DVD review: “The Bill: Series 8” (1992)

The Bill: Series 8″ (1992)

Television

One hundred and five Episodes

Created by: Geoff McQueen

Featuring: Mark Wingett, Nula Conwell, Mark Haddigan, Peter Ellis, Ben Roberts, Larry Dann, Roger Leach, Seeta Indrani, Mark Powley, Andrew Paul, Huw Higginson, Chris Humphreys, Jeff Stewart and Graham Cole

Sgt. Matthew Boyden:When the Met employed Reg Hollis, they deprived a village of its idiot.”

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 fifth set is titled “The Bill: Series ” (1992), 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 sixth 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.

What becomes apparent upon viewing this series was that there was always a huge turnover, with each series bringing new and different ways to get rid of characters, there were illicit affairs, crooked cops, promotions and demotions. 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 main arrivals were DCI Jack Meadows portrayed by Simon Rouse; DC Alan Woods portrayed by Tom Cotcher; WPC Polly Page portrayed by Lisa Geoghan and PC Gary McCann portrayed by Clive Wedderburn.

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 Dexter Fletcher, Robert Glenister, John Hannah, Pete Postlethwaite, Caroline John and David Harewood and a host of others which are always great to see and spot.

This series also saw some very high profile departures, some of these were written out in some very high profile ways, these were DCI Kim Reid portrayed by Carolyn Pickles; WPC Suzanne Ford portrayed by Vikki Gee-Dare; DC Mike Dashwood portrayed by Jon Iles; Sgt. Alec Peters portrayed by Larry Dann and WPC Delia French portrayed by Natasha Williams.

There are some very real and original episodes among this huge season, for me they are: Fair Play: PC Quinnan investigates the illegal sale of steroids. PC Garfield is put on the spot when his old sparring partner is arrested; Mates: Cryer is finding being non-operational tedious. He goes undercover as a punter in a brothel, and does a good job – but his presence on the operation antagonises Peters. After some reflection, he goes to see Brownlow about giving up his job as duty sergeant, and going back on the relief; Lost Boy: Following investigations into the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old boy, Greig recruits Ackland and Dashwood for an undercover operation at Victoria Station as they attempt to bust an operation running rent boys; Chicken: Stringer tries to stop some children playing ‘chicken’ on the railway line, but one of them is run down by a train. Sgt Peters transfers upstairs to the post of Duty Sergeant – swapping roles with Bob Cryer, who returns to the relief; It’s a Small World: Thinking of leaving the force , DC Dashwood is tempted by a lucrative business opportunity with a firm of security consultants; Principled Negotiation: DI Burnside and DS Roach look favourably on an ex-villian with a loan-shark problem, but they expect favours in return; Man of the People: PC Stringer wins the election for the post of Federation Rep, beating the incumbent PC Hollis by fifty-eight votes to two. Ch Supt Brownlow decides to eat in the canteen with the other ranks, much to their discomfort; Up All Night: P.C. Garfield is assaulted while in pursuit of a suspect, but where was Sgt. Boyden?; Part of the Furniture: DC Dashwood is to be transferred to the Arts and Antiques Squad. DS Roach hands him a burglary at an infants school as a wind-up, but it develops into a case that allows Dashwood to show the others a thing or two; Talk Out: A middle-aged couple arrive at the front desk and report their neighbour missing, but WPC Ackland isn’t sure that they are telling the whole truth; Exit: A loan shark is attacked. DS Greig has a vital witness who is young, blonde and pretty, but she keeps stringing him along, and then she disappears; Force Is Part of the Service: Ch Supt Brownlow and Ch Insp Conway have a meeting with councillors about the change in the police force. Conway gives them a tour of the station; Overdue: D.I. Burnside has a promotion board, leaving D.C.I. Meadows to deal with an informant’s rather dubious tip-off.

This is just the third box set to be re-released with series 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.

