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The Brittas Empire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Brittas Empire
Created byAndrew Norriss
Richard Fegen
Directed byMike Stephens
Christine Gernon
StarringChris Barrie
Pippa Haywood
Julia St John
Mike Burns
Harriet Thorpe
Tim Marriott
Jill Greenacre
Russell Porter
Judy Flynn
Stephen Churchett
Anouschka Menzies
Andrée Bernard
John Carrigan
Theme music composerFrank Renton
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series7
No. of episodes52 (list of episodes)
Executive producerMike Stephens
ProducerMike Stephens
Running time30 mins
Original networkBBC1
Original release3 January 1991 (1991-01-03) –
24 February 1997 (1997-02-24)
External links

The Brittas Empire is a British sitcom created and originally written by Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen. Chris Barrie played titular character Gordon Brittas, the well-intended but hugely incompetent manager of the fictional Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre.

The show ran for seven series and 52 episodes — including two Christmas specials — from 1991 to 1997 on BBC1. Creators Norriss and Fegen co-wrote the first five series.

The Brittas Empire enjoyed a long and successful run throughout the 1990s, and gained large mainstream audiences. In 2004 the show came 47th on the BBC's Britain's Best Sitcom poll,[1] and all series have been released on DVD both individually as series and as a complete boxset.

The creators Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen often combined farce with either surreal or dramatic elements in episodes. For example, in the first series, the leisure centre prepares for a royal visit, only for the doors to seal, the boiler room to flood and a visitor to become electrocuted. Unlike many traditional sitcoms, deaths were quite common place in The Brittas Empire.

Plot summary

Gordon Brittas (played by Chris Barrie) is the well-meaning but incompetent manager of Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. He trained at the fictional Aldershot Leisure Centre. Completely tactless, totally annoying and forever coming up with 'half-baked' ideas (and oblivious to all of his aforementioned faults), Brittas frequently upsets his staff, public, and his frazzled wife Helen, often bringing confusion and chaos into their lives. Helen Brittas (Pippa Haywood) finds it increasingly difficult to cope with Gordon, and often turns to medication and affairs with other men to maintain her sanity.

Helen is often helped by her supportive friend Laura Lancing (Julia St John), Brittas's calm and efficient deputy manager. Laura (though she is fully aware of his incompetence and the annoyance he causes his colleagues and customers) has a grudging admiration for Brittas whom she regards as an honest and decent man. Brittas's other deputy manager is the dim-witted but kind Colin Weatherby (Mike Burns) (credited as Michael Burns in series 1, 2 and 3). Colin has several medical problems including skin allergies, a constantly bandaged infected hand and a sizeable boil on his face. Although he is technically a deputy manager, he works more efficiently as the centre's caretaker.

The other core members of the team are Carole (Harriet Thorpe) the unfortunate and often tearful receptionist who keeps her three children in the drawers and cupboards of reception, the gentle-hearted Gavin (Tim Marriott) who becomes Deputy Manager in Series 5, his paranoid and at times manic partner Tim (Russell Porter), lively and principled Linda (Jill Greenacre) and Julie (Judy Flynn) Brittas’s sarcastic secretary who hates her boss and refuses to do any work for him.

Outside the core staff is Councillor Jack Drugett (Stephen Churchett), who is unable to sack Brittas despite numerous attempts at doing so.

Cast alterations in the series sees character 'Angie' (Andrée Bernard), who appears as a main character in the first series, being replaced by ‘Julie’ from series two onwards. 'Laura' left the show after series five, at the same time as the creators and writers. She is replaced in series six by the character 'Penny' (Anouschka Menzies). 'Penny' did not return in series seven.


The Brittas Empire was broadcast for fifty-two episodes between 1991 and 1997, spanning seven series and two Christmas Specials, along with one short episode for Children in Need. The cast also performed in the 1996 Royal Variety Performance. Chris Barrie played Brittas again in the short fitness series spin-off, Get Fit with Brittas.

For the first five series the show's creators Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss co-wrote every episode. After series 5 they left, along with actress Julia St John who played deputy manager Laura. At the end of Series 5 Norriss and Fegen killed off Brittas when he was crushed to death by a falling water tank. This was originally meant to be the end of the show’s run.

