How ironic is it that the British are traditionally hauled up for being uptight and yet hailed as having an incredible sense of humour? Well, it’s great for people like me who enjoy television comedy, of course. The Brits have amused us over the decades with the likes of — in no particular order — Are You Being Served?, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, ‘Allo, ‘Allo, Red Dwarf, Yes, Minister, The Vicar of Dibley, The Piglet Files, Man About the House, Coupling and so many, many more.
The one I’m revisiting right now happens to be Brittas Empire, a 1990s series about inept leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas. Though essentially well-meaning and completely devoid of malice, Brittas leaves behind mayhem in his wake, turning the Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre into a disaster zone that the public are well advised to give a wide berth.
Brittas’s immediate deputies are Laura, the only sensible and efficient person around, and Colin, something of a “tubelight” and with a range of disgusting ailments. Other staff include: Gavin, who is a bit of a pushover, and Tim, his jealous boyfriend (with Brittas the only person absolutely oblivious of their relationship); receptionist Carole who has to be the most unfortunate person on this planet — homeless, broke and having to bring up three (or is it four?) children in the drawers and cupboards of the reception area; the overenthusiastic Linda; and, from series 2 onwards, Julie, Brittas’s insubordinate secretary. Also playing a major part in the series is Brittas’s wife Helen, who has to resort to Valium and a long line of other men to cope with Gordon.
Needless to say, the cast of characters makes for painfully hilarious situations. In short, nothing ever goes right when Brittas is in charge. Fires, floods, electrocutions, explosions, misunderstandings and even attempted murder… Yes, Brittas Empire may be predictable at times and even slapstick, but I can safely wager it will make you laugh.
So if you’re tired of repetitive, uninspiring fare dished out on TV, and are on the lookout for a fresh take on the funnies in a rather different sort of set-up, Brittas is worth a try.