Episodes

The Best Policy: A man is shot during an armed robbery at a DIY warehouse – but why is Kim Reid so keen to hand the investigation over to Burnside?

A Friend in Need: PC Quinnan is the subject of a civil complaint. PCs Stamp and Stringer follow up a fire at a home for ex-psychiatric patients, but find little care in the community.

Whose Side Are You On?: When a teenage mugger is stabbed by his would-be victim on the Jasmine Allen, it looks like a genine case of self-defence. Tosh Lines isn’t so sure though, and decides to dig a little deeper into the life of the man who was mugged.

Lip Service: DC Lines is enjoying an off-duty pint in his local pub and becomes involved in a bar-brawl.

Illegals: DC Lines Investigates when a cellar full of illegal immigrants is discovered. He enlists the help of Sgt Boyden, who takes a fancy to one of the females. Lines warns him off.

Fair Play: PC Quinnan investigates the illegal sale of steroids. PC Garfield is put on the spot when his old sparring partner is arrested.

Dinosaur: Burnside is furious when provided with false information about an armed robbery, while Reid meets some of her friends in high places.

Joyride: Sun Hill is terrorised by teenage joyriders, but what can be done to stop them?

Not Waving: A student nurse is sexually assaulted in a nurses’ quarters building. DI Burnside arrests the obvious suspect from a nearby gypsy encampment, but does he have the right man?

Mates: Cryer is finding being non-operational tedious. He goes undercover as a punter in a brothel, and does a good job – but his presence on the operation antagonises Peters. After some reflection, he goes to see Brownlow about giving up his job as duty sergeant, and going back on the relief.

Lost Boy: Following investigations into the disappearance of a thirteen-year-old boy, Greig recruits Ackland and Dashwood for an undercover operation at Victoria Station as they attempt to bust an operation running rent boys.

Chicken: Stringer tries to stop some children playing ‘chicken’ on the railway line, but one of them is run down by a train. Sgt Peters transfers upstairs to the post of Duty Sergeant – swapping roles with Bob Cryer, who returns to the relief.

Somebody Special: D.C.I. Reid prepares to move on from Sun Hill, while D.S. Greig tries to cultivate an informant.

Previous Convictions: Investigating an apparent accident in which a man’s hand is crushed in a car-breaker’s yard, Sgt Maitland uncovers years of animosity, neglect and revenge.

Beggar My Neighbour: A tramp is attacked, leading the police into a web of crime.

It’s a Small World: Thinking of leaving the force , DC Dashwood is tempted by a lucrative business opportunity with a firm of security consultants.

Licence: A man convicted of strangling his wife has been released on licence, but the probation service fails to notify Sun Hill. His presence comes to light when his son causes a disturbance.

Comeback: Sgt. Cryer’s first day back in uniform is an eventful one. P.C. Smollett is excited about the new Community Police Office. The area car is stolen from PC Loxton and WPC Datta.

Fireproof: Burnside leads the investigation into the fire at the new Community Police Office.

The Wild Rover: The Anti-Terrorist Squad believe they will have a quick result, but Roach has his doubts.

The Paddy Factor: Carver and Martella are shadowing a car thief, but all three get more than they bargained for when they stumble across an apparent IRA arms cache.

Coincidence: A small boy known for lying claims to have been the subject of an attempted abduction in an adventure playground.

Going Soft: A routine trip to a magistrate for a warrant turns into a nightmare for DC Dashwood when he is taken prisoner by two hooded burglars.

Re-Hab: DCI Meadows arrives to take charge of Sun Hill CID. He becomes involved with a father suspected of murdering his drug addict son.

Acting Detective: A woman who collapsed at an airport is found to be a mule, smuggling drugs in the stomach. DI Burnside, with only limited time to mount an operation, gets WPC French to take the courier’s place to place in attempt to uncover the dealer.

Stopover: PC Smollett tries to offer a follow-up service to victims of crime. A woman whose husband is in prison and who runs a guest house, keeps reporting an intruder on the premises. Smollett gives her support, but PC Garfield thinks he is wasting his time.

