DVD review: “The Bill: Series Five” (1989)

“The Bill: Series Five” (1989)


One hundred and five Episodes

Created by: Geoff McQueen

Featuring: Mark Wingett, Gary Olsen, Trudie Goodwin, Peter Dean, Jon Croft, Gary Hailes, Colin McCormack, Chris Jenkinson, Richard Huw, Jon Iles and Paul McKenzie

DC Mike Dashwood: “Anything else?”

DI Burnside: “Yeah, a garage full of bricks.”

DC Mike Dashwood: “What kind of bricks?”

DI Burnside: “The kind the third little pig used to build his house out of. Brick, bricks.”

Re-released recently in repackaged cases is the long running (now defunct) police show “The Bill” (1983-2010), the longest running police show in UK television history, as well as one of the longest running dramas ever. This second set is titled “The Bill: Series Five” (1989), which includes all one hundred and five episodes, a mammoth total which would be the norm for a number of years with each episode running approximately thirty minutes including commercials.

When “The Bill” premiered it showed something that had rarely been seen on television, a working police station set in the fictional Sunhill with the narrative set from the point of view of its police officers with no part of the seperate plots told from the criminals, no home life seen (at least in the early years) and only rare conversations about any real home life. Not only were those elements in play but in the early series there were scenes of violence, open racism, alcoholism, swearing and other aspects that attempted to reflect what it was like, not only in early 1980s London but also within the police force itself. When viewing some of the episodes within the first four series it can feel like a show that is firmly set in the 1980s, with most of the officers being white (definitely no minorities in CID), and most of the supposed criminals either being newly arrived foreigners, minorities, young people or lower working class, which is a fairly sad state of affairs. The other element that actually makes the series look very good is the hand held style, the seemingly natural shots, at times if you stumbled across an early episode you might think it was a reality show, which adds to the tension and perceived realism. Finally the casting of either new actors, character actors or very little known actors meant that they all seemed like they were making it up as they went along which again added to its authenticity. Finally in terms of keeping it as real as possible there was a divide between the CID (the plain clothes detectives) and the uniform police which again created tension, and it was difficult for the beat police officers to cross the divide to CID, but when it happened it was obvious how it would go, in the beginning, at least.

This fifth series sees the show with each episode at the shorter running time of thirty minutes (airing three times a week) and the number of episodes increased to around one hundred and two per series, which is a huge increase to workload and regularity, it also meant that viewers were seeing the actors on-screen a lot, this is also meant that the characters who were considered part of the main cast became incredibly famous, they were not unknown for almost a decade, or until they were dropped from the show, which happened with increasing regularity.

Whilst watching this series one of the aspects of the show that becomes apparent is the large cast, with the very main actors being, Mark Wingett, Trudie Goodwin, Jon Iles, Jeff Stewart, Graham Cole, Robert Hudson, Nula Conwell, Tony Scannell and Peter Ellis. In fact many of these actors would stay for years, with Trudie Goodwin, Graham Cole, Eric Richards and Mark Wingett staying with the series for three decades. In terms of the cast though this is the first series that there were a number of cast changes with the departure of Kelly Lawrence as WPC Claire Brind, Ashley Gunstock as PC Robin Frank, Eamonn Walker as PC Malcolm Haynes, Nick Reding as PC Pete Ramsey and Robert Hudson as PC York Smith. These departures would either be part of a continuing storyline like Yorkie Smith who over a period of time becomes gun-shy after a particular bad road accident where he fell apart or would just not return like WPC Brind who appeared in many episodes but never returned after this season. The reason for this is it was impossible to write every character out so some just were never rehired which make sense with such a huge cast.

The new arrivals this series were plenty, some that arrived would stay with the series for over a decade, some were not so lucky. The arrivals were Mark Haddigan as PC Timothy Able, Seeta Indrani as WPC Datta, Huw Higginson as PC George Garfield, Andrew Mackintosh as DS Alistair Greig, Steve Morley as Sergeant Stuart Lamont, Lynne Miller as WPC Cathy Marshall, Andrew Paul as PC Dave Quinnan, Chris Humphreys as PC Richard Turnham and Colin Alldridge as PC Phil Young. What these comings and going prove is that “The Bill”, like Dick Wolf’s “Law and Order” franchise, would have an ongoing demand for actors that it was not uncommon for guest stars to go on and become huge stars, some examples were early appearances of Sean Bean, James McAvoy, Ray Winstone and a host of others which are always great to see and spot.

