The Bill – Bad Faith

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Bad Faith opens with Carver and Dashwood on the hunt for a suspect called Warren Michaels (Anthony Lennon).  Michaels lives on a typical inner-city estate – complete with burnt out cars, barking dogs and a general air of oppression.  Dashwood spots his prey and both he and Carver give chase down numerous flights of stairs.

Michaels trips and gashes his head, which obviously creates a bad impression once other people start to take notice of the melee.  The sight of an injured young black man being roughly handled by two white police officers generates a brief moment of tension.  This is clear when Carver tells the gathering crowd that they’re the police, only to realise a second later that this statement might not necessarily diffuse the situation.  And the onlookers aren’t troublemakers, they’re a small crowd of solid citizens (both black and white) faced with a scene which will probably reinforce their low opinions of the police force.

There’s a disorientating sense to the early part of this episode, reinforced when Michaels is brought to the station, as Frank Smith’s direction favours unusual low shots.  Dashwood tells Michaels that he’s a suspect in a murder case, although that doesn’t prove to be the case – it’s simply a ruse designed to unsettle him.

When Burnside joins the fun then the tension ramps up another few notches.  Michaels is nervous and twitchy, but Burnside ruthlessly overrides his request for a solicitor.  The interview, conducted in something of an ad hoc manner, also doesn’t seem to be recorded.  Dashwood later explains to Carver that “boys like this want us to give them a good hiding, gives them status, martyrdom.”  Cryer, overhearing the conversation, mutters that Dashwood is beginning to sound more and more like Burnside.

Dashwood and Cryer are plainly placed in opposition here.  Dashwood is keen to nail Michaels for a series of burglaries but admits that without clear evidence they’re dependent on an incriminating statement from him – so he sees nothing wrong in pushing as far as he possibly can.  And with a rising crime rate (allied to pressure for convictions) it’s a point of view that’s no doubt shared by many of his colleagues.

Cryer operates in a different field.  If the plain clothes branch deal with detection, then the uniform police are more concerned with prevention and maintaining law and order in general.   Cryer’s comment that Dashwood was a good PC indicates that he’s changed after switching “sides” although this could be taken as an inevitable consequence.

Carver, younger and more idealistic, attempts to see both sides.  Unlike Dashwood he views most of the residents on the estate as ordinary people trying to do the best they can.  If they demonize them or make the estate a no-go area then it’s only going to inflame the situation.  Will Jim manage to retain his optimism or will the system crush him?  Only time will tell.

After someone nicks the tyres from Dashwood’s car (and then drops a fridge on it for good measure!) the episode ends in confusion.  We never find out whether Michaels was guilty or innocent, although the inference seems to be that Dashwood’s been wasting his time and energy in the wrong place.  What’s certain is that police/community relations have suffered something of a knock.

The Bill – Hold Fire

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Hold Fire opens with a bang – literally – as Melvin and Smith tangle with an exploding car.  Melvin – or rather his stunt double – is set on fire whilst Smith is caught up in the aftershock of an impressive pyrotechnics display.

Both Melvin and Smith are hospitalised, although neither are badly hurt (Melvin’s hands require attention whilst Smith has a dislocated shoulder).  This could have been the end of this particular plot, but events then move in an unexpected direction as we learn that the car isn’t all it appears to be.

It’s Frazer’s call as to whether she brings in CID, but for the moment she decides not to – which later displeases Burnside.  We’ve already seen him sniffing around the CAD room and when he runs into Frazer at the accident scene he’s typically forthright.  “You’ve got one burnt-out bent motor, a geezer dead, another one in hospital suspected of carrying explosives, and you don’t know what you’ve got?”

Apart from this, Jim and Viv are engaged in a stake-out at a pub.  This isn’t the worst job in the world, as it allows them the chance to have a few drinks and play all the video machines.  We learn that Viv is much better at Out Run than Jim is ….