Suspects: DS Greig arrests a suspect for an armed robbery, but is proved wrong.

All the King’s Horses: A lorry overturns and sheds its load outside a school, burying a boy and girl and putting PC Loxton to the test.

Party Politics: WDC Martella celebrates her birthday. DI Burnside and DS Roach go to a party attended by a crooked businessman, who makes Burnside an offer he can’t refuse.

Trials and Tribulations: WPC Marshall becomes a vital witness in a murder trial, and soon realises that someone is trying to intimidate her.

A Can of Worms: A road accident draws attention to a local taxi company, which is the source of a local crime wave.

Timing: DCI Meadows tries to find the link between three arson attacks. DS Roach and DC Dashwood track down an escaped prisoner, but Roach seems more interested in his beautiful wife.

A Nice Little Line in Plastic: PC Quinnan and WPC Datta arrest a girl using stolen credit cards and uncover a major racket.

Trial and Error: A armed robber who put an innocent bystander in a wheelchair has his house firebombed by the victim’s son. DI Burnside is determined to see justice done.

Owning Up: PCs Loxton and Stringer follow up on a mugging but their case is nearly ruined when it collides with an investigation by DS Greig and DCI Meadows. Can WPC Ackland crack the case?

Up Behind: It’s Saturday night, but CID are at work trailing a known criminal believed to be responsible for a series of artifice burglaries involving pensioners.

Appearances: Following an argument with a drunken pub customer, a young barman is hit by a car outside, and left in a coma. PCs Quinnan and Stringer have their suspicions about the customer. Could it be manslaughter?

Principled Negotiation: DI Burnside and DS Roach look favourably on an ex-villian with a loan-shark problem, but they expect favours in return.

Sign of Our Times: An armed robber admits to DC Lines that redundancy and the repossession of his house made him take to crime to solve his problems.

Priorities: PCs Stringer and Loxton attend to the theft at an old people’s home and begin to suspect that the ex-policeman who runs the home is ill-treating residents.

Users: WDC Martella arrests a woman for drug dealing. DI Burnside suspects that she is using teenage girls as couriers by offering them free holidays in Spain, but she is being exploited by a bigger dealer.

Man of the People: PC Stringer wins the election for the post of Federation Rep, beating the incumbent PC Hollis by fifty-eight votes to two. Ch Supt Brownlow decides to eat in the canteen with the other ranks, much to their discomfort.

Runaway: DS Roach investigates the beating of a teenage girl, and tries to establish if his suspect is also responsible for a murder being investigated by AMIP.

Exposures: A young model claims that she was sexually assaulted during a photographic session. WDC Martella discovers that every picture tells a story.

Better the Devil: PC Stringer gets involved with a bizarre household, and discovers a horrifying case parental cruelty in the attic. WPC Marshall goes on attachment to the Domestic Violence Unit at Stafford Row.

Prisoners: Sgt. Boyden has anything but a quiet night on duty in the custody suite.

World to Rights: WPC Marshall on attachment to the Domestic Violence Unit at Stafford Row, makes an error of judgment and is attacked by a woman’s husband.

Do the Right Thing: PC Stringer is mugged by a gang and determines to get his own back. WPC Marshall follows a cheque card fraudster.

Hiding to Nothing: PC Stamp is ambushed by a gang of youths on a local estate. In trying to assist him,. WPC Ackland crashes the Area car, much to PC Loxton’s delight.

Punching Judy: A woman lies critically injured in hospital, beaten up by her husband. DS Greig and DCI Meadows interview the husband. WPC Marshall decides to quit the Domestic Violence Unit.

Vicious Circles: PC Hollis arrests a woman for being drunk in charge of a baby, and finds himself drawn into complicated family set-up.

Up All Night: P.C. Garfield is assaulted while in pursuit of a suspect, but where was Sgt. Boyden?

