[[quoteright:248:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/The_Bill_2297.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:248:WPC Ackland and PC Carver, out on their beat.]]

->''"Sierra One from Sierra Oscar"''...

Britain's longest running police drama (1983 pilot called "Woodentop", then a regular series which ran from 1984 until 2010), ''The Bill'' told the story of A-Relief, one of the regular shifts in the divisional police station of Sun Hill, located in the fictional borough of Canley, East London. The series followed both uniform and plain clothes officers -- though the storylines were usually skewed more towards the uniform branch -- as they investigated crimes around "the manor". These crimes could be anything from high-end drug deals and gun running, right down to petty shoplifting, or relatively minor domestic squabbles between neighbours.

Originally a PoliceProcedural whose strict aim was to show the dull minutiae of policing, its modus operandi was not unlike that of ''HillStreetBlues''. The use of [[LeaveTheCameraRunning long single camera takes]], shooting the series on raw videotape rather than glossy film, and the ubiquitous use of SteadiCam gave viewers a genuine insight into what it must be like to work inside a real police station. The series became widely seen as a CrimeTimeSoap as the years went on, however, especially after Paul Marquess took over as Executive Producer in 2002. Marquess left the series in 2005, after which the show moved considerably back towards being a PoliceProcedural.

It began as a series of twelve DramaticHourLong teleplays in the literal sense of the word - the original pilot episode was written as a one-off televised "play for today", and there was [[BackdoorPilot no immediate intention]] of creating a series out of it. It switched to [[DramaticHalfHour half hour long]] episodes in 1988 following [[ExecutiveMeddling network pressure]], and it was in this format that it became widely known. However, in 1998 it changed back to [[DramaticHourLong hour long]] episodes again, whereafter it reformatted itself to become a TelevisionSerial. Its this kind of flexibility to change and adapt with the times that had been largely attributed to its long term success. From 1988 to 2009 it ran throughout the year with approximately 90 episodes per annum (mostly two per week, but other major TV events, i.e. football, ''Series/BritainsGotTalent'' or award shows meant that many weeks had just one), a rate of production matched in the UK only by the major soaps. This might be a large reason why it eventually came to be regarded as a soap opera, even before [[CrimeTimeSoap the more soap orientated plotlines]] started to come into effect later in its life.

For most of its life the show went out at 8pm, before the {{Watershed}} - which had affected specific on-screen content. However, in 2009 it was moved to a once weekly 9pm slot, which meant a cut in episode numbers per year to about 50, and an increase in the amount of violence it may show on-screen. It also ditched the classic ThemeTune, added a "film effect" filter over the action (as part of a move to broadcast it in high definition for the first time), and acquired regular background incidental music, although {{Narm}}ish examples had occasionally appeared in some past episodes. The overall effect was described by some as making things feel a little too ''{{CSI}}''-like.

The series had been suffering a gradual decline in its viewing figures (especially after the timeslot change), and its long-term future was seen as uncertain, especially after it was dropped from terrestrial TV in Scotland as part of a broader problem with STV, the Scottish version of {{ITV}}. Its cancellation was announced on 26 March 2010, and the show ended in September of that year. In the same year, The BBC's equivalent LongRunner, the sitcom ''LastOfTheSummerWine'' (actually a decade older than ''The Bill'') was also announced to be ending, bringing the end of an era of British television to many (and, if you count in the end of the American LongRunner ''LawAndOrder'', this gets global).

'''This show is notable for:'''
* Predating ''TheWestWing'' in using the WalkAndTalk.
* The "plodding feet" closing sequence, used between 1984 and 1998.
* Virtually every British TV actor having appeared in it at some point, before or after reaching the big time (this list includes a pre-fame KeiraKnightley, Creator/SeanBean, JamesMcAvoy, Creator/DavidTennant, and Creator/CatherineTate).
* Its stupendously high rate of major character death, especially by murder, and even more so after 2002 (31+ deaths in 23 years, including six in a fire at Sun Hill police station in 2002 and another three when a van filled with petrol plowed into the front office in 2005 -- Sun Hill is one DangerousWorkplace). See the [[Characters/TheBill Character Sheet]] for the series for a complete list of Sun Hill's fatal casualties, and the way in which they were killed off. In fact, in the shows 23 years of airing, 71 British police officers were killed in real life, making Sun Hill ridiculously dangerous by comparison.

