Stay home with old bill and the bailey
COSYING up with the team at The Bill is like sinking into a session with the family. Often deeply irritating, it sometimes seems like a last resort, yet can be strangely comforting. I’ve persisted with them on and off, and I’m not alone; I’m convinced closet Bill addicts are more numerous than those few who’ll admit to it.
The series depends on its personalities, be they the all- too- familiar bunch of coppers at Sun Hill ( some, such as Jeff Stewart as Reg Hollis and Graham Cole as Tony Stamp, have been there forever), or the baddies, victims and others who get caught up in the lurid weekly tales.
Families, housing estate neighbours, gang members or workplace mates, the stories rely on these often complicated networks. The lives of the police are no more private than anyone else’s.
Tonight, the main story involves a mother and son and their shonky insurance claims, loan- shark extortion, nicked cars, ‘‘ gypped plates’’, pocketed money for repairs not done and standover tactics at the car repair workshop ( where Bruce Byron as DC Terry Perkins is undercover).
The mother is a tough nut ( they frequently are) and rotten to the core ( the sole breadwinner doing her best after the father’s suicide), while the boy is a bit of a sweetie ( surprisingly innocent in the circumstances). The team finally cracks the case by appealing to the boy’s soft spot for family, and because he looks up to Terry as a father figure.
Young constable PC Beth Green ( Louisa Lytton), chosen as the team’s best bet for ‘‘ doing vulnerable’’, is dragged in to play the undercover role of Terry’s daughter. More family.
Illegal immigration ( a program favourite) drives a secondary plot. It involves a Ukrainian prostitute, her duped protector with a heart of gold and a smarty- pants young PC who looks ready to run rings around veteran Tony. But nothing can quite compete with experience as it turns out, and as The Bill often teaches us.
There’s the usual tension between team members, which occasionally erupts into violence. Tonight it’s between the Superintendent and the tight- lipped DI Neil Manson ( Andrew Lancel), a dangerously repressed character, ripe for crisis. But this time he comes up trumps. The plots, always a can of worms, not to mention full of red herrings, are snappily paced and imbued with irony and enough humanity to keep them bubbling along.
The new Saturday night double episodes are a bit of an endurance test, however; by the time we get to tonight’s third story about a dope dealer operating from a hot- dog stand on one of the estates, even your intrepid reviewer is a bit daunted.
Arresting development: The Sun Hill team in action