Gordon Brittas:"Since I have been manager, I am proud to say there have only been 23 deaths. And not one of them was a staff member."
Helen Brittas:"Well, I can't see him 'til ten, can I?"
Laura Lancing:"Why not?"
Helen Brittas:"It takes half an hour for the pills to work."
A Brit Com running seven seasons between 1991 and 1997. It was created by Andrew Norriss, and written by Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen. The Brittas Empire is a slightly surrealist look at proud English leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas, and his utter failure to manage the fictional Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. Brittas is an obsessive bureaucrat and a stickler for rules and procedures, no matter what the situation, resulting in catastrophes on a regular basis. According to his wife Helen, he thinks he's the oil that keeps everything running, but he is in fact the grit in the engine. He is a talentless, tactless and hopeless case of the Pointy-Haired Boss.A large supporting cast consists of Gordon's deputy managers Laura Lancing and Colin Wetherby, secretary Julie Porter, receptionist Carole Parkinson and attendants Gavin Featherly, Tim Whistler and Linda Perkin. Other non-staff characters include Gordon's philandering, broken, narcoholic wife Helen, and the antagonistic Councillor Jack Druggett. Many of the characters are almost as dysfunctional as Gordon himself.The show stars Chris Barrie, who landed the leading role on the show during the various multi-year hiatuses between seasons on Red Dwarf. Barrie ultimately took a hiatus from Red Dwarf when the latter show's shooting schedule conflicted with that of The Brittas Empire, though he made a couple of appearances and returned to the series as a regular when The Brittas Empire finished.Came forty-seventh in Britain's Best Sitcom. More information on the writer's websites: http://www.andrewnorriss.co.uk/ and http://anorrissbooks.wordpress.comNow has a Character Sheet.
Accidental Pervert: Brittas forces Colin to hide inside a locker and spy on the staff in an attempt to weed out a suspected thief. The staff quickly find out but, assuming its Brittas inside the locker, decide to play a prank which ends up with Colin breaking several bones.
Action Girl: The normally sweet and innocent Linda is capable of leaving her senses and transforming into a militant badass whenever required. Examples include a SWAT uniform complete with shotgun when an ostrich runs rampant in the centre, and organizing a radical animal rights group full of hippies in protest of Gordon's swimming with dolphins initiative. She even keeps Tim Whistler hostage inside a chicken coop as a bargaining chip.
Actor Allusion: Brittas once worked for the Samaritans for one day, where everyone he talked to committed suicide, including a wrong number. The exact same thing has happened to Arnold Rimmer.
The Alleged Car: Gordon drives an Austin Maestro. Over the course of the series, it gets filled with concrete, has potatoes shoved up the exhaust, has its tyres slashed, has its brake lines cut, has its roof crushed and smashed by Carole in a JCB digger and is finally crashed into a lake by Helen. None of this ever stops Gordon from driving the damn thing.
All Just a Dream: The final episode reveals the entire series to have been this - after another disaster at the centre, Gordon passes out and wakes up on a bus to Whitbury next to his wife Helen, where he harassed for tickets by a ticket collector who looks and sounds just like Colin Wetherby. Upon further glances we see the rest of the cast, now all randomers on the bus who haven't heard of Brittas and most certainly do not work at leisure centres.
Ambulance Chaser: Julie drafts in John Rawlinson, a sleazy lawyer she met while stripping at the pub, to assist in acquitting Helen Brittas of attempted murder. Helen proceeds to have an affair with Rawlinson while Gordon is at a conference in Brussels.
Amusing Injuries: The show's writers seem rather keen on electrocutions in particular. During Gordon's tenure at the leisure centre, a pool full of reborn Pentecostals, and a massive hand-holding circle of children are all electrocuted to near death. Gordon himself also ends up being pumped full of electricity, when Gavin's mentally disturbed wife Jessica ties him up to Colin's waste management system.
Colin also suffers hundreds of amusing injuries off-screen, but comes into work bearing the side effects, such as concussion, memory loss and even blindness at one point.
Gordon and Colin are the only two characters who receive life-threatening injuries on a routine basis, although Gavin and Tim are both prone to a good kicking from various people on occasion.
As Himself: The Rt. Hon. Sebastian Coe MP shoots a small documentary at Whitbury New Town, and is roped into opening a leisure centre toilet named after himself by Gordon Brittas, with the promise of "it'll only take two minutes." Of course, he ends up chained to a stair-rail while the leisure centre is pillaged and sacked by an army of Romans.
In the 1994 Christmas special, the Rt. Hon. Gavin Featherly MP comments on what a fantastic job Prime Minister Sebastian Coe is doing.