However, the show's huge popularity meant the BBC resurrected Brittas and brought on a new team of writers who carried the show on for a further two series and one further Christmas special in 1996. These writers were: Paul Smith (who also wrote the series seven episode "Malcolm ex" for Andrew Marshall's 2point4 Children), Terry Kyan, Tony Millan, Mike Walling, Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent.

"Curse of the Tiger Women" is the final episode which aired in 1997. This ending claims all seven series were part of a dream that Brittas is having on his way to the job interview for manager of the leisure centre. It is an ending that is not well regarded by many critics and viewers and is viewed as a poor ending for such a well loved and popular show. It also directly contradicts the 1994 Christmas Special written by Fegen and Norriss, showing what happens to the staff post-Whitbury Leisure Centre in the year 2019.

In 2014, Chris Barrie reprised his role as Gordon Brittas for a brief appearance in the Sport Relief music video, "Word Up!" by Little Mix.

DVD and VHS releases

All seven series were released on DVD in the United Kingdom by Eureka Video, and also in Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Eureka releases are now out of print. Prior to these DVD releases, the BBC brought episodes to VHS in the 1990s.

  • The VHS title: The Brittas Empire - Laying the Foundations VHS was released; it features: 'Laying the Foundations' (Series 1: Episode 1), 'Back from the dead' (Series 2: Episode 1), 'Set in Concrete' (Series 2: Episode 4), 'An Inspector Calls' (Series 2: Episode 3) and 'The Trial' (Series 3: Episode 1).
  • Then on 7 August 1995, Brittas Empire - The Stuff of Dreams was released and features the episodes: 'The Christening' (Series 4: Episode 2), 'The Stuff of Dreams' (Series 3: Episode 6) and 'Not a Good Day' (Series 4: Episode 1).
  • From 2003, Eureka Video began bringing the entire series to DVD, in single series box sets. The Brittas Empire - Complete Series One was released on 21 July 2003,[2] followed by series two on 20 October 2003, and then series three was released on 29 January 2004. Series four was released in the same year on 29 July, and the final series by Norriss and Fegen, series five, was released on 4 October 2004.
  • The Brittas Empire, Complete Series Six was released on 21 February 2005, and the final series along with the 1996 Christmas Special, was released on 23 May 2005.
  • The Brittas Empire, Complete Series One-Seven, a set comprising the entire series, was released on 8 October 2007.

DVD release dates

DVD Episodes Year Release date
Region 2 Region 4
Series 1 6 1991 21 July 2003[n 1] 4 August 2004
Series 2 7 1992 20 October 2003[n 1] 6 May 2005
Series 3 6 1993 19 January 2004 3 August 2005
Series 4 8 1994 19 July 2004 2 March 2006
Series 5 9 1994 4 October 2004 6 July 2006
Series 6 7 1996 21 February 2005 7 March 2007
Series 7 9 1997 23 May 2005 3 July 2007
Series 1–7 52 1991–1997 8 October 2007 N/A
  1. ^ a b This series was also released in region 2 on a single disc DVD on 7 January 2008

Critical response

Critics John Lewis and Penny Stempel commented that:

In its positioning of an incompetent in charge of others, The Brittas Empire mined the traditional vein of TV humour (e.g., Dad's Army or Are You Being Served?). Yet it also had an element of absurdism....which gave it an appeal to younger viewers. At a stretch the show could also be viewed as a critique of the managerial class which expanded in the Thatcherite eighties. A show for all the couch.[3]


The show has been credited with having an influence on Alan Partridge and The Office.[4]


The exterior shots and interior swimming pools of 'Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre' were filmed at Ringwood Leisure Centre, Hampshire.


  1. ^ "The Top 50 British Sitcoms". British Sitcom Guide. Archived from the original on 2 January 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2008.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ The Brittas Empire: Complete BBC Series 1-7 Box Set [1991]
  3. ^ (book) "Cult TV: The Comedies - The ultimate critical guide", 1998, Jon E. Lewis and Penny Stempel
  4. ^ The Britas Empire at Digital Spy

External links

This page was last edited on 6 April 2021, at 08:49
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