Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Last Bill and testament

The final episode of long-running police drama The Bill has been shown on ITV1

As finales go, it was both hard-hitting and poignant — a gritty two-parter that ensured the much-loved show went out with a bang.

After 26 years the officers at Sun Hill Station finally hung up their truncheons as The Bill came to an end last night.

In an era of grisly murders, graphic violence, electronic|surveillance and wiretap technology, the ITV cop showmanaged to hold its own, plodding along at a comfortable pace.

But despite winning its first ever Bafta last year for Best Continuing Drama, ITV bosses decided it was time for the chop.

Perhaps, as a subtle two-fingers salute to the men in suits behind this decision, the team at The Bill went all out last night to prove their programme was still as relevant today as it was when it first aired on|October 16, 1984.

Set in a single 24-hour period, the two-parter, called Respect, centred round a teenage girl|involved in the murder of a 14-year-old suspected gang member. The episode began last week with an officer cradling a dying boy in a dark, dingy alleyway. The subsequent investigation opened up a can of worms - gang hierarchy, brutal misogyny and the state of youth culture. Relevant issues in 2010 Britain.

Executive producer Jonathan Young promised a ‘compelling, contemporary' finale and last night's 2,400th episode certainly delivered, with police chases, gun-toting teenagers, a hostage situation and a clear-cut message about the difficulties facing today's police forces.

Sure, the show may have been more PC Plod than Prime Suspect over the years, but it was the familiarity that set it apart from more up-to-date police

dramas like CSI and The Wire. Viewers felt like they knew the characters, we watched Jim Carver's struggle with the drink, Gina Gold's illness, Jack Meadows' mentoring of Mickey Webb and Inspector Dale Smith's steadfast loyalty to his team.

It never shied away from controversial story-lines like|paedophile rings, racism in the police force and, as in last night's episode, gang rape. But it did so in a non-gratuitous way.

Last night's finale saw an emotional Jack Meadows (played by Simon Rouse)|address a packed press conference on the subject of respect. When the character spoke of the pride in his team, it was difficult to differentiate between reality and TV.

Despite its revamps, cast changes and rescheduling down the years, The Bill always remained dependable television. And I, for one, think it was criminal to kill it off.

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