The news that ITV was scrapping The Bill, its long-running police drama, brought back happy memories of my encounters with one of British television's best loved shows.
Back in April 1989, I arranged for Thames Television to film part of an episode at Nationwide Building Society's Shepherd's Bush branch in London. The scene featured PC Stamp, played by Graham Cole, who was trying to take money out of his account. The hapless Stamp had his cash card swallowed by the ATM as he'd forgotten his PIN. The card was mine - and I arranged for Nationwide's branch staff to fish it out of the back of the ATM at the end of each 'take'.
I enjoyed working with the programme, and remember Thames changing the script after I explained the planned sequence wouldn't happen in real life. The following year, The Bill filmed at another Nationwide branch, but disguised it as the storyline wasn't one I wanted the society associated with.
The Bill became famous for featuring the working lives of the characters rather than their lives outside the station, setting it apart from other British police dramas. It had a string of memorable characters, including PC Stamp, Sergeants June Ackland and Bob Cryer and DCI Burnside. In some cases life imitated art, and millions of viewers were shocked after the actor Kevin Lloyd, who played the troubled Tosh Lines, died tragically following a drinking binge just days after being fired from the series.
In time, The Bill became a more sensationalist drama, and lost something special as a result, as former Met Police commissioner Ian Blair described in a valedictory Guardian article last week. I wasn't surprised to hear about a Facebook campaign to save the show, but can't help thinking the very idea of a preservation society for a TV drama is ludicrous. TV should be constantly refreshed - and The Bill has had its day after over a quarter of a century. As Ian Blair put it, quoting the original British TV policeman Dixon of Dock Green, "Goodnight, All!"