Part of the Furniture: DC Dashwood is to be transferred to the Arts and Antiques Squad. DS Roach hands him a burglary at an infants school as a wind-up, but it develops into a case that allows Dashwood to show the others a thing or two.

Snakes and Ladders: It’s PC Garfield’s first day back after the attack. The relief place bets on the likelihood of Garfield punching Sgt Boyden, but Garfield eventually takes his reverse.

Street Cleaning: Sgt Cryer gets the relief to put the Garfield-Boyden conflict behind them and get back to work – to sort out the takeover of genuine beggars’ pitches by violent professional thieves.

Hands Up: Ch Insp Conway decides he needs to get back on the beat , and arrests a drunk for criminal damage.

A Scandalous Act: PC Garfield brings in a teenaged girl arrested at a drugs party, and she accuses him of sexually assaulting her. Det Supt Kim Reid comes back to question him.

Raiders: A ram-raid ends in tragedy when a boy is killed. But what was his part in the affair?

Talk Out: A middle-aged couple arrive at the front desk and report their neighbour missing, but WPC Ackland isn’t sure that they are telling the whole truth.

True Confessions: DS Roach is put under pressure when a suspect retracts a confession and accuses the police of oppression.

Private Enterprise: A bumbling minicab driver is pulled over, but claims to know nothing about the blood stains in the boot.

Getting Through: The night shift is saddled with a feud between two men who come to the front desk with allegations of GBH against each other.

Last Night of Freedom: Someone is stabbed on a stag night, but the likely suspect can’t remember a thing about it.

Cutting Loose: A prisoner is brought down from Manchester for an identity parade after a new witness comes forward. Could she be too good to be true?

Soft Target: PC Smollett discovers that a local villain is driving people out of their flats and reletting them to squatters. At Sun Hill a civilian typist is discovered to be having an affair with a known villian.

I’ve Never Been to Harrogate: An elderly lady is found in her house unconscious with no visible signs of injury, but apparently having been burgled. Suspicion soon falls on a well-dressed middle-aged man in possession in several bottles of pills.

Human Resources: Two con men are preying on women through the small ads in the local paper. Lack of personal for DS Roach’s operation places WDC Martella in danger.

Exit: A loan shark is attacked. DS Greig has a vital witness who is young, blonde and pretty, but she keeps stringing him along, and then she disappears.

Loyalties: Acting on information from a snout, DI Burnside mounts a dawn raid on neighboring crack-houses. When details of the raid appear to have been leaked, DCI Meadows challenges Burnside over the trustworthiness of his team.

Snapshot: A complaint over loud music quickly escalates into an armed siege, as a man waves a gun at PCs Stamp and Quinnan.

Letting Go: PC Hollis is playing with a train set before going out – he is looking for a place to live, as he is moving out of the section house. Meanwhile, DS Greig’s ‘cold’ murder case suddenly becomes a bit warmer – could he be on the right track?

Travelling Light: WDC Viv Martella helps WPC Donna Harris dress up for a reconstruction of a murder case.

Radio Waves: Insp Monroe talks to Ch Insp Conway about a problem with a car chase, involving kids apprehended for joyriding. But were the youngsters actually responsible for stealing the car in the first place?

A Blind Eye: WDC Martella brings in an elderly mugging victim who helps makes an identikit picture. Sgt Boyden gets spoken to by Insp Monroe about working with the relief. 

Sympathy for the Devil: DI Burnside sets a trap for an armed robber at a building society, and is surprised to finds that the culprit is a man in his sixties.

Force Is Part of the Service: Ch Supt Brownlow and Ch Insp Conway have a meeting with councillors about the change in the police force. Conway gives them a tour of the station.

On the Record, Off the Record: CID investigates a break-in at a warehouse which resulted in the theft of personal CD players.

Stoning the Glasshouse: Sgt Cryer visits a friend who is the head of a neighbourhood watch, who’s concerned about drug dealing at a nearby pub. Sun Hill mount an undercover operation there – but get more trouble than they bargained for.\

Tip-Off: DC Lines is asked for by a burglar whom he put inside. He gives Tosh information that there might be a bank robbery.