Has two spin-off series: the short-lived ''Series/{{Burnside}}'' starring the popular detective character Frank Burnside, and the slightly-longer-lived ''Murder Investigation Team''.

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!!Frequent tropes seen in ''Series/TheBill'' include:

* AbsenteeActor: A side-effect of having LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters. Sometimes a character who you'd expect to be seeing all the time could go missing for dozens of episodes at a time before turning up again.
* AndTheAdventureContinues: The final episode ends this way, following Smithy and Callum as they leave the station, passing (amongst the rest of the cast either leaving for the day or staying late at Sun Hill) Jo Masters and Leon Taylor being called to some trouble and other officers bringing some arrested drunks into the station.
* AnyoneCanDie: To the point of being a bit silly, actually; real-life British police forces don't suffer casualties like this outside of Northern Ireland at the height of TheTroubles.
* ArmedBlag
* ArtifactTitle: 'The Old Bill' was a common slang term for the police, especially during the 1970s and 1980s. But its not heard so much anymore.
* BathroomStallGraffiti: One episode features someone writing a lot of rude things about Hollis in the toilets. [[spoiler: It's the cleaner, who needs the overtime.]]
* BillingDisplacement: For the first three seasons, Eric Richard (as Sgt Cryer) and John Salthouse (Inspector Galloway) were always given top billing in the end credits. Not entirely surprising, as those two characters could probably very legitimately be seen as the central stars in the early years. After Salthouse left the series in its fourth season and the format changed to half hour episodes, the tradition continued for another few years with Eric Richard always recieving top billing, regardless of whether Cryer was actually the central character of that given episode or not.
* BottleEpisode: Fairly common in the early years, with a few episodes focusing on the more mundane aspects of a police station, though not so common in the later years.
* BootCampEpisode: several times, mostly involving one or two of the regular characters going back to Hendon academy for further training (an advanced driving course, a firearms refresher course, a crowd control course, etc etc).
* TheBridge: The various incarnations of Sun Hill's Computer Aided Dispatch/Integrated Borough Operations room serve the same function as this trope, complete with an equivalent to TheCaptain (the duty Sergeant), as well as various BridgeBunnies (of either gender) using headsets to answer emergency calls and to direct the officers who are out and about on the beat to go to the scene of a crime. [[BottleEpisode One episode from the early 1990s even took place entirely within the confines of the C.A.D. room]], with all the "action" taking place entirely off-screen (or only heard over the radio system). It was much better than it sounds.
* BringOutYourGayDead: Most of the gay regulars have left via death or serious injury. DC Jo Masters survives by not being prominently lesbian. On the other hand, many of the ''straight'' regulars have left via death or serious injury as well.
* UsefulNotes/BritishCoppers: Obviously. In an interesting subversion, the show was initially considered by the [[UsefulNotes/ScotlandYard Metropolitan Police Service]] to be very anti-police, as some of its characters were shown to be less than squeaky clean on screen, and it also openly showed racism within the force. As the years went on this antagonism eventually mellowed, to the point where the Met now allows the production team to use genuine Police uniforms made for them by the same company who produce the uniforms for actual officers in RealLife and regularly takes cast members out on patrol with real officers to help them with their roles. It remains the only British television cop show to feature 100% accurate police uniforms, rather than the stylised "faked" versions seen on nearly every other TV show.
* BunnyEarsLawyer / TheLabRat / GentleGiant: Eddie the crime scene examiner.
* ButForMeItWasTuesday: good guys example, they deal with too many people to remember everyone they checked was alright after a robbery. Most of those people remember it a lot better.
* CarMeetsHouse: In the 1986 episode "The Chief Super's Party". DS Ted Roach was behind the wheel (and under the influence).
* ChaseScene: Given its supposed depiction of "genuine police work", the series often ''avoids'' doing over-the-top car chases, with officers often stopping a chase if things look dangerous. However, one notable episode from 1994 titled "Instant Response" is, effectively, a car chase which lasts for ''an entire episode'', shown mainly in one-take scenes shot from the back seat of the police vehicle. It remains to this day one of the series' [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome crowning moments of awesome]].