There are some very real and original episodes among this huge season, for me they are: The Visit: Martella is visiting a remand prisoner and ends up being held hostage; Silver Lining: After driving a Rolls Royce back to the yard, Haynes finds something valuable in the boot of the vehicle; Waste: The body of a homeless woman is found on a building site; FAT’AC: PC Smith attends a fatal road traffic accident and makes some poor decisions because of shock,this leads him to question his commitment to police work; Somewhere by Chance: An ex-soldier attempts to blow up a shopping complex; Overspend: Brownlow’s new way of saving money leaves CID without transport; User Friendly: An aircraft from Belgium has come down in a park, and the pilot and passengers have fled; Don’t Like Mondays: Edwards and Ramsey find themselves held at gunpoint with DC Lines’ wife and children; Taken for a Ride: Roach becomes eligible for a promotion; Pathways: Sgt Peters and WPC Brind deal with some trying going’s-on at an allotment garden; That Old Malarkey: When he tries to deal with a mentally ill woman, Tony finds himself in a house fire and The One That Got Away: Brownlow engages in a pursuit of a stolen vehicle;

This is just the second box set to be re-released with series six, seven and eight arriving soon, these are the first two full one hundred plus episode series, so they are not only good value for money but they see something very interesting happening, that is a step up in production value with not only set filming, but also on location filming, overarching narratives that run for a number of episodes as well as a police station that looks and feels like something far more permanent than is seen in these first four series. There is a lo-fi feel about these series, there is no central or decentralised call centre, there are no real interrogation rooms and the sets feel a little underdone, but because everyone buys into them there is no issue from a viewers point of view, but it is noticed when viewing seasons beyond this and that must be a reason for the releases the way they have always been done, although this is the first time that series four has been included with one to three.

There is no doubt there is a feeling of the beginning of something, but at this stage within the first four series this is a show in search of something, what that is becomes clear by about series five. However in saying that there are a lot of individual stories that easily illustrate the role of certain functions within the police station as well as the kind of crimes one might expect within the inner city as a beat cop. It is also a show that once bought into is like no other show of its time in its attempt at reality with life on the beat. Once it became very popular it did become more polished with much of the sex, violence and swearing cooling right off, but when you reach over fifteen million people per episode it needs to become palatable for a mass audience. Again there are parts of these series in particular that stand out, for instance there is only one black police officer who is teamed or around the one racist which is a little formulaic, this was dropped early on, with more minorities involved as the series progresses.

I recommend this highly, it is vastly rewarding for those that stay with it which is not hard. I am looking forward to the next few series which arrive soon.


Getting It Right: DI Frank Burnside is given the wrong information by PC Pete Ramsey while hunting for a man suspected of abduction. Burnside ends up raiding a doctor’s hotel room by mistake.

A Reflection of Glory: P.C. Haynes goes to see about a shoplifter with P.C. Ramsey who is back in uniform The Shoplifter claims she is innocent. While they are out the back, the shop is held up by armed robbers who shoot at Ramsey.

One to One: A councillor’s drug-addicted daughter causes trouble for WPC June Ackland and PC Tony Stamp. She takes June hostage in her parafin (kerosene) soaked flat, June tries to keep her calm but the woman ends up setting fire to the room.

The Mugging and the Gypsies: PCs Taffy Edwards and Yorkie Smith along with WPC June Ackland try to enforce a child protection order on a Gypsy family and take their child into protective custody.

The Chain of Command: A woman comes into the station with her head bleeding telling PC Yorkie Smith she can’t go home, Yorkie assumes her husband had been beating her. WPC Viv Martella tries to get her to press charges.

Life and Death: A drunk is taken into the station and before passing out, he confesses to having killed someone.

Hothead: Bob’s mood about the overcrowding in the cells is not improved by his raging toothache.

Steamers: Dashwood and Carver lead an investigation into a steaming gang whilst Roach deals with a dead man in a squat.

Duty Elsewhere: Haynes goes undercover as a driver.

Saturday Blues: Whilst Burnside is worrying at the bedside of his Goddaughter, Martella brings a brawling wedding party into the hospital.

N. F. A.: Tosh gets called out to an alarm at a disused building only to find Ramsey’s truncheon.

The Price You Pay: Roach is called in to help Martellas friend who has been beaten by her boyfriend.

The Key of the Door: Cryer helps the victim of a mugging who is unwilling to name her attacker.

