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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Fire boosts The Bill's ratings
The Bill
The fire has led to the big cast changes
ITV1's police drama The Bill has hit its highest ratings for the year so far - for an episode in which six officers died in a fire.

Thursday's episode, in which there was a lethal petrol bomb attack on the Sun Hill police station, attracted 8.6 million viewers.

The death toll has prompted the introduction of a host of new characters which the producers hope will keep the drama serial high in the ratings.

The Bill cast members
The Bill has had cast clear-outs before
New executive producer Paul Marquess is to introduce ten new actors, along with changes he said will reflect the realities of present-day policing in London.

"That means more female police officers, persistent re-offenders, and a much faster, busier atmosphere, with officers investigating many crimes at any one time," he said.

Soap stars

One new face is Babyfather star Diane Parish, who recently won a Royal Television Society award.

A number of soap actors are also joining, including ex-EastEnders stars Roberta Taylor and Russell Floyd, Family Affairs' Beth Cordingley, Pal Aron, formerly of Casualty and Coronation Street's Ciaran Griffiths and Jane Danson.

Diane Parish
Diane Parish is to play working mother DC Sharp
In May 2000, six actors were dropped in a major cast change, quickly followed by the departure of long-standing Bill actor Eric Richard, who played Sergeant Bob Cryer.

The programme makers have now announced that the new Sun Hill front desk officer will be Roberta Cryer - with Moya Brady playing the niece of the retired Sergeant Cryer.

The show, produced by Thames Television, started in 1983 as a one-off drama, Woodentop, with The Bill following in 1984.

From 1989 it was transmitted in half-hourly episodes, twice a week, with an extra instalment added in 1993, but reverted to its old hour-long format in 1998.

The series has featured a number of well-known guest stars over the years, with Denise Van Outen, Leslie Grantham and Chelsea footballer Emmanuel Petit among those accepting cameo roles.

See also:

09 Aug 01 | Education
TV crime attracts course recruits
11 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Veteran Bill star to leave
30 May 00 | Entertainment
Bill cast clear-out
21 Apr 99 | Entertainment
More black officers in The Bill
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