Ax-Crazy: Helen, already an unstable and mentally damaged woman, goes on the rampage with a fire axe when she spots undercover reporter Roger Ferguson, who she also had an affair with.
Back from the Dead: Brittas died when a water tank fell on him. When he ascended to Heaven though, they couldn't stand him, so they dropped him back on Earth.
Beach Episode: Brittas whisks the staff off to their regular holiday at the fictional seaside town of Burbage-on-Sea, where Gavin takes Colin's potato-powered lilo for a ride he'll never forget.
Belly Buttonless: Gordon doesn't have a belly button after some plastic surgery following his return from the dead.
Berserk Button: Helen usually brushes off everything thrown at her, but under no circumstances call her a bad mother (however accurate that statement may be).
Break The Motivational Speaker: One comes to give the staff a lecture on not turning to drugs to cope with stress. His encounter with Gordon Brittas has him popping pills in front of an audience and extolling the virtues of "the little green ones," before smashing up the projector and physically assaulting Gordon in a blind rage.
Black Comedy: A big part of the series' appeal is its blend of wacky Work Com antics and pitch black humour, with customer and worker deaths being par for the course.
Butt Monkey: Colin, the disgusting northern leper, who is fired and near-fired by Brittas on several occasions, and is generally liked but not at all respected by the rest of the team.
Cardboard Boxes: Colin has the genius idea of blocking up a corridor with cardboard boxes to stop a drunk pensioner in a wheelchair. Unlike other uses of this trope, Colin forgets to empty the boxes beforehand...
Canon Discontinuity: The 1994 Christmas Special, set twenty five years in the future, is directly contradicted by the All Just a Dream ending that the show's new writers came up with at the end of series 7.
Its fair to say that most fans prefer the Christmas special continuity over the series 7 one.
The 1994 special also dabbles in Retroactive Continuity, showing Julie working at the centre in 1991 mere days after it first opened, when we all know it was the long-lost Angie who should have been there.
Catch Phrase: Julie shouting "I'M BUSY!" whenever Gordon asks her to do anything secretarial or even vaguely work-related. She even uses it in e-mails when Gordon has the entire centre computerized.
Also Carole's wooden, robotic "Welcome to Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre, how may I help yooou!" greeting, perfected and honed through constant encouragement from Gordon over time.
Gordon's "I have a dream..." manta, as well as his Mr. Burns-styled "Eeeeeeeeeeexcellent!".
Don't forget: "Nyaaah!"
Christmas Cake: Laura, who spends most of the series looking good in a short, pleated skirt.
Coincidental Broadcast: A television in Gordon's hotel room in Brussels shows a live news report on Whitbury Leisure Centre after two bins full of weedkiller explode. Gordon is of course merrily oblivious and on the telephone at the time.
Christmas Special: Two Christmas specials were made in 1994 and 1996 respectively, although neither special specifically deals with a Christmas theme.
The 1994 special is the more memorable of the two, showing the leisure centre staff in various vocations on New Years Eve in the year 2019, as they recall New Years Eve of 1991 when they were trapped in the centre with each other for days during a fierce blizzard.
Helen: Normally I have to spend New Year’s Eve with Gordon’s family...it’s rather nice being with people I like!
The 1996 special features Brittas and the staff on a survival course in Wales where, amongst other things, they end up targeted by a serial-killing Santa Claus.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A classic example. The beautiful Angie appears as Gordon's secretary in all episodes of series 1. From series 2 onwards, she is randomly replaced by a new secretary, Julie, with no grand entrance for Julie and absolutely no explanation for Angie's absence. The producers even went as far as retconning Angie out of the continuity in the 1994 Christmas Special, which depicts Julie as having worked at the leisure centre only days after it first opened in series 1.
Penny Bidmead, the sauna and solarium manager, was also dropped after just one series, with the only sliver of an explanation being that her sauna is up for lease. Unlike Angie however, she wasn't replaced.
Another very minor example is the Brittas's next door neighbour Pam, who befriends Helen in series 1 before disappearing, presumably because her role was more easily filled by Laura (and later, Penny).
Criminal Doppelgänger: Not exactly a criminal, but a dubious doppelganger nonetheless - a dodgy Eastern European clown working for the Ruthenian State Circus, who looks just like Gordon Brittas, ends up in Whitbury as a result of an EU initiative. He sets out to chat up and seduce all of Whitbury's ladies, including Linda, Carole and Helen Brittas herself. Chaos ensues.
Laura: You see, we were all standing outside the ambulance waving goodbye to Mr. Petrov, and Mr. Brittas was saying "Where are we going to find an internationally famous pianist in the next half hour?", and I said, "Hey kids, why don't we do the show ourselves?"