Ted also has a decent subplot, as he deliberately flunks his firearms retraining.  Dashwood reacts caustically to the news when Conway tells him (wondering if Ted shot the instructor!) but doesn’t feel able disclose the reason why.  Thar’s left to Ted later in the pub, when he obliquely discusses his day with the barmaid Sadie (Cheryl Hall).  This would be Hall’s last appearance as Sadie (a semi-regular since 1984) although Hall would rack up six later credits on the show, each time as a different character.

Ted tells Sadie that it’s easy to shoot someone, and for Ted it’s obviously too easy.  You wouldn’t expect such a seemingly self-confident man to be wracked with such doubts, but it’s a nice beat that serves to strengthen and deepen his character a little more.

Apart from Cheryl Hall, Hold Fire also features several other familiar faces.  Walter Sparrow, someone who may not have had a very recognisable name but had a very familiar countenance, plays an elderly, garrulous patient at the hospital whilst Peter Wight, an incredibly busy actor, is the firearms instructor who gives Ted a hard time.

As so often, there’s an open-ended feeling to proceedings as the “A” case (the exploding car and the suspect at the hospital) doesn’t end the way that Burnside and the others would have hoped.  It remains rather nebulous anyway, since we never learn exactly who they were and what the job, if any, was.  But elsewhere there’s better news, as Jim and Viv get their man.  You win some, you lose some ….

The Bill – Stealing Cars and Nursery Rhymes

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Yorkie befriends a young lad, Jimmy Nelson (Martino Lazzeri).  Jimmy and his mates have little going for them, which means they are almost guaranteed to drift into a life of crime.  Yorkie is keen to help but others, such as Haynes, are much more cynical and convinced it’s bound to end badly ….

Yorkie’s first meeting with Jimmy isn’t terribly auspicious.  Jimmy, sitting in a van, is attempting to start the engine.  When Yorkie asks if he’s trying to steal it, the boy replies that he is.  The owner of the van – from the local youth centre, St Marks – quickly diffuses the situation, but Jimmy isn’t impressed with Yorkie’s warning not to do it again (“go lick your bottom”).

When Jimmy’s with his friends then they’re all something of a handful – stealing Yorkie’s helmet when he enters the youth centre, for example – but later he encounters Yorkie on his own and they start a conversation.  For Yorkie this is something of a breakthrough, Jimmy may appear to be something of a bad lad (there’s a suggesting he’s into glue sniffing) but Yorkie’s convinced there’s good underneath.

He can’t find anyone else to share his opinions though.  Haynes tells him that the boys are worthless – they don’t respect their homes, families or anyone else.  It would be interesting to get to know their future customers, but apart from that what’s the point?  Eamonn Walker and Robert Hudson go at each other hammer and tongs in an entertaining scene.  Since arriving at Sun Hill, Haynes hasn’t done anything controversial, so this is the first time he’s really emerged as a character.

Indeed, Haynes’ outspoken views might have been better suited to Nick Ramsey, but he’s got troubles of his own – a stray dog has attached himself to him and won’t let go.  Exactly how the dog managed to sneak into the station without anyone noticing is anyone’s guess, but it sets up a nice comedy reaction when Ramsey twigs that the pooch is still dogging (sorry) his footsteps.

Luckily the dog is wearing a collar, so Ramsey is able to off-load him back to his owner.  Except that the man (Tom Cotcher) tells him that it isn’t his dog (he died) but it is his collar!  So he takes the collar and leaves Ramsey still holding the dog.  Cotcher would return a few years later as DC Alan Woods.

Martino Lazzeri might have been fifteen at the time, but he was rather diminutive for his age, meaning that Jimmy appears to be a much younger character (barely into his teens).  With the other subplots being quite minor, Julian Jones is able to concentrate on the relationship between Yorkie and Jimmy.  Yorkie sees plenty of good in the boy, but is it enough to keep him on the right side of the law?