Cock-Up: Some of Sun Hill suppport a local 5-a-side football challenge where they discover a drugs problem.

Repercussions: The results of the drug raid lead to unrest in the community.

A Death in the Family: June and Taffy are called in off the street to the death of a baby.

In the Frame: Burnside gets caught in a trap for corruption and Cryer witnesses a car bombing.

A Good Result: Yorkie goes undercover with a gang of football hooligans.

Conscience: Roach has an unsuccessful date with a married woman but instead bumps into his old boss.

Sunday, Sunday: A fight at the market causes problems for the officers at Sun Hill.

Climate: Roach tries to clear up a case of young girls being attacked.

Bad Company: PC Melvin is called to an abandoned factory with dire consequences.

Suspicious Minds: Sun hill officers join with the area vice squad to break a pornography ring, one of the villains is tipped off and makes his escape. Was it Burnside that let him know they were coming?

Intuition: Roach puts his all into his current case of a gold bullion robbery.

Loss: Martella and Yorkie are in charge of “tidying up” unsolved missing persons cases.

Procedure: Sun Hill gets a visit from the fraud squad.

Luck of the Draw: Roach goes undercover in order to find out more about a lottery scam.

No Strings: Yorkie and Ramsey arrest an armed robber responsible for several post office hold ups.

Fools Gold: CID bring in a suspect who is implicated in several Post Office robberies.

The Visit: Martella is visiting a remand prisoner and ends up being held hostage.

One for the Ladies: The death of a bigamist leads tosh to a confusing and difficult conclusion.

No Shelter: An Italian lorry driver causes chaos at Sun Hill.

Out to Lunch: A night out leaves Burnside, Carver, and Ramsey in the middle of an Italian turf war.

Free Wheel: CID are keeping an eye on a man who is suspected of the illegal shipment of arms to Third World countries. P.C. Smith deals with a couple who have had their vehicle stolen.

Only a Bit of Thieving: DS Roach is accused of attempted murder.

Communications: Edwards and W.P.C. Brind visit the parents of a missing girl before starting door-to-door enquiries in the neighbourhood.

Silver Lining: After driving a Rolls Royce back to the yard, Haynes finds something valuable in the boot of the vehicle.

Suffocation Job: WPC Ackland visits a woman with agoraphobia, while Sun Hill investigates a series of burglaries.

Mickey Would Have Wanted It: Burnside must find evidence to catch the father of one of his old school friends. Meanwhile Melvin recovers from an attack.

Blood Ties: Brind and Stamp delve into the heart of a serious domestic.

You’ll Be Back: P.C. Ramsey and W.P.C. Brind investigate a shoplifting.

Fort Apache – Sun Hill: An industrial dispute by prison officers puts pressure on Sun Hill’s holding cells.

Waste: The body of a homeless woman is found on a building site.

The Strong Survive: Carver and Dashwood have a chemist shop under observation.

Loving Care: Carver investigates a burglary and finds an unconscious girl at the scene.

Back on the Streets: Lines and Carver fail to capture a wanted man.

FAT’AC: PC Smith attends a fatal road traffic accident and makes some poor decisions because of shock,this leads him to question his commitment to police work.

Somewhere by Chance: An ex-soldier attempts to blow up a shopping complex.

A Quiet Life: Carver attends the hospital to speak to the wife of a robbery victim.

Tom Tiddler’s Ground: Carver finds himself investigating a villain that Sun Hill has wanted to nail for years.

Make My Day: Hollis is back on the beat. Burnside’s informant provides him information.

Provocation: Dashwood investigates a number of robberies made on building sites.

Overspend: Brownlow’s new way of saving money leaves CID without transport.

Between Friends: Brownlow is invited to join a golf club but is furious as his clubs have gone missing.

Traffic: A young girl is hit by a drunk driver, while Cryer takes the new officer Turnham for a walk on the beat.

The Sacred Seal: Carver struggles to get the truth when a feud between a priest and a convict turns nasty.

Subsequent Visits: When CID ignores a car theft, Tony takes matters into his own hands to try to catch the thieves.

User Friendly: An aircraft from Belgium has come down in a park, and the pilot and passengers have fled.

Don’t Like Mondays: Edwards and Ramsey find themselves held at gunpoint with DC Lines’ wife and children.

Pick Up: PC Haynes struggles to cope after the shooting of Ramsey.

Kidding: Martella is determined to help a woman leave her violent husband.

