RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: I was a huge fan of The Bill

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: The Bill rebooted… Over the past ten years, more than 650 police stations have closed – these days I’m not even sure Sun Hill nick would still be standing

Twelve years after it was axed by ITV, the classic police drama The Bill could be back on our screens next year. Three of the longest-serving members of the cast are working with scriptwriters to revive the series.

Mark Wingett and Trudie Goodwin, who played PC Jim Carver and WPC (later Sergeant) June Ackland, appeared in the original one-off pilot, Woodentop, which went on to spawn a further 2,400 episodes.

Graham Cole, who starred as PC Tony Stamp, joined as a regular in 1988 and stayed for 21 years. Proper coppers loved him. I used to bump into Graham at the annual dinner of the Retired Detectives Association in London. Smashing fella. Together they are reported to have persuaded UKTV to bring back the show, which combined the cosy reassurance of Dixon Of Dock Green with the hard edge of The Sweeney.

Twelve years after it was axed by ITV, the classic police drama The Bill could be back on our screens next year. Three of the longest-serving members of the cast are working with scriptwriters to revive the series

I was a huge fan of The Bill. Cast members were regular guests on my various radio and TV shows back in the 1990s and I was thrilled to be invited to the tenth anniversary bash at Madame Tussauds in London

Dear old Jack Tinker, much-missed theatre critic of this parish, considered The Bill, along with his beloved Coronation Street, one of the finest pieces of ensemble acting on television

I was a huge fan of The Bill. Cast members were regular guests on my various radio and TV shows back in the 1990s and I was thrilled to be invited to the tenth anniversary bash at Madame Tussauds in London. Trudie once told me she had lost count of the number of times she’d had to say the line: ‘Why don’t I make us all a nice cup of tea?’

More from Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail…

Dear old Jack Tinker, much-missed theatre critic of this parish, considered The Bill, along with his beloved Coronation Street, one of the finest pieces of ensemble acting on television.

As far as I was concerned, for many years it was must-watch TV.

Eric Richard as Sgt Bob Cryer, Chris Ellison as DI Frank Burnside, Billy Murray as DS Don Beech, Jeff Stewart as PC Reg Hollis, Ben Roberts as Chief Inspector Derek Conway, Peter Ellis as Mr Brownlow, and, of course, Kev Lloyd as DC Tosh Lines. With apologies to all those fine actors for whom there isn’t room here to mention.

UKTV picked up the rights a few years ago and repeats of the 1980s and 1990s series kept me going through lockdown.

To be honest, though, I gave up on The Bill in the early 2000s when a trendy new producer was drafted in, killed off familiar characters and turned the series into a soap-opera, more concerned with tackling fashionable issues such as gay rights and racism than nicking villains.

A bit like the real police, in the wake of the Macpherson Report, come to think of it. Since then the game has gone downhill still further, at warp factor nine, as the police have withdrawn from the streets and embraced extreme wokery-pokery.

These days I’m not even sure Sun Hill nick would still be standing. Over the past ten years, more than 650 police stations have closed.Many of those that remain, especially in London, operate restricted hours or are boarded up.

So while I’m intrigued to see the revival of The Bill, I can’t help wondering how some of the original characters would adapt to the modern police ‘service’. It might go something like this . . .

(Derek Conway is sitting in his office reading The Job. Enter Mr Brownlow.)

Morning, Derek.

Morning, Sir. How was your course at Bramshill?

You know, Derek, challenging. We must move with the times.

Remind me, sir, what was it?

Increasing awareness and understanding of racism, anti-racism and black history, something like that.

Sounds, er, fascinating.

It had its moments. According to the College of Policing, we must embrace woke to tackle injustice and discrimination.

