The Bill title sequences
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The Bill's title sequences have varied greatly over the 26 years it has been on air.
The series started as an episode for ITV as part of its Storyboard strand of one-off dramas entitled Woodentop. The episode began with the regular Storyboard title sequence and an introductory scene with PC Jim Carver which was followed by the title caption of the episode.
The title caption for the Woodentop episode
The first series in 1984 has its own unique title sequence, featuring images of the feet of two uniformed officers walking towards the camera interspersed with shots of the streets of Sun Hill. Then the camera zooms in on the male officer's helmet and the title of the show appears, followed by the credit 'devised by Geoff McQueen'.
For the second series in 1985, the titles were completely changed: now, they began with a shot of the area car approaching the camera with blue light flashing and siren wailing, and then its tyres screeching as the music began: the camera ended with a close-up on the blue light atop the car. Two-second filtered action shots of various members of the cast were then shown, interspersed with images of the blue light. "The Bill" and "Devised by Geoff McQueen" then appeared over a hold shot of the light, and then the episode would begin.
The 1988 titles removed the filter effect, and were updated to reflect cast changes. The first rework of the theme tune, "Overkill", debuted in 1988. It also introduced another trademark to the titles: Sergeant Bob Cryer was always the last person to be shown. In this title sequence, he is talking and nodding. The 1991 sequence differs as it does not actually feature the area car driving towards the camera, and simply begins with the police light spinning before cutting through the cast footage. The credit "The Bill" is shown over a shot of the new area car driving past camera, and Cryer is now shouting at someone. In 1993, the title sequence changed once again to one closer resembling the one seen in 1988, with a new area car driving towards camera again and Cryer is shouting at someone (the same as the 1991 titles but slightly longer).
In 1996, an ingenious addition was made. Separate title sequences were created with specially-filled footage: one for episodes that took place during the day and one for those set at night. Again, a new area car in the credits, and the timing of the music was subtly changed. Instead of kicking in immediately after the screech of tyres, it now begun at the same time. In both title sequences, Cryer looks up for the camera.
In 1998, in the second major revamp of the old titles were thrown out entirely, in favour of new opening titles featuring images of generic police things: dayglo jackets, hats, a suspect being interviewed, and a map in CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) among other things. The Bill's current logo was introduced along with the new titles. The music was made to sound more 'ethnic' by the addition of a few background notes from a sitar or balalaika.
The titles were changed in 2001 to show cast members moving in slow motion, fading in and out of each other with a blue filter effect and the music was remixed to take it back closer to the 1988 Pask/Morgan mix of "Overkill". This was updated in 2002 to take into account the huge cast turnaround.
With characters arriving and departed so rapidly by this stage (9 officers died in 2002), the 2003 titles vaguely resembled the 1998 ones, removing the cast members, and showed police related images over a checkerboard effect.
On 3 January 2007, to bring in the new year, the episode opening titles were revamped once again, paying homage to the original 1984 titles. The 2007 version has shots of London, interspersed with police work and shots of Sun Hill Police Station. The break bumpers and music were also updated.
On 23 July 2009, the opening titles saw the biggest changes in the show's history with the theme music being changed dramatically and the titles showing a new area car speeding round the streets of London with the shows name flashing on the screen one word at a time followed by the episode's title.
Sgt Cryer's expressions (1988–1998 titles)
From 19 July 1988 to 2 January 1998, Sgt. Bob Cryer was always the last person shown in the title sequences. These are his actions depicted.
|1988–1990||Talking and nodding during a pre-shift briefing|
|1991–1992||Shouting (he noticeably appears to be mouthing the words "I don't give a toss what you're talking about!")|
|1993–1994||Shouting (longer version of the 1991–1992 shot)|
|1996–1998||Looking up to face the camera|
Possibly the most iconic part of The Bill's presentation was the closing titles between 1984 and 1998, featuring two pairs of police officer's feet, one male and one female, side-by-side—"plodding" away from the camera along a cobbled street. These accompanied the opening titles of the 1984 credits, but were kept on after the original opening sequence was scrapped.
The original 1984 arrangement of "Overkill" was released as a 7" vinyl single in 1985. It featured a 'B' side containing the track "Rock Steady", which was also written by Pask/Morgan. The vinyl was distributed by Columbia Records. "Overkill" was unusual among television theme tunes in its rhythm, as it was written in a relatively uncommon seven-beat rhythm.
On 2 July 2009, it was announced that "Overkill" was to be dropped in favour of a brand new, more dramatic theme tune when the show moved to a 9pm timeslot at the end of that month. Series producer Tim Key stated that this new tune would contain two motifs of "Overkill", but these would be very subtle. The new theme, along with the revamp, had been poorly received by many viewers. The British team of composers Simba Studios had scored the new 9pm episodes. In the closing credits of the final episode, this theme was reworked; this time, however, it was more akin to "Overkill".
- Bill Kibby-Johnson, "Timing and musicianship", Piano History Centre. November 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- The Bill's New Image ITV website (Archive, accessed 3 March 2012).