** That said, ''foot chases'' are ubiquitous in this show, as in OnceAnEpisode. Officer will walk towards suspect, who will then try to leg it, with varying results.
* TheCityNarrows: The (fictional) setting of the series is based on London's poorest borough. How much the episode in question portrays this on screen [[DependingOnTheWriter Depends on the writer]], to the extent where Sun Hill can be relatively middle class at times; and nothing short of a lawless WretchedHive at others.
* {{Cliffhanger}}: [[OnceAnEpisode At the end of every single episode]] broadcast between 2002 and 2007, the period in its history when [[CrimeTimeSoap it was very heavily serialised]].
* ClumsyCopyrightCensorship: Sadly, the Region 2 (UK) DVD releases of older episodes appear to suffer from this. The episode "Snout", for example, originally opened with DI Burnside listening to ''Every Breath You Take'' by ThePolice, on his car radio while driving to work. He even sings along (badly) to the chorus of the song. Both the licenced song, and the overlay of Burnside's singing it, are missing on the Region 2 DVD, redubbed with a cover version of same.
* CodeName: All uniform officers have a radio call sign beginning "Sierra Oscar" followed by the number on their epaulettes, except for the Inspector (who is Sierra Oscar One) and the Superintendent (Sierra Oscar Five-Two).
* CompilationMovie: The earliest commercial releases of the half-hour episodes on VHS videotape were almost exclusively made up of compilations of two or three episodes edited into a single "movie". Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
* UsefulNotes/CouncilEstate: And how!
* CrimeTimeSoap: For much of the Paul Marquess era.
* CrossOver: For the 25th anniversary, the show did a crossover with German cop show ''SOKO Leipzig''.
* DaChief: Several characters have this role. [[strike:DCI]] Superintendent Jack Meadows and DI Manson in particular.
* DangerousWorkplace: One non-fiction work dryly commented that "Sun Hill has a hearse permanently parked in the station carpark", due to the high instances of character deaths in the CrimeTimeSoap era.
* DeadpanSnarker: Jo Masters.
** Of course, the legendary DCI Frank Burnside was the ''original'' deadpan snarker in the series. Just look at the quotes [[http://www.burnsidefiles.com/statements.html on this fansite]] to see what I mean.
--> '''DCI Burnside''' Charge her with being in possession of an offensive mouth.
* DeskJockey: The entire purpose of the various Superintendents and Chief Inspectors seen in the series. Only seldom do they leave the office and "get involved" in cases, and usually a big fuss is made out of it when they do. The decision to kill off the character of Chief Inspector Conway after 14 years was made when a new producer came in and decided that Conway didn't really have a dramatic function to play in the series... his role was ''too'' desk bound.
* DevilInPlainSight: Matt Hinckley, Emma Keane's ex. Will Fletcher was the OnlySaneMan to spot him.
* DirtyCop: Don Beech.
* DirtyHarriet: Not counting Cathy Bradford, some of the females spend a suspicious amount of time pretending to be streetwalkers for surveillance reasons.
* DownerEnding: A particular trope that the series used to be fond of back when it started. The key thing was to show that the police ''don't'' always win, and more often than not an episode would end with two officers drowning their sorrows in the local pub, after a case they've been working on has gone belly-up. Later seasons still kept downer endings in play for certain storylines, but usually opted for slightly more uplifting [[BittersweetEnding bittersweet endings]] instead.
* EmbarrassingMiddleName: Emma Winifred Keane, Reginald Percival Hollis.
* ExecutiveMeddling: The format has been gradually fiddled about with ever since the decision to move to half-hour episodes in 1988, eventually getting to the point where it (arguably) [[NothingIsTheSameAnymore no longer resembled its previous self]].
* FakeDefector
* FakingTheDead
* FairCop: A good portion of the cast, but especially Louisa Lytton, who was about 18 and looked closer to 15. Somewhat ironically, one of things which was originally lauded about the series by the critics was that it didn't cast "good looking actors" as the cops.
* FlashBack: generally averted until the 2009 retool.
* FootballHooligans: Most recently in the episode "Great Power".
* GeographicFlexibility: It's not unknown for two scenes showing the area car racing through the streets to be filmed in two entirely different locations, miles from each other, but edited together in a way which clearly implies them as being right next to each other.
* GenreShift
* GhostExtras: A particularly conspicuous offender (see trope page).
* GirlsBehindBars: More than one occasion.
* TheGreatBritishCopperCapture: Frequently played straight.
* HelloAgainOfficer: In the episode "Killer On The Run", the episode begins this way.
