The Bill – Alarms and Embarrassments


Before the start of the episode proper there’s a nice moment of character comedy.

Tom Penny mentions he’s thinking of going to Corfu, bad move says Hollis.  He tells him that the place is crawling with sea urchins which although not deadly are still rather unpleasant.  To prove his point he takes off his sock and shows Tom some grim evidence – even after two years the spikes from a sea urchin are still embedded in the sole of his foot.  But there is a solution – urine.  Tom wonders exactly how you’re supposed to pee on the sole of your own foot, but Hollis sets him straight – you get someone else to do it for you.  Tom suggests that for Hollis that wouldn’t be a problem.

Alarms and Embarrassments features some familiar faces.  After six years playing Fay Lucas on Grange Hill, Alison Bettles made the first of a handful of post-GH appearances.  Here she plays Mandy Peake, a bag-snatcher who preys on the elderly and vulnerable.

You get the sense right from the start that the police are on something of a hiding to nothing.  An identification parade has been organised – with Mandy present in the lineup – but the eye-witness is somewhat doddery.  We’ve previously seen that Frazer and Roach are very different officers and it’s restated here – Frazer is keen to not to put any pressure on the eye-witness, Miss Everleigh (Margot Boht), but there’s the sense that Ted rails against this softly softly approach.  No doubt if he had his way he’d tip her the nod as to which one to pick out.

Another well-known actor, Jeff Rawle, also guests.  He appears as a mugging victim called Derek Pardoe, whose ability to give evidence is hampered by the fact that he’s severely physically disabled.  It’s not an easy part to play – as Pardoe has issues both walking and talking – but Rawle certainly throws himself into the role.  Possibly it’s a case of changing attitudes, but nowadays you’d expect a role like this to be played by a disabled actor, which means there’s something a little unsettling about watching an able-bodied actor pretend to be disabled.  I don’t quite know why this would be, since all acting is pretending, but there’s a nagging sense that, as good as Rawle is, there’s something not quite right.

Carver befriends Pardoe, although it’s clear that the line between friendship and patronisation is very fine.  Jim may have the best of intentions but Ted’s not best pleased to find that he’s been neglecting his assigned duty (the theft of fifty thousands pounds worth of tyres) in order to hold the hand of a robbery victim.  Had Pardoe not been disabled, Jim wouldn’t have given him a second glance – harsh, but true.  Another sign of the times is that both Jim and a passer-by at the scene refer to Pardoe as a spastic.

There’s also a robbery at an off-licence whilst Frazer, rushing back to the station for a meeting with Conway, encounters a bag-lady slap bang in the middle of the road.  The juxtaposition between the normally cool Frazer and the squealing, filthy bag lady is acute.  Just another normal day at Sun Hill then ….

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One thought on “The Bill – Alarms and Embarrassments

  1. Alison Bettles played quite a nasty piece of work here – seeing her guest role in the Bill is a in complete contrast to her more familiar role as the likeable Fay in Grange Hill.

    She is actually quite a decent actress, which is a shame as her TV work is limited post GH (her last acting role was a very minor part in London’s Burning). Also in 1988, Alison appeared in the Christmas special of Eastenders (titled ‘Civvie Street’) when she played a young Ethel Skinner.

    I believe she settled down to family life in the 1990s, but she has re-appeared in recent times to do a couple of TV interviews to celebrate Grange Hill.


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