After being introduced with a bang a few weeks earlier, Ramsey’s not really featured terribly heavily since, nor has his shady past been referenced.  This was something of a feature of this era of the programme, with each episode tending to be very self-contained.  But Ramsey has his hands full here – not only does he have a new canine best friend, but he also has to reassure an anxious old woman that the Martians haven’t landed next door (it’s a satellite dish) and then deal with a mugging victim.  At least with the mugging there’s a nod back to the fact that he’s not really a people person – Ramsey often struggles to keep a civil tongue in his head when dealing with members of the public.

But then he does something unexpected – giving the UFO woman the dog.  Yes in a way he’s simply offloading a problem, but the old woman reacts with such pleasure that it’s hard not to imagine that he was partially motived by the thought of doing a good deed.

There’s a glimmer of hope for Jimmy and the others as the episode ends on an optimistic note.  It would have been nice to revisit Jimmy a few years later to see whether he did manage to stay out of trouble, but although Lazzeri made a few more Bill appearances, none were as Jimmy.  Lazzeri had a particularly active career during the 1990’s (he’ll be recognizable to Grange Hill viewers as Joe Williams) and it’s Jimmy’s amusing interaction with Yorkie which forms the heart of a strong episode.

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 – Country Cousin

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Barry Appleton’s Country Cousin wastes no time in setting up three storylines within the space of the first few minutes.  Burnside is at the train station, waiting impatiently for the arrival of DS Jarvis (John Labanowski), Edwards and Haynes deal with the fallout from a bus crash whilst Tom Penny hopes to learn whether he’ll be allowed back onto active service.

The bus crash is rather nasty – this might have been pre-watershed, but there’s still plenty of blood and pain on show.  The bus-driver is shown to be in a very bad way, whilst several elderly passengers are in a pretty distressed state.  Edwards and Haynes, first on the scene, are therefore placed in the thick of the action – and by the time the ambulances arrive they’re caked in blood.

Once the ambulances do turn up, the work of Edwards and Haynes is over, but it’s not surprising that both – especially Edwards – find it hard to disengage.  The later revelation that the driver was an epileptic pushes the narrative into a different direction.

Burnside’s encounter with Jarvis is highly entertaining.  Jarvis is an almost stereotypical country bumpkin (albeit one with a hard centre).  The fact he’s not come to London to apprehend a major criminal (his quarry is only responsible for burning some hay) serves to reinforce this point.  And when he catches his man, he gives him a backhander – which offends Burnside.  We’ve already seen that Burnside isn’t averse to giving criminals a slap himself, so it’s not an objection to force per se – I think it’s more to do with the fact that Jarvis is on Burnside’s manor and therefore it’s not the done thing to dispense a little rough justice without asking permission first!

Despite the fact that Burnside clearly has little time for him, a sense of duty still means that he’s honour-bound to show him the sights for a few hours.  These sights, somewhat inevitably, involve a seedy bar full of prostitutes.  Burnside is called away, leaving Jarvis in the safe hands of Mike Dashwood – who inevitably loses him ….

I’m not sure whether the music we hear in the bar – instrumental versions of various Human League hits – is meant to serve as a signifier of the downbeat nature of the place (they couldn’t even afford a tape of the real thing, so have to make do with ersatz copies) or has more to do with the issue of licencing music for television (since it’s presumably cheaper to use sound-alikes).

Tom Penny, driven to and from his assessment by Viv, fluctuates between confidence and despair.  One minute he’s feeling fine, the next he’s convinced that his days as a copper are over.  And if he’s no longer a policeman then he’s nothing – an admission that for him, like many others, the job has become all-consuming.  It’s very much the “c” plot (we eventually learn that Tom will be reassessed in a month’s time) but Roger Leach is always worth watching as the pained Penny.

Jarvis gets involved in an all-mighty punch-up, but still comes up smelling of roses, much to Burnside’s irritation.  Alongside the more downbeat narrative of the bus crash, the way that Burnside finds himself comprehensively bested by a mere carrot-cruncher acts as a welcome dose of light relief.  Country Cousin feels a little insubstantial, but still manages to juggle three mainly non-station storylines with ease.

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.

