Sunday, March 28, 2010

L'addition s'il vous plait? Not anymore

ITV announced last Friday it's killing The Bill, one of the world's longest-running police procedural TV dramas. The writing's been on the wall for this beloved show. Last year it's episode order got cut in half, from two hours a week to one. ITV also moved The Bill to 9pm, the toughest post-soap slot in the British prime-time schedule, with fairly predictable results.

Ninety people are losing their jobs as a consequence, which sucks in a suck-rich economic climate. It also has a knock-on effect for TV drama scribes. All the freelance writers who contributed to The Bill will now be looking for more work elsewhere, making the marketplace even more competitive. And the culling closes a door for mid-level TV drama writers.

The Bill did not take on new writers. To get a try-out for the show, you needed at least two hours of TV screenwriting credits. But it did enable a few writers to make the jump from 30 minute shows like Doctors and Hollyoaks to make the jump up to 60 minute drama. [TAPS ran a course that specialised in this, with a special focus on The Bill.] Now that pathway's a dead end.

ITV has said it will channel the money saved by killing The Bill into other, short-run drama series. Projects under consideration include a new medical series by Peter Bowker [Occupation, Desperate Romantics] and a new series from Anthony Horowitz [Foyle's War, Collision]. Makes sense, but it's a shame for everyone on The Bill and those who aspired to write for it.

I used to love watching The Bill. At its best the show was compelling, compulsive drama that could sometimes take your breath away. Having a love of police procedurals, it was a show I hoped to write for one day. But I haven't been able to watch it since STV chose to boycott the series as part of its cost-savings campaign/feud with ITV [delete as you think appropriate]. So I'll never know if the 9pm relaunch version was any cop. Such is life. Onwards!


Jason Arnopp said...

It is indeed a real shame. ITV dramas are dropping like flies.

Also, that is the most ludicrous blog-title I've seen in a while. Yet I knew what it was about when I saw it in isolation on Twitter, which probably makes me as ludicrous as you.

John said...

I posted on this the other day. I never watched the show, but I agree - the point is that it "closes a door for mid-level TV drama writers". I don't think those new shows will be employing them...

Love the title too!

Anonymous said...

However, Peter Bowker is a fabulous writer and i'm sure it will be a fine Medical drama if it goes ahead. Have you seen Occupation? The Wuthering Heights adaptation? brilliant TV.