Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 by Oliver Crocker (Book Review)

Given The Bill‘s length of service (1983 – 2010) it’s surprising that books about the series are very thin on the ground. Although maybe it’s worth remembering that this is the fate of most television shows – programmes like Doctor Who (which have been examined in painstaking detail) are very much the exception rather than the rule.

During the series’ lifetime, The Bill generated several glossy, large format books (by the likes of Hilary Kingsley and Geoff Tibballs). These are good to have, but Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 offers a much more forensic examination of the early years of the show.

Oliver Crocker’s Bill podcast has been running for several years now, clocking up an impressive number of episodes (each one interviewing a different Sun Hill alumni). With all this material to hand, it made sense to distill some of it into book form (plus Crocker has carried out new interviews especially for this book). Witness Statements concentrates on the original incarnation of The Bill – when it was a post-watershed 50 minute series (prior to its re-formatting in 1988).

Each episode, from the Woodentop pilot to the final episode of S3 – Not Without Cause – is given its own chapter. A highly impressive roster of personnel – both in front of and behind the screen – provide commentaries on the episodes in turn.

Every contributor offers something of interest, but John Salthouse’s comments were especially fascinating (possibly because he’s rarely spoken about his time as DI Roy Galloway before in any depth).

I’ve recently been revisiting the first series of The Bill and I’ve found Witness Statements to be an excellent companion. If you have any interest in The Bill – or indeed British television of this era in general – then Witness Statements is an invaluable book which comes highly recommended.

Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 by Oliver Crocker, published by Devonfire Books, is available from Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Witness Statements: Making The Bill Series 1-3 by Oliver Crocker (Book Review)

  1. Absolutely agree with your thoughts on Witness Statements. John Salthouse is certainly a fascinating actor – probably my favourite of all The Bill characters – and I also particularly enjoyed his contribution to Witness Statements. I’ve recently been reacquainting myself with Abigail’s Party – he does barely suppressed anger and resentment extremely well.

    It’s been a very good period for new books on classic TV. I’ve just finished David Barry’s Please Sir – The Official History. Another very enjoyable read and great insight into television and theatre in the 1970s, with some cracking (and very honest) anecdotes. There’s a wonderful encounter between Liz Gebhardt and Rodney Bewes at the Savoy Hotel which I can only imagine in Maureen’s voice. Without giving anything away in case you haven’t read it, Liz had clearly not forgiven him over his behaviour during filming of Dear Mother, Love Albert.

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  2. Interesting bit of trivia from Oliver’s book –

    Series One should have had 12 episodes, but only 11 were completed. The 12th episode had to be abandoned because of the industrial action at the newspaper printing plant in Wapping where the first Sun Hill Station was located.

    Because of the real life police presence, where officers were facing angry picketers, it was deemed inappropriate and unsafe to have actor’s wearing police uniform filming their scenes next door!

    Some of the scenes in the abandoned 12th episode were then ‘recycled’ and used for the final episode of Series Two which was titled the ‘The Chief Super’s Party’.

    Gary Olsen (PC Dave Litten) never actually returned as a ‘guest’ in this episode – his scenes in the bar were all filmed in 1984 when he was still part of the original cast. He then left The Bill to film the Channel 4 drama ‘Prospects’.

    There are a couple of continuity points in this episode because of the time gap in scenes – June Ackland’s hair is different when she is working in the station the morning after her evening serving behind the bar.

    PCs Muswell & Littleton appear in their own scenes away from the rest of the cast and goings on – this was new material shot in 1985 to fill the episode as actors Ralph Brown and Ronnie Cush only joined the cast in the second year.

    This is why the book is such an enjoyable read to fans of The Bill. Oliver has clearly done his homework in producing a well researched book.

    Liked by 1 person

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