Wild Bill – episode one: review

For a town its size, Boston has had its fair share of national publicity in recent years – especially given how isolated it is.

Rob Lowe stars in Wild Bill with Anjli Mohindra and Angela Griffin. Credit KUDOS/Itv

A decade before it was dubbed the Brexit capital of the UK, it was labelled the fattest town in the country (on the back of some questionable statistics).

A few years ago, it was named the ‘most murderous’ town in England and Wales (on the back of some more questionable statistics).

Wild Bill is something new for Boston – a prime time slot on a six-part ITV crime drama starring an internationally renowned actor.

Rob Lowe as Bill Hixon and Bronwyn James as DC Muriel Yeardsley. Picture: ITV

US star Rob Lowe plays Bill Hixon, nicknamed Wild Bill, the new chief constable of East Lincolnshire Police.

So, what is the experience of watching the show like for someone from Boston?

Well, local viewers will probably find themselves being pulled between two states.

The first one, I’ll call it ‘the good one’, is the enjoyment of seeing your hometown on screen.

Dressed to impress, Rob Lowe as Wild Bill. Picture: ITV

It’s a thrill to see the Market Place, Horncastle Road, Dolphin Lane and other familiar locations provide a backdrop for events.

The aerial photography of the town and surrounding areas, meanwhile, is beautiful.

There’s also fun to be had in seeing how parts of the town have been adapted for the story – the Sessions House is now a school, for instance.

It can all get a bit distracting, especially when some artistic licence has been taken with the geography of the area (Anton’s Gowt and Langrick seem a lot closer than I remember, and looks more like Bicker Fen), but not in a bad way. It’s a novelty.

The second state, I’ll call it ‘the less good one’, is unease about how the town is being portrayed.

The show is, of course, a crime drama, so will inevitably focus on the parts of life that no town would have in its tourist brochure.

But how accurate is it?

The show makes a number of references to the town as having ‘the highest murder rate in England’, saying there were 10 homicides in the previous year.

If this line is inspired by the research that saw the town labelled the ‘most murderous’ in England and Wales, it’s a bit unfair as the number of homicides that year was, in fact, two (although, of course, that still makes for uncomfortable reading). See our piece here. Some artistic licence can be expected, but it doesn’t sound great.

It would perhaps help to have a little more warmth on show from the community. Largely, Wild Bill receives a frosty reception – with the exception of one ally on the force and a member of the public who politely allows him to take her car for police business (‘oh ... right’, she says, not kicking up a fuss). Perhaps that’s to come as the series progresses?

Overall, though, this is a slick-looking show with strong performances and writing (the mix of nationalities and backdrop of policing amid cuts put me in mind The Wire at times, which is no bad thing).

Some details may jar a bit for a local audience (the accents?), but on this evidence, it warrants further investigation, certainly.

Review by David Seymour

* Episode one was shown on ITV on Wednesday, June 12, at 9pm.

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VIDEO: Rob Lowe begins filming ITV drama Wild Bill in Boston