1. THE EVER-CHANGING EPISODES
Most crime shows have a certain "flavour", with every single episode sharing the same kind of structure and tone. The Bill isn't like that. Reflecting the unpredictable, nature of life itself, it's a show you can never second guess. One episode will be about a gritty gang war on the streets of London, and the next will suddenly tackle thorny domestic issues like underage sex or alcoholism. The sheer variety of cases, and the shifting emphasis from deadly threats to more light-hearted crimes, stops it from ever getting samey. And that makes it oh so easy to binge and binge without getting bored.
2. THE OPEN ENDINGS
You know the way long-running shows often have neat conclusions to each episode, and it can almost feel like everything has been reset at the start of the next instalment? The Bill doesn't do that. The emotional impact on the characters isn't just deleted after the credits roll for the convenience of the show's writers. Episodes often finish on ambiguous note, with characters still grappling with what they've been through.
Think of the great episode where Bob Cryer killed an armed robber - that wordless enigmatic ending as we see him gazing down a street, deep in thought. Or the one where Tom Penny is nicked for drink driving, and we're left wondering if his career is really over. It's like a soap in the best sense, because we're invested in the characters as much as the cases, and we just need to keep on watching to find out how things will pan out for the Sun Hill crew.
3. THE BIG STORY ARCS
The Bill becomes even more binge-able when its longer story arcs come into play. Over the years it's boasted epic storylines like the year-long saga about the disappearance of young Amy Tennant. Or the notorious Sun Hill serial killer, whose reign of terror would cause the deaths of Sun Hill's finest. And then there are the shorter story arcs, like when Ackland was targeted by a hitman over a number of episodes. Make yourself comfortable, because these more compact sagas absolutely demand to be consumed in one sitting.
4. THE GREAT CHARACTERS
A show is only as watchable as its characters, and The Bill has had more iconic coppers than you can shake a truncheon at. Think of brutish, roguish DCI Frank Burnside, who could probably get a criminal to crack with his scowl alone. On the side of angels but always looking like he's on the cusp of breaking his moral code, Burnside even got his own spin-off series, but it's on The Bill that he's truly in his element. Then there's the dedicated cop June Ackland, and old school plod Bob Cryer - two Sun Hill treasures who manage to maintain their decency and integrity no matter what life throws at them.
Other engrossing regulars have included the notorious Don Beech, who went from corrupt detective to full-on villain, and the even more frightening Gabriel Kent, perhaps the most dangerous officer ever to darken the doors of Sun Hill. These are the kinds of characters that keep you coming back for more. And staying on the subject of the characters...
5. CELEBRITY SPOTTING
A whole rogue's gallery of superstars have turned up on The Bill, both before they were famous and even WHILE they were famous. Playing spot-the-celeb is a shamelessly addictive aspect of watching the show, so keep your eyes peeled for the likes of Hugh Laurie, Russell Brand, Keira Knightley, David Tennant, James McAvoy, Catherine Tate, and lots more besides.
6. THE ENSEMBLE SET-UP
Yet another reason The Bill is so massively watchable: you never know which coppers will take centre stage in each episode. This is down to the huge ensemble cast of living, breathing, three-dimensional characters (see above). There's such a wealth of contrasting personalities, and they all have a chance to shine throughout each series. Other police shows keep you with the same duo, or small group of officers, but in The Bill it's always a tantalizing question: who will you be on the beat with in this episode? And the next? And the one after that? Only one way to find out...
You can watch The Bill now for free on UKTV Play.