* UsefulNotes/ICNumber: ''"Sierra Oscar, we're looking for an IC-3, medium build, wearing a red baseball cap and grey sweatshirt..."''
* TheInfiltration: DS Claire Stanton, a CIB officer who goes undercover at Sun Hill to expose corruption.
* JitterCam: An early user.
* KarmaHoudini: Sgt. Callum Stone. The only crime he was punished for was beating an innocent man who turned out to be having an epileptic fit, and even then he was only temporarily suspended. Same goes for his partners in crime Smithy, Sally and Ben.
* LeaveTheCameraRunning: not so much these days, but in its earliest incarnation the series used cuts and inserts very sparingly indeed, and it wasn't uncommon for a single scene to last for upwards of three or four minutes without any kind of cutaway or edit.
* LipstickLesbian: [[{{Gainaxing}} "Bouncy Bouncy"]] Jo Masters.
* LivingProp: A lot of the background extras at the police station, who mostly exist to maintain a credibility to the setting (you will always see the same faces in every episode, even if they are only in the background). The production team even coined a phrase to describe these background actors: "TREV", which stands for 'Truly Reliable Extra Veteran'. Occasionally, a TREV would even be given a line of dialogue in an episode, allowing them to be the SpearCarrier for a day.
** One of the most noteable TREV's was Karen England, who "played" the female set of feet in the iconic title sequence from 1984 onwards, and who was still being seen in the background of episodes as late as 2000.
* LondonGangster: Long-running crime drama set in London? Masses and masses of them. The 1995 episode including actor Ray Winstone is a classic example.
* LongRunner
** LongRunnerCastTurnover: Apart from a few exceptions, the original cast from 1984 managed (in one form or another) to survive nearly intact for a whole nine years, after which the departure of Jon Iiles as DC Mike Dashwood seemed to open the floodgates, and a raft of departures followed. That being said, at least a third of the original 1984 cast were still in the show as of the year 2000. A massive cast clear-out at that time removed some of them (notably Peter Ellis as the Chief Super Brownlow), while others followed in quick succession (Eric Richard as Bob Cryer, Mark Wingett as Jim Carver, Trudie Goodwin as Sergeant Ackland). Jeff Stewart, as PC Reg Hollis ended up being the last original cast member in the show, and he left in unfortunate circumstances in 2008.
* MadBomber
* MyLocal: The Canley Arms.
* NoCommunitiesWereHarmed: The first three seasons very explicitly took place in Tower Hamlets, and were actually filmed in and around those real-life locations. Industrial disputes at a nearby printing plant in 1986 led to the crew having to move to a location in North London instead, and Sun Hill was then rechristened as being in a fictional borough called 'Canley', where it has remained ever since.
* {{Novelization}}: 6 compilation volumes of the TV scripts were written between 1984 and 1990, by author John Burke.
* OfficeRomance: Claire Stanton and John Boulton, Jim Carver and June Ackland, Tom Chandler and Kate Spears.
* OldFashionedCopper: Sergeant Bob Cryer was the ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen'' type. DI Frank Burnside was the other kind.
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: Although it was once established that his given name was actually Alfred, DC Lines was usually referred to on-screen only by his nick-name, "Tosh".
* OnTheNext / PreviouslyOn - Became a regular part of the format (as in OnceAnEpisode) in 1998. The 2009 revamp stopped doing recaps of previous episodes, but still kept the end-of-episode trailer for "next week".
* OopNorth: Most notably in the episode "Cast No Shadow", set almost entirely in Manchester and its surrounds. Likewise, the two-part story "Thug On The Tyne" took place entirely in Newcastle.
* OutlivedItsCreator: Geoff Mcqueen, who wrote the original PilotEpisode and created the series, died in 1995. The series he created kept going until 2010.
* ThePlan: Frequently employed by senior officers, particularly Sgt Smith & Gina Gold.
* PlatonicProstitution: One episode revealed that Reg Hollis visits one, but only for someone to talk to (he pays her anyway).
* PoliceProcedural
* PutOnABus: Frequently. It was quite common in the old days for a character to simply vanish without even getting a departure storyline - the producers of the show apparently even had their own phrase for this: "they went to the stationary cupboard and didn't come back".
* RankUp: Happened to multiple characters over the course of the show. Dale Smith went all the way from PC to Inspector.
* RearrangeTheSong - Many times over the course of 27 years. In 2009 it was finally decided to ''replace'' it with a completely different piece of music, rather than once again rearranging the one which had served it so well in its first 25 seasons. [[spoiler: In the final episode, a new version of the old theme music, that was similar in tone and style to the new 2009 music played over the credits.]]