Drama Bomb: Gordon, despite losing his job, still manages to indirectly cause the entire leisure centre to explode and collapse to the ground in the series 4 finale. He is hailed a hero after rescuing three young children from the carnage.
The Extremist Was Right: Brittas writes several letters to the council asking for a larger fire escape ladder from a small supply cupboard. The original ladder is capable of holding eight people, while Brittas asks for one capable of holding fourteen. When a fire actually does break out minutes later, fourteen people attempt to escape via the ladder and are badly injured.
Fake Kill Scare: Brittas has to make many phone calls to various families informing them a loved one has died at his centre, only for the dead one to turn up alive after all. He then has to retract his call and face legal action from the families whose lives he ruined.
Gordon has no less than two funerals himself during the series, including a funeral for when Helen arranged for a hitman to murder him while on a business trip in Bulgaria. Gavin also has a funeral.
Fiery Redhead: By far the most literal trope in this list. Gavin's secret, long-lost fiance Jessica is not only a redhead, but also a mentally disturbed pyromaniac who sets fire to things and plays with fireworks as a form of anger management.
Flanderization: In the first series, Colin starts out as a very mildly competent leisure centre manager, with an assortment of degrees and diplomas to his name, who just happens to suffer severely bad luck. By the time series 7 rolls around, his IQ appears to have dropped at least 70 points, and viewers are left wondering how someone like Colin could possibly acquire a job cleaning toilets, let alone a job as Deputy Manager Wet of a leisure centre.
Foe Yay: Gavin and Tim become this after Gavin is promoted to Deputy Manager. Tim downright refuses to give Gavin respect or even provide the simplest co-operation, even going so far as to shove a fully-clothed Gavin into the swimming pool, clipboard and all.
Freudian Excuse: The episode Mums and Dads in Series 2 covers these for several characters.
Gordon's unbreakable self-esteem can be traced to his father having constantly showered him with praise since the day he was born.
Helen's neuroses and history of depression are implied to stem from her parents' disparaging and hypercritical attitude toward her.
Carole's constant woes and low sense of self-worth appear to be a result of her parents constantly discouraging her from pursuing her dreams and instead sending her to Beauty School so she could learn to make herself more attractive to men.
Genki Girl: Linda, also the only staff member who seems to respect and admire Brittas, apart from Colin.
Gonk: Throughout the series, Colin looks like he's just crawled out of a coal mine in 1970's Newcastle. He has a septic, diseased right hand covered in moldy bandages, which complements the massive boil on his right cheek, his disgustingly greasy, matted hair, filthy clothes and persistent bad body odour. He retains these "characteristics" for the show's entire run.
Subverted in one episode where Colin turns up clean-shaven in a suit, tie and blazer, impersonating Gordon Brittas for a day while his illegitimate Australian daughter is visiting him.
Grand Staircase Entrance: In the 1994 Christmas Special set in the year 2019, a butler introduces Sir Gordon and Lady Brittas as they majestically walk arm-in-arm down a massive staircase in a Scottish castle.
Handsome Lech: The gynaecologist in the series 2 finale, who ropes Linda into helping him deliver a calf before smoothly asking her out to dinner. "You'll be safe...I'm a doctor..."
Also John Rawlinson, the dodgy lawyer who Helen has an affair with.
Helen: So what do we do now?
John: Well, I suggest we go round to a hotel and I buy you a jolly good lunch.
Helen: I'm afraid I'm not really very hungry.
John: We could just go to a hotel...
Heroic Sacrifice: Brittas himself; pushing someone out of the way of a collapsing roof and getting crushed himself. This allows him to get into Heaven despite all the lives he's ruined...it doesn't last, because even Saint Peter can't stand Brittas.
Hey, It's That Guy!: The obvious example here being Chris Barrie as Gordon Brittas. The role is much less recognized than his Red Dwarf role as Arnold Rimmer, who he starred as at the same time as Brittas.
Pippa Haywood as Helen Brittas also went on to play HR Director Joanna Clore in Green Wing, who is even more sexually frustrated than Helen is.
Billy Mitchell from EastEnders makes a one-time appearance as dodgy criminal-turned-leisure centre volunteer Edward Barratt, pretty much the only time actor Perry Fenwick has actually been seen outside of Albert Square. Funny thing is, he still looks exactly the same 20 years later.
Ho Yay: Tim and Gavin were basically a gay couple from the word go, but it's not made explicit they're a couple until after the first season.
Predictably enough, Brittas is the only staff member oblivious to this (and would likely be the only one to give a crap).