Open to Offers: Quinnan is in trouble when a prisoner recognizes him from having moonlighted as an electrician. He looks to be in serious trouble – should he come clean to Munro, or front it out?

Playing God: CID are tied up with a court case – and a burglary suspect of DS Roach may have to be released while he is tied up in court giving evidence. Meanwhile, a man reports that his wife is dead at home – but how exactly did she die?

Crack of Doom: A former boxer is mistakenly arrested for possession of drugs, but ends up having his home used as the site of a surveillance operation.

Spit and Polish: Quinnan is nearly run down by a speeding Mercedes, and he and Loxton give chase. Loxton isn’t too happy, as he has a score to settle elsewhere – but could it be there are bigger fish to fry…

Overdue: D.I. Burnside has a promotion board, leaving D.C.I. Meadows to deal with an informant’s rather dubious tip-off.

We Should Be Talking: PC Garfield is following a silver car that might have been involved in a ramraid. While checking in with the station, his radio goes dead.

Reasonable Grounds: WPC Datta goes to see a man about a missing child. PC Stringer has to tell a man his brother is dead.

Discipline: A man arrested outside a club for being drunk and disorderly turns out to be a detective from the Drugs Squad suspended on corruption charges. Can D.C.I. Meadows help to clear his name?

Minefield: Sgt Maitland finds himself in the wrong when he discovers a serious procedural error meant that a dangerous and possibly psychopathic man has been arrested twice for the same offence and released.

Gamers: DC Lines Investigates a fire bombing of an Asian shop. PC Quinnan and WPC Marshall investigate an Asian lady accused of shoplifting.

Occupational Hazard: When sex appeal doesn’t get him what he wants, Harry Osborne turns vicious. WDC Martella has to pick up the pieces.

Just Send Some Flowers: WDC Martella investigates a burglary that occurred during a funeral.

Waifs and Strays: An old lady brings in a blood-stained book belonging to a missing girl in to the station. DC Lines uncovers the family’s dark secrets and comes up with an unexpected result.

Happy Families: What’s a smart girl like Sharon doing with a villian like Daniel Batt? DI Burnside thinks it’s all to do with the female hormones, but WDC Martella isn’t so sure.

Well Out of Order: DCI Meadows and DI Burnside want to go in force to the Tankeray estate to root out the criminal element, but Ch Supt Brownlow is committed to a softer approach.

Into the Mire: CID receive information that leads to the arrest of a prolific handler of stolen goods.

Master of the House: The body of a respectable family man is found on a notorious patch of wasteland.

Fireworks: PC Stamp uses old-fashioned policing methods to tackle the problem of children playing with railway detonators.

Cold Shoulder: A local youth with form is stabbed in the centre of a densely populated housing development. DCI Meadows investigates when no witness comes forward.

Safety First: D.I. Burnside investigates when a pawnbroker is shot in the leg with a legally-acquired shotgun during a robbery at his shop.

Counting the Cost: W.P.C. Ackland intervenes when a family is being subjected to harassment from a scrap dealer.

Compassion: A probation officer seems eager to assist DI Burnside over the murder of a prostitute, but how close is she to the murderer?

Finders Keepers: DC Carver finds a buried treasure and the glory should be his. DC Dashwood, now with the Arts and Antiques Squad,takes the case away and gets a result.

Return Match: Mike Dashwood returns to Sun Hill looking for stolen antique dolls. Who will he plague this time – DC Carver or DC Lines?

High Places: D.I. Burnside investigates the death in mysterious circumstances of a former high-wire artist and cat burglar.

When Push Comes to Shove: Sun Hill officers are drinking after shift when some troublemakers arrive at the pub. WPC Ackland tries to calm the situation, but PCs Loxton and Quinnan decide that she needs their protection, and provoke a fight with a violent thug.

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