The Bill – Alarms and Embarrassments

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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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The Bill – Homes and Gardens

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Yorkie Smith and Taffy Edwards arrest Mickey Cozens (Stephen Lee) after he causes a disturbance on the high street.  Yorkie quickly assesses that “he’s not the full shilling” and it later transpires that he has the mind of a seven-year old, albeit with the sort of powerful frame that could easily cause someone damage.

And he’s been in trouble before – cracking a bouncers head open a few years back – although his main problem is that he’s easily led (surrounded by so-called friends who manipulate him to create havoc).

Sun Hill is no place for him, as the cells are full of remand prisoners.  Penny suggests that Yorkie either lets him go or sections him – a stark choice.  Whilst Yorkie is uneasy with the thought of Mickey being restrained in hospital, Hollis takes the opposite view.  He believes it’s the best place for him, as sooner or later Mickey’s going to step way over the mark.  No surprises that it happens later in this episode.

Mickey’s father George Cozens (Brian Peck) arrives at the station and Yorkie drives them both home.  Although George maintains that Mickey is normally placid, we see how quickly that can change after he’s told he can no longer see his friends (or “yobbos” as George calls them).  Mickey lashes out in anger, accidentally knocking Yorkie out.  George panics, bundles Yorkie and Mickey into the police car and drives off …

Homes and Gardens has some nice character moments.  We see Alec Peters taking pride in his tomato plants, although he’s unsuccessful in interesting either Viv or Ken Melvin in taking one off his hands (Ken tells him that he has no room – his cannabis plants take up too much space!).  But Frazer is impressed with Alec’s plants and later nips out to buy some of her own.  Taffy is less than overjoyed when he hears that Yorkie’s been kidnapped, complaining that he did it on purpose as he knew Taffy wanted to finish a little early.  Meanwhile Hollis wafts around the building darkly muttering that he knew all along this was going to happen.  Tom Penny is in an uncompromising mood, running the charge room with an iron hand – a far cry from the previous episode when he was very flaky (possibly this was due to the episodes being recorded out of sequence?)

There’s a subplot centering around Jack and Edie Fairweather (Anthony Collin and Pamela Pitchford) return home from holiday to find that their garden’s been stolen.  Poor Jim is lumbered with this one.

Rather like Home Sweet Home, there’s something of a sense that the most vulnerable in society are being neglected.  Although few would agree with Reg Hollis’ opinion that it would be best to lock Mickey up in an institution for the rest of his life, he doesn’t seem to have received anything like the appropriate level of support.  It’s plain that his father is the rock in his life, but following the incident with Yorkie both father and son face an uncertain future.  We don’t know what will happen to them and never will, meaning we end on a troubling note.