Stay home with old bill and the bai­ley

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Ju­dith Elen

Ar­rest­ing de­vel­op­ment: The Sun Hill team in ac­tion

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