Chris Simmons — and many fans — are struggling with The Bill being axed, writes Holly Byrnes
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.
Savage blow: DC Mickey Webb (Chris Simmons) in