The Bill – Caught Red Handed

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Barry Appleton’s Caught Red Handed juggles several plotlines at once and, as with previous episodes, it takes a little while before it becomes clear which ones will dominate and which will fade away.

The episode opens with the fallout from a stabbing.  Jill Kelsey (Chrissie Cotterill) attacked her husband, John (Jim Barclay), with a breadknife – stabbing him eight times.  It’s instructive to see how pretty much everybody (apart from Alec Peters) treats her with compassion, from Ted Roach at the scene to Inspector Frazer and Viv Martella at the nick.  Jill Kelsey is positioned as a victim rather than a criminal, which explains why Ted’s usual brusque manner is absent.

Of course, the fact she stabbed her husband not once but eight times suggests this may be more than a family row which escalated.  But she seems genuinely contrite and he – as soon as he regains consciousness – is completely forgiving and disinclined to press charges.  It slightly stretches credibility that he recovers so quickly (after eight stab wounds? Clearly they were very shallow ones).  His revelation that the argument started when he complained about soggy cornflakes signifies that this crime has a faintly comic air, strengthened when John turns up at Sun Hill to take his wife home.

So Burnside’s quite happy to let them go – the whole incident written off as a domestic – although it seems rather unlikely that he’d be discharged from hospital quite so soon (even if they were desperate for beds).  That he turns up at the nick still dressed in his hospital pyjamas also seems a little unbelievable.  There’s a late coda to this part of the story, which once again is played rather for laughs.

Attention then turns to an obbo at the local swimming baths with Tom Penny and June Ackland.  This is chiefly of interest due to the way Tom reacts when put under stress (not very well).  They’ve rigged up an observation point to monitor the changing rooms in an attempt to identity a thief who’s been rifling through the lockers.

When someone is spotted, June tells Tom to switch on the video recorder.  This is a slight plot weakness – back in 1988 VHS tapes would have been quite cheap, so why not just keep the recorder running all the time?  Although they catch the criminal, something goes wrong with the tape and they’re left with no visual evidence.  This is enough to once again push Tom to breaking point – showing that whilst he appears to be fine on the surface, whenever there’s the merest hint of stress he’s liable to fold like a pack of cards.  As before, there’s never any suggestion that he’s not in a fit state to do the job – or that the next time he makes a mistake it may have more fatal results – presumably everybody just expects that eventually he’ll pull himself together.

This part of the episode has a happy ending, money treated by the SOCO (Susan Curnow) was placed in the lockers.  It contained an invisible red dye, which would stain the hands of anybody who handled it.  Hence the episode title.

But Caught Red Handed could also refer to Yorkie Smith, who’s observed in the pub acting in a very suspicious manner.  Frankly he wouldn’t make a very good criminal as he’s far too transparent (although his fashion sense – rolling up his jacket sleeves as though he was in Miami Vice – should certainly be against the law).  Jim suspects he’s been buying drugs and a search of his locker reveals a packet of pills.

This places Jim in a moral quandary.  After confronting Yorkie and a brief moment or two of soul searching he feels he has no alternative but to make it official.  Later, Ted Roach is withering in his condemnation – telling Jim he may have irreparably damaged Yorkie’s career.  Ted’s viewpoint would no doubt be shared by many of his colleagues, where it would be seen as closing ranks to protect your own, rather than concealing a crime.

Yorkie comes clean.  The drugs are anabolic steroids, designed to help him rebuild his strength as a rugby player.  He claims that many athletes take them (which is true, although his statement that it’s not an offence is a little harder to swallow).

Had Burnside not been DI then it’s possible it would have been dealt with unofficially.  But Caught Red Handed provides us with early evidence that Burnside is keen to mould Sun Hill in his own image, and this incident gives him an ideal opportunity to clip the wings of the uniformed branch.

His summary of both Brownlow and Conway is insightfully caustic.  He claims that Brownlow “is more interested in his golf swing and that converted barn he’s got up in the lakes than what goes down at Sun Hill”.  He concedes that Conway is a good man and a good copper but that he has to play things “by the book. And that is a worse handicap that Brownlow’s golf swing.”

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