Black Spot: Tosh is determined to nick local villain Davy Box.

Taken for a Ride: Roach becomes eligible for a promotion.

Time Out: Burnside’s feud with a detective from the robbery squad spirals out of control.

Leaving: Yorkie’s last day at Sun Hill leads him to a gang of shoplifters.

Street Games and Board Games: A family of four find themselves all linked to Roach.

Pressure: A car accident results in accusations and revenge at Sun Hill.

A Little Knowledge: DC Lines and PC Garfield both go undercover.

Pathways: Sgt Peters and WPC Brind deal with some trying going’s-on at an allotment garden.

Seen to Be Done: An unfortunate discovery concerning a man released from overnight custody brings some officers under scrutiny.

Tulip: While transporting a man for booking, two officers respond to another emergency incident – leaving the arrestee with the victim, to their later regret.

Nothing But the Truth: DC Jim Carver suffers under DI Burnside’s so-called ‘supervision’ – and Sgt Cryer hunts for a fireman’s helmet for his nephew’s birthday present.

It’s Not Majorca: Mayhem ensues when Sun Hill’s custody area deals with not only all of Barton Street’s prisoners on temporary transfer, but also a presumably-tripping man found in a staff car and, perhaps worst of all, two interfering lay-visitors for the Home Office.

Mending Fences: Sun Hill struggle to nail a gang of thugs.

Exit Lines: PC Garfield assists an elderly lady that lives alone.

That Old Malarkey: When he tries to deal with a mentally ill woman, Tony finds himself in a house fire.

Greig versus Taylor: Greig interrogates a man suspected of armed robbery.

Tottering: Able and Melvin discover a stray horse and cart while on patrol.

I Counted Them All Out: Burnside and his team help out the flying squad after he receives information regarding armed robbers.

Zigzag: Tosh and Dashwood are on the look out for a missing private detective.

A Matter of Trust: Burnside receives false information in regard to a planned armed robbery.

The Tourist Trap: Dashwood and Ackland go undercover to investigate a tour guide.

The One That Got Away: Brownlow engages in a pursuit of a stolen vehicle.

Found Offending: PC Stamp tries to help a young girl being abused by her father.

All Part of the Job: WPC Brind attends a disturbance at a local pub. Special Branch arrives at Sun Hill.

In the Cold: When a body is found at a railway yard, Burnside is convinced one of the security guards at the yard is the murderer.

Just a Little Run Around: Frazer starts her police riot training and is reunited with some old friends.

A Fair Appraisal: PC Edwards awaits the results of his annual appraisal. CID investigate a local drug dealer.

Visitors: The Sun Hill open day is ruined when a trophy is stolen from the station. DC Lines is having money problems.

Private Wars: Burnside witnesses a break in at an electricity substation.

Feasting with Panthers: Dashwood investigates a theft and burglary incident. Meanwhile, Sgt Penny has a run-in with Stamp.

By the Book: A registered drug addict causes a disturbance at a pharmacy.

Beer and Bicycles: PC Edwards undergoes counselling. PC Stamp is unhappy he has to patrol with a police dog.

Grace of God: A man at a car yard complains about youngsters damaging cars and stealing car radios.

Just Another Day: PCs Melvin and Turnham attend to a noise complaint concerning a saxophone player, whom they think may be connected to someone called ‘The Pied Piper’.

Gone Fishing: Roach and Carver have different opinions concerning a recent hit-and-run car accident.

Early Bird: Lines and Carver arrest a local safe-breaker. Edwards and Brind come across an elderly lady on more than one occasion.

Just for the Crack: A large amount of motorcycles have been stolen, including a police bike.

Woman in Brown: Ackland responds to the kidnapping of a baby girl. Lines and Carver investigate a stolen car racket.

Speaking Freely: Inspector Frazer is up for her annual appraisal. Meanwhile, a controversial lecturer is about to speak at a university, which could potentially cause public order problems.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A man on the run for 12 months unexpectedly hands himself in. Meanwhile, Hollis and Ford attend to an explosion.

Chinese Whispers: PC Quinnan arrives at Sun Hill and tries to impress all the female officers. Rumours are spreading as an estate surveyor is seen looking at the station.

Powers of Exclusion: Garfield and Turnham arrest a minister whom Burnside has been after for some time.

Saturday Night Fever: It’s a busy Saturday night in Sun Hill with a drug dealer murdered and a full custody room at the station.

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