Just Like The Old Days
On Thursday evening The Bill, for just the second time in its history, did a special live edition. To emphasise the point they kept showing close-ups of a clock on the office wall. In case anyone still didn't get the message, an actor would say "It's twenty to nine."
All over the country, viewers looked at their watches and said "Bloody hell, it is too! Isn't modern technology amazing, Mavis? They can now broadcast a whole hour of drama live, in real time!"
Of course, in my childhood another police series, Z Cars, was broadcast live, as was just about everything else. Z Cars also had some pre-filmed sections that were slotted into the live studio stuff. But my memory of Z Cars is that the coppers spent most of their time sitting chatting in their patrol cars.
The Bill's live edition was a considerable achievement and included a modest car stunt and someone falling off a staircase. None of the actors dried and there were few things that the viewer could have identified as a cock-up. The only noticeable difference from the recorded episodes was that at the beginning of scenes the actors appeared to be in freeze-frame for a second as they waited for their cue. The most noticeable occasion was when two actors stood in arrested motion as they came through some swing doors.
I don't remember this ever happening in the old days, probably because television techniques were so different and there were far less tracking shots. In The Bill, actors spend a lot of their time walking along corridors in the police station, trying not to look at the camera or walk into a wall.
Right at the end, there was an Acorn Antiques moment when someone stood in front of a camera and there was also a moment when a crew member appeared to run across the back of the shot.
Broadcasting live gave it the excitement and edginess of live theatre and I bet it took the actors a long time to wind down afterwards. Although I only worked backstage in the theatre, when I stepped up to do a cue I got the same adrenalin rush after two years and eight thousand cues as the first time I did one. Knowing there are no second chances concentrates the mind wonderfully.
I think thin ties were a feature of 'Mod' fashion but I stand to be corrected on that. Shock, horror! Gay man with limited knowledge of, or interest in, fashion!
But I know what I like. And for me this scrawny piece of neckwear has a definite feelgood factor.