The Bill – Just Call Me Guvnor


Frank Burnside (Christopher Ellison) returns to Sun Hill to take up the vacant post of DI.  But first he has a little undercover business to deal with – rounding up a violent gang of football supporters.

Burnside had previously made three appearances in the 50 minute series at Det Sgt Tommy Burnside (his name was later changed to Frank when it was revealed there really was a Tommy Burnside serving in the Met).  That he already has a little history with both the viewers and the officers at Sun Hill is something that works well.

We open with Conway explaining that Operation Red Card has infiltrated two undercover officers into Front Line (“a highly organised and extremely dangerous gang of thugs who are responsible for a great many of the violent acts at football matches up and down the country”).  And now they’re going to arrest them all.

The countdown to the start of the operation takes place in the peace and quiet of the CAD room with Viv, Hollis and Tom Penny.  Viv’s keen to be out on the streets with the others but the more pragmatic Hollis knows they’re well out of it.  Ted, who is present at the scene, is wise enough to know that you don’t go rushing in – you let the uniforms soak up most of action and then bring up the rear.

One of my favourite moments occurs when one of the Front Line yobbos spits at Ted.  He responds with a well-aimed headbutt!

It’s been expressly stated to all the troops that when they come across the undercover officers they should make no sign if they know them.  However, Ted and Jim can’t help but goggle as Frank Burnside is taken away (dressed in a natty pair of underpants) which immediately blows his cover.  Not the best way for Ted and Jim to encounter their new boss ….

Burnside and Bob Cryer have a history.  Bob has always regarded Burnside in a very jaundiced light, convinced that he’s corrupt (and later tells him to his face that he doesn’t understand how Operation Countryman – set up to investigate police corruption – missed him).  They don’t really hit it off when Burnside returns to Sun Hill either – as Frank enters the charge room and gives one of the suspects a quick slap.  Unsurprisingly, Bob takes a dim view of this.  “Let me remind you, as one of the duty officers on this relief, I will not have my prisoners assaulted.”

The needle between Bob and Burnside always remains bubbling under the surface, as – of course – does Ted’s spiky relationship with his new boss.  Burnside does have some supporters though – chief amongst them being Inspector Frazer.  This is partly because she knows that Burnside previously acted the part of a corrupt officer in order to ensnare others.  Problem is he played the part so well that the likes of Bob Cryer are now convinced he actually is bent.  Not that he’s bothered what others think of him.

The fact that Burnside and Frazer have a history is an interesting touch.  He greets her with a “hello sexy” which doesn’t upset her.  When he calls her Chrissie, she melts a little more – although both accept that “the past is the past” (there’s a hint that they had an affair back when he was a married man).

Just Call Me Guvnor is a cracking reintroduction for Burnside.  It sets up the parameters of the character perfectly whilst letting the audience know more about him than his colleagues do.  We know that Burnside isn’t corrupt, although Bob and Ted – contemptuously referred to as “a couple of tossers” by Burnside – and the rest of the nick believe otherwise.  Bob is later put straight on this by Frazer and he’s forced to apologise to Burnside, although he also tells him that it still doesn’t mean he has to like him …

A late story beat (revolving around the prisoner headbutted by Ted) might not come as a total surprise, but it’s yet another victory for Frank Burnside who ends the episode very much on top.

One thought on “The Bill – Just Call Me Guvnor

  1. A fantastic episode which sees the arrival of Frank Burnside as a regular character. Interestingly, the Burnside we see here is a slight change from the Burnside we last saw in 1986.

    The previous incarnation presented him as a slimy weasel like chancer. The new Detective Inspector however, is a cunning no-nonsense thief taker who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

    The undercurrent between Burnside and Roach would provide some interesting plots throughout the next five years, keeping the Bill high in the ratings.


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