Cop Out

Chris Sim­mons — and many fans — are strug­gling with The Bill be­ing axed, writes Holly Byrnes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

It’s all over for iconic po­lice drama The Bill

C HRIS Sim­mons is an­gry. The ac­tor, who played DC Mickey Webb on The

Bill for the past decade, still can’t be­lieve the show has been axed.

In March, it was an­nounced that ITV’s Bri­tish po­lice drama was to be given the chop af­ter 27 years. At its peak, The

Bill was seen by about 16 mil­lion UK view­ers each week but that slid to about four mil­lion in re­cent years.

A ma­jor re­vamp 18 months ago, which in­tro­duced grit­tier sto­ry­lines, failed to halt the rat­ings slide. Sim­mons ad­mits he didn’t see the de­ci­sion to axe the show com­ing — and he’s not happy.

‘‘ I re­ally don’t know why they pulled the rug, to be hon­est,’’ Sim­mons says.

‘‘ I thought it would be con­densed into one of those sea­sonal dra­mas that come on for 15 or 20 episodes a year.

‘‘ There are so many sto­ries they could have done — it’s not like a soap.

‘‘ I en­joyed where it was at in terms of sto­ry­lines. They were a bit darker. It’s a shame, a real shame. I didn’t think they’d take it off.

‘‘ A lot of it is po­lit­i­cal. A lot of it was be­cause they didn’t have enough money for it (be­cause of) the re­ces­sion.’’

En­raged fans of The Bill pe­ti­tioned to keep the show on air — to no avail.

‘‘ Times change and so do the tastes of our au­di­ence,’’ says ITV boss Peter Fin­cham.

In Aus­tralia, the ABC is set to screen the fi­nal two-part episode, Re­spect, on Oc­to­ber 9 and 16. That will be fol­lowed on Oc­to­ber 23 by a spe­cial that looks back at TV’s long­est run­ning po­lice drama. Sim­mons ap­peared twice on

The Bill, most no­tably as a crim­i­nal in 1999, be­fore land­ing the role of Webb in 2000.

Webb was con­tro­ver­sial from the start — a cocky, am­bi­tious 25-year-old who wasn’t afraid to up­set his Sun Hill col­leagues.

Webb was badly beaten by a gang of soc­cer hooli­gans, saw col­league Derek Con­way (Ben Roberts) killed by a petrol bomb, was dev­as­tated when DC Kate Spears (Ta­nia Emery) was killed in the Sun Hill fire and un­cov­ered the sex at­tack that led to Su­per­in­ten­dent Tom Chan­dler (Steven Hart­ley) tak­ing his own life.

‘‘ I think he ( Webb) was pretty fear­less,’’ Sim­mons says. ‘‘ He wasn’t the hugest bloke. He al­ways had tragedy in his per­sonal life, which made him more in­ter­est­ing and more com­pas­sion­ate and sen­si­tive as he got older.’’

In 2003, The Bill made head­lines for in­tro­duc­ing a sto­ry­line where Webb was sex­u­ally as­saulted.

‘‘ I was the first one on Bri­tish TV for it to hap­pen to and it was pretty dark,’’ Sim­mons says. ‘‘( It was) one of those taboo sub­jects that’s prob­a­bly hap­pened but has never been spo­ken about. When I got told I was do­ing it, I thought ‘ oh my good­ness, this is as dark as it can get’.

‘‘ It was the down­ward spi­ral af­ter­wards that in­trigued me — how you can or can’t cope with it.’’

Sim­mons left the show af­ter the sex­ual as­sault sto­ry­line, but re­turned in 2005.

Sim­mons is proud The Bill was a launch­ing pad for ac­tors in­clud­ing Keira Knight­ley, Emma Bun­ton, Rus­sell Brand, Sean Bean and Hugh Lau­rie.

Aussie favourite Daniel MacPher­son ap­peared as PC Cameron Tait in 2003/4. The Bill, ABC1, Satur­day Oc­to­ber 9 and 16, 8.30pm. Farewell The Bill, Satur­day Oc­to­ber 23, 8.30pm.

The Bill.

Sav­age blow: DC Mickey Webb (Chris Sim­mons) in

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