The setting is the Sun Hill district of the fictional London borough of Canley. Other police stations in the borough, mentioned but (usually) never seen, are Barton Street, which is the location of Borough Headquarters, Stafford Row and Spicer Street. Canley is approximately contiguous with the real London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and is also the name of a real district within the city of Coventry, some 100 miles north of London.
The Bill is unusual among police shows: it takes a serial format and it does not focus on one particular area of police work. Instead, the show's time is divided between the work of officers on one shift in the uniform division, and the work of the CID.
It started as a one-off drama for ITV entitled Woodentop; this pilot show starred Mark Wingett as PC Jim Carver and Trudie Goodwin as WPC June Ackland on Carver's first day on the beat at Sun Hill police station. It was originally devised by Geoff McQueen, and it impressed ITV so much that they decided to make a series out of it. Goodwin continues to star on the now twice-weekly show, while Wingett left the cast in early 2005.
In October 2003, a special episode of The Bill was broadcast live from its London studios to mark the show's 20th year on air. At 8pm on Thursday, 22 September, 2005 another episode was broadcast live to mark the ITV Network's 50th anniversary. The episode was written by Graham Mitchell and co-produced and directed by Sylvie Boden.