* RecycledTitle: several times. There were two different episodes titled "Whose Side Are You On?" for example, broadcast nearly a decade apart from each other, each with an entirely different plot to the other.
** A complete list can be found [[http://thebill.wikia.com/wiki/Episodes_with_the_Same_Title here]].
* RequiredSpinoffCrossover: The first episode of the 2003 SpinOff series ''Murder Investigation Team'' followed the titular team while investigating a murder in Sun Hill, complete with requisite cameos from six of the then recurring members of the parent series' cast, and also the use of the regular Sun Hill police station sets and locations.
** For one of those regular characters, Sergeant Matt Boyden, it was actually his final appearance, albeit only as a corpse (but he is still being played by the original actor). Nick Klein is shown in a secure rehab unit, in recovery from his drug habit as per his ongoing storyline at the time, but he reappeared a few times as a regular in the series proper again later in the same year before being written out.
* {{Retool}}: Again, many times over the course of its [[LongRunner long lifespan]]. The most recent retool was in 2009, begining with the episode "Live By The Sword".
* RevolvingDoorCasting - It has been revealed by one of the actors that they are only ever given six-month contracts at any one time before having those contracts renewed, so (in theory) major cast turnarounds could happen as regularly as half way through each broadcast year.
* RousingSpeech: [[spoiler: At the end of the final episode, Superintendent Meadows gives one about respect to the press, as a TakeThat to the thugs and the warped gang culture and mentality they faced during the final story. And some would argue, as a TakeThat from the production team to ITV...]]
** "Rousing speech" is given an ironic double meaning here, when you consider that the actor who played Supt Meadows was... [[MeaningfulName Simon Rouse]].
* RunForTheBorder: In this case, usually London City Airport or the Eurostar Terminal.
* ScaryMinoritySuspect
* ScrewedByTheNetwork
* SerialKiller: And serial rapists.
* {{Spoiler}}
* ShownTheirWork: A lot of the earlier episodes are particularly realistic about the day-to-day minutiae of police work. One episode in particular (featuring little-remembered DS Alistair Greig interrogating a local hard case) was so accurate about technique that it was used to teach police cadets how to question suspects effectively.
* SophisticatedAsHell: Chief Inspector Cato's resignation letter was full of formally worded concerns about the future of the force, ending with "I therefore feel I have no choice but to submit my resignation, I trust that you will know where to stick it."
* SpinOff: The short-lived ''Series/{{Burnside}}'', and the slightly-longer-lived ''MIT: Murder Investigation Team''. Whether ''Beech Is Back'' counts as a spinoff or simply as a slightly differently packaged set of regular episodes is up for debate.
* SpiritualSuccessor: The series was very much a spiritual successor of ''Series/TheSweeney'' (it shared common production personel with it in the early days). And of ''Series/ZCars'' and ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen'', to a lesser extent.
* TelevisionGeography
** Play spot the Southwark street with this show. Or, if you know UsefulNotes/NationalRail, spot the out-of-place train. Or, a scene clearly filmed south of the Thames.
* TitleDrop: a regular trope of the earliest episodes was that the episode title ''always'' popped up somewhere in the dialogue of that particular episode.
* {{Transplant}}: Detective Constable Eva Sharpe was moved over to the SpinOff series ''Murder Investigation Team'' during that programme's second (and, as it turned out, [[BritishBrevity final]]) series.
* TrashTheSet: At least twice, but not always when the location had to be moved.
* UndercoverCopReveal
* UnfunnyAneurysmMoment: Kevin Lloyd's character, DC Tosh Lines, was written out (Lloyd had been sacked for drinking problems) as having accepted a job at the coroner's office. The actor died a week later.
* WalkAndTalk
** Arguably an early pioneer, certainly as far as UK television is concerned.
** The final shot of the show was one long walk through the station, with various characters popping in and out.
* WelcomeEpisode: the 1983 pilot episode takes this format.
* {{Whitehall}}: In the 1984 episode "The Drug's Raid", Whitehall intervenes [[spoiler: when the main suspect turns out to have diplomatic immunity]], much to Detective Inspector Galloway's disgust.
* TheYardies
* YouDoNotHaveToSayAnything: ''"... but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say can (and probably will) be taken down and used in evidence."''
** The CID branch usually prefered the more concise ''"[[StockBritishPhrases You're nicked, you slag!]]"''.
* YouLookFamiliar
* YouTalkinToMe


