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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 12:06 GMT
Live Bill episode nears 10m mark
Beth Cordingley, Diane Parish and Lisa Maxwell
The show included regulars Beth Cordingley, Diane Parish and Lisa Maxwell
Nearly 10m people watched a live episode of ITV1 police drama The Bill on Thursday night.

An average of 9.9m people saw the hour-long episode, which marked the drama's 20th anniversary,

The hour-long episode drew an audience share of 40%, over twice that of BBC One's Superstars, with 19.4%.

The episode, which featured long-running stars Mark Wingett and Trudie Godwin, was the highest-rating episode of the show this year.

A show spokeswoman said the episode had gone "fantastically" and that at its peak it had attracted more than 11m viewers.

"The show had the most incredible atmosphere and went near-perfect. No-one fluffed their lines, everyone was word perfect," she said.

Woodentop pilot

The Bill

The episode was the brainchild of producer Paul Marquess, who came up with the idea of a live episode a year ago.

Live episodes of dramas, commonplace until the 1960s, have been tried before - notably an episode of US medical show ER and the ITV1 soap Coronation Street.

The Bill spokeswoman said the episode marked the 20th anniversary since the broadcast of the pilot drama Woodentop, which led to the first series of The Bill in 1984.

The show spokeswoman said the production team were now working towards the 20th anniversary of The Bill proper next year.

Soap format

Stars who have appeared in The Bill over the years include former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Full Monty star Robert Carlyle and Nil By Mouth actress Kathy Burke.

The Bill started life as a series of hourly episodes, based at the fictional Sun Hill station in east London, but from 1988 it was transmitted in half-hourly episodes, twice each week, all year round.

Despite production company Thames losing its ITV franchise, the network stuck with the series and commissioned a third weekly instalment in 1993.

It reverted to its old hour-long format in 1998, and its storylines now focus on the private lives of the officers at Sun Hill.

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