ITV announced yesterday long-running UK police drama The Bill is getting cut from two shows a week to one. The show's had a double helping of episodes for a decade, though it started life back in the 80s as a weekly series of one-offs. ITV's also moving The Bill late in the schedule so it starts after the 9pm watershed. That allows for more adult content - swearing, violence, sex, etc. So the kid gloves are off, harsh and gritty is in.
Online buzz suggests the budget per episode is going up, making more stunts and eye-catching sequences possible. But slicing the show's allocation of episodes in half is a sign of troubled financial times in the TV broadcast sector. Imagine if your workplace was told to cut production by half. Imagine what it must have felt like when The Bill's programme makers got that news from ITV. Welcome to 2009, folks - this is the future calling.
But no decision can be announced without someone trying to put a positive spin on it. ITV bosses win today's silver lining prize for the following statements: "I'm delighted to announce The Bill's transition to a weekly 9pm drama,' said Peter Fincham, ITV director of television. 'It's a fantastic opportunity to take the series to another level, marking a new era for one of the most established brands on British television."
CEO Lorraine Heggessey added: "This is a huge vote of confidence from ITV in the show and is a genuine first on UK television. We are incredibly proud of the show and we look forward to embracing the new opportunities this will bring." Will this take the series to another level? It should add extra grit and realism to The Bill. Is a 50% cut a huge vote of confidence? All those losing their jobs as a consequence might beg to differ...