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The Brittas Empire Review

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by AVForums Mar 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

    Chris Barrie plays Gordon Brittas, the prattish, anally-retentive manager of Whitbury Leisure Centre. He drives his staff round the twist on a daily basis as he bombards them with reams of stupid rules and ridiculous initiatives. Whatever he does ends in disaster, yet somehow he always manages to emerge unscathed, passing the buck, ready to cock up again in the next episode.

    The Brittas Empire was a popular BBC sitcom that lasted for seven years during the 90s. I hadn't actually seen it for a long time, not since it's original run probably, and didn't remember any of the episodes on this DVD, but the characters' were as familiar as if I'd seen them yesterday. The most memorable and peculiar were Brittas' manic wife Helen, Colin the greasy assistant with his horrible boil, and Carole the receptionist who keeps her children in a cupboard behind the desk. Long before the era of 'The Office', the writers of 'The Brittas Empire' were exploring the humourous potential of an ensemble comedy based on the ineffectual staff of a tedious workplace managed by a buffoon. Wow, that was a long sentence! Basically it kind of reminded me slightly of 'The Office', in setting but not in tone. Brittas is the match of Brent though, in the twerp stakes.

    I found the episodes in this series varied in quality; the less that Brittas was onscreen, the weaker the episode. They were also a bit repetitive at times. Six series of any sitcom based in the same place means material will inevitably be stretched a bit thin. Also, some plots wrapped up too soon, especially the one where Brittas has a doppelganger from a Russian Circus, which had a lot of comic potential unexplored. But this series also had some fine moments, sometimes quite surreal and inspired. A block of iced urine being mistaken for an alien, and a baby shark being mistaken for a dolphin in the swimming pool stand out as two of the best. For a traditional BBC sitcom it had some nicely preposterous moments. While it doesn't have the laughs per minute of the more Premier League sitcoms like 'Blackadder' and 'One Foot in the Grave', it's an amusing, pleasant viewing experience. Chris Barrie cornered the 90s market in annoying, excruciating characters with Brittas, along with his sci-fi alter ego from 'Red Dwarf', Rimmer. You have to chuckle everytime he enters a room with his nasally, droning voice, spouting his managerial gobbledegook.