidnapper Stephen Clements in 1995,

Russell Brand: the notorious stand-up comedian and Hollywood actor debuted in The Bill as a cocky young thief in 1995 when he was 18,

Omid Djalili: the British/Iranian actor and comedian, who has completed several headline tours and starred in films such as The Infidel, made a guest appearance in the episode Chasing Shadows,

Keira Knightley: the Hollywood star kicked off her early acting career playing ten-year-old troublemaker Sheena Rose in 1995 episode Swan Song,

Hugh Laurie: the comedian, actor and national treasure made a guest appearance playing defense counsel Harp in 1998 episode Good Faith: Part 1,

Meera Syal: the comedian, writer and producer who rose to prominence as one of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me made an appearance as a solicitor in a season seven episode of The Bill.

The Bill cast 2008 ITV / Thames

Other celebrities who appeared in The Bill – many before they became household names – include James McAvoy, Rik Mayall, Ray Winstone, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Catherine Tate, Ralf Little, Darren Day, Les Dennis, Liz Smith, Denise Van Outen, Roger Daltrey, Sean Bean, Pauline Quirke, Paul O’Grady, Lorraine Kelly and Michelle Collins.

Over its original ITV broadcast there were 2,425 episodes produced with the series first hitting the air in 1983 as one-off drama Woodentop, with The Bill following in 1984. In 1989 it was transmitted in half-hourly episodes, twice a week, with an extra instalment added in 1993, but reverted to its old hour-long format in 1998.

The classic theme tune, although tweaked over the years, is called Overkill by Charlie Morgan; the end titles are remembered for featuring the feet of two officers on the beat, although this was dropped just before the millennium.

There were three filming locations for Sun Hill police station: for the first series, the station consisted of a set of buildings in Wapping, East London; the second location was an old record distribution depot in North Kensington in North West London; and from 1990, Sun Hill was filmed at an old wine distribution warehouse in Merton, South London

PC June Ackland, later promoted to sergeant, who was played by Trudie Goodwin, was on-screen for 24 years, from the 1983 pilot to 2007, making her both the show’s longest-serving character and at the time the world’s longest-serving TV police character.

The Bill final episode - cast and crew 2010 Thames TV / ITV

The Bill Collection is available for free via

Pictured Top: The Bill cast in 2010, then: Sun Hill Police Station exterior set in 2009, next: The Bill cast in 2008 and finally: The cast and crew of The Bill on the finale day of filming in 2010.