Eric Richard as Sgt Bob Cryer, Chris Ellison as DI Frank Burnside, Billy Murray as DS Don Beech, Jeff Stewart as PC Reg Hollis, Ben Roberts as Chief Inspector Derek Conway, Peter Ellis as Mr Brownlow, and, of course, Kev Lloyd as DC Tosh Lines. With apologies to all those fine actors for whom there isn’t room here to mention

So while I’m intrigued to see the revival of The Bill, I can’t help wondering how some of the original characters would adapt to the modern police ‘service’

Are you OK, sir? You’re limping. Have you done something to your leg? The old war wound playing up again . . ?

Not exactly, Derek. We spent one whole session practising taking the knee to Black Lives Matter. I could barely get out of bed this morning.

Drop of scotch in your coffee might help.

Sorry, Derek. Area has banned all alcohol on the premises, ever since we had to investigate those lockdown parties at Canley Town Hall and gave the Mayor a £50 fixed-penalty notice.

It was bad enough when they banned smoking.

Anyway, Derek, you’d better fill me in on what’s been happening while I was away getting my brain reprogrammed. Station seems a bit quiet.

Yes, sir. Most of CID is working from home.

What? I thought all Covid restrictions had been lifted.

They have, sir. But CID reckon if they’re going to spend all their time gawping at CCTV footage and trawling the internet for inappropriate comments, they might as well do it from their kitchen tables. Better work/life balance, according to the Federation.

Come off it, Derek. Surely Frank Burnside won’t like that.

To be honest, sir, Frank hasn’t been happy since he was seconded to Operation Midland. Says he didn’t join the Old Bill to arrest innocent war heroes for alleged historic sex crimes.

None of us did, Derek, but I’m afraid that’s the way things are going. Thief-taking has gone out of fashion. Where’s Frank now?

He’s leading a dawn raid on the Sun Hill Golden Oldies radio station, rounding up a few disc jockeys.

And Jack Meadows?

Jack’s interviewing the editor of the Sun Hill Gazette. He’s arrested him on suspicion of phone hacking.

Get Bob Cryer up here, would you.

Bob’s not here, sir. He’s chairing the annual general meeting of the Sun Hill branch of the Pagan Police Association. Apparently they’re planning to sacrifice a goat on Canley Fields to celebrate the summer solstice.

Good grief. And what about June Ackland?

We sent her down to the Insulate Britain protest blocking Canley High Street.

Excellent. Let’s hope she feels a few collars. These people are a bloody menace.

Oh, no sir. She won’t be arresting anyone. She’s making sure they’re comfortable and taking them a nice cup of tea. Part of our new community outreach initiative. Reg Hollis has gone with her, taken his skateboard.

I saw Reg leaving the nick when I arrived. What on earth has he got on his head? Looked like a packet of Refreshers.

It’s a rainbow-coloured helmet, sir . . .

What?

It’s been decorated in the colours of the LGBH alliance, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week. Matches the flag above the front door. We’re celebrating the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Biphobia?

Not a clue, sir. Sounds like one of those breakaway Eastern European states. But according to the latest directive from the Yard it’s a hate crime and we’re to nick anyone suspected of it.

How are we going to do that?

We sent Tony Stamp down to the Jasmine Allen estate, with his nails painted and wearing high heels, to raise awareness.

Did it work?

No sir. They threw petrol bombs at the area car and Tony got stabbed. He’s in intensive care at St Hugh’s.

Give me strength. Look, Derek, you better bring me up to speed on the crime figures. I’ve got a meeting at the Yard later. How are we doing on burglaries?

Well, sir, I’m afraid we’ve only solved about five per cent of break-ins again this month.

And what about the other 95 per cent?

Didn’t bother investigating them, sir. Too busy searching online for hate crimes.

And shoplifting?

Didn’t you get the memo? According to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary we should turn a blind eye to shoplifting by vulnerable members of the community hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

And I thought I’d heard it all after spending a week at Bramshill. What are these tea-chests doing in my office?

Sorry, sir. I should have mentioned it. As part of the latest cutbacks, Sun Hill is being shut down. It’s been sold to developers for a luxury block of flats. We’ve got to pack up and be out of here by the end of the week.

Derek . . .

Yes, sir.

I think I will have that scotch, after all.

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