!!Tropes that ''Series/TheBill'' averts:
* BritishBrevity: It clocked up more than 3000 episodes during its 27 year run.
* DoublingForLondon: In 27 years, it continued to film in the capital, even after other London set series had moved production to other (cheaper) places.
* HotScientist: Completely averted with Eddie, who is obese (and happily so).
* LimitedAdvancementOpportunities: [[RankUp Averted]] very much. Several characters have moved up from PC to Sergeant over the years, with Dale Smith moving from PC all the way up to Inspector as of 2009.
** Superintendent Jack Meadows was actually introduced as a Detective Superintendent way back in 1990, and was only subsequently demoted back to Detective Chief Inspector (on grounds of "lack of supervision" of a corrupt officer under his command). He had made several unsuccessful attempts to regain promotion over the years, before finally being re-promoted back to Superintendent in 2009 (albeit in the uniform branch, rather than the CID).
** It was played straight once or twice. Sergeant Cryer turned down promotion. His short tenure as a plain clothes officer ended with him deciding it wasn't where he wanted his career to go, and opting to go back to his old job in uniform where he felt more comfortable. Similarly, PC Tony Stamp remained a PC for his entire 26 year time on the series by choice, deliberately ''refusing'' any attempts to promote him because he ''prefered'' being near the sharp end of policing.
* NecroCam: Completely averted, even with denouements.
* OneSteveLimit: In a rare example of this trope being averted, between 1988 and 1989, there were actually two characters named Anthony: PC Tony "Yorkie" Smith, and PC Tony Stamp.
* ThreeWallSet: Consciously averted. The producers converted a building into a complete mock-up police station, which allows plenty of opportunity for one-take WalkAndTalk scenes.
** Following the show's conclusion, the set (along with the other standing ones for the show) remains intact and available for hire in what is now Wimbledon Studios.
* TheWarOnTerror: The two plots involving terrorism post-2001 turned out to be, respectively, a Far Right attempt to stir up racial hatred and a MadBomber.

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