How We Got Here: The first episode of series 3 employs this trope, showing Gordon Brittas in court being tried for murder. The episode then goes through a series of flashbacks to show just how seven gangsters wound up dead in his leisure centre.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Laura, so much. Every time Brittas leaves her in charge, business booms and the centre runs like clockwork. The thought of her leaving is enough to reduce Helen to tears.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When Gordon is shot at three times by Julie's police bodyguard, one of the bullets ricochets and shoots Colin in the head, causing him to lapse into unconsciousness. However, it doesn't damage his brain more than it already is, and he's back as cheerful as ever in the next episode.
Kicked Upstairs: It is hinted at by various characters that both Gordon and Colin landed in their Manager roles due to their appalling but well-meaning incompetence at previous leisure centres. Gordon even (almost) becomes a high-ranking EU Commissioner, with three European mansions and a limousine, in a desperate attempt by Councillor Druggett to remove him from the leisure centre.
Monochrome Casting: The series is 100% white for pretty much its entire run, a good representation of semi-rural England.
Mr. Fanservice: Chris Barrie, as always. The opening sequence for this series is practically Fanservice; it's thirty seconds of him exercising in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
My Secret Pregnancy: Gordon Brittas spends an entire episode accusing 17 staff members of being pregnant, including Tim Whistler. The pregnancy is eventually revealed to be Julie's.
Never My Fault: Brittas does this a fair bit. Other characters as well, such as the once mentioned Lord Milbanks, who threw something at Brittas, missed, hit the fireplace with it, and got in a lot of trouble. He sends Brittas a parcel containing a venomous tarantula as revenge, even though it wouldn't have happened if Milbanks had just kept his temper in check.
Noodle Incident: Earlier in the series there are several references to how Gordon's training at Aldershot ended. There were ambulances involved.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Councillor Druggett, who understandably wants to get rid of Gordon Brittas by any means necessary. He can be enough of a jerk that you're rooting for Brittas. Brittas himself has more than a few instances of this too. Like spending well over a minute to explain why he doesn't give change for the bus (ending in "it takes too long") or refusing to let people book the badminton court for more than 40 minutes, even when no one else had even tried to book it that day.
Gordon: Carole, are you planning a nervous collapse? There's a procedure for that sort of thing, you know!
Oop North: The centre is set in a small town in the extreme south of England, and most of its staff members are locals. Colin and Julie, from Sunderland and Rotherham respectively, are the exceptions, with their funny northern accents and general lack of cohesiveness with the rest of the hard-working team.
Open Heart Dentistry: In the finale of season two, we have a veterinarian delivering a pair of twins in the sauna and a gynecologist delivering a calf in the squash court. Both point out that they are not really qualified.
Helen: It's just to tell him it's fishcakes for supper and I'm pregnant.
Laura: Helen! That's fantastic!
Helen: Well after today's events, I thought the news had rather lost its novelty value.
Pet the Dog: Gordon sacks Colin after he splits open Tim's skull and nearly kills two customers in the pool while trying to save a drowning youngster. After protests and outcry from the rest of the team at his sacking, Gordon instead decides to "promote" Colin from Deputy Manager Wet (an actual management position) to "Manager of Building Fabric" (basically a toilet cleaner).
Carole also receives a similar sacking-followed-by-a-"promotion", from Receptionist to "Manageress of the Creche", essentially an excuse to keep her kids behind the reception desk. Laura is the one responsible for changing Gordon's mind about both sackings, true to her role as the only sane employee.
The Peter Principle: Gavin struggles to be respected or taken seriously by the vast majority of the staff after his promotion to Deputy Manager, and proves to be a lot more bumbling and fidgety than he ever was as a pool attendant, as he tries to adopt and embrace the buzzwords and body language of Brittas.
Pointy-Haired Boss: Gordon, natch. An interesting case in that while he is totally incompetent and a stickler for his pedantic rules, he is well intentioned and not actually a bad person. Just an idiot.
Postscript Season: The show was originally planned and completed for a five season run by writers Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss, a lesser example of British Brevity. The BBC liked it so much however that they recommissioned it for a further two seasons. Fegen and Norriss declined to return however, and the last two seasons were written by a team of six.
Reckless Gun Usage: In series 5, Gordon gets shot three times by Julie's police bodyguard Greg, after Colin tosses a water pistol at him. All three of the bullets hit his cigarette case with "I've been to Gravesend" inscribed on it, making Gordon worried that it might upset his wife who gave him the case as a 'gift'.
Gavin gets shot in the shoulder and pinned to a door by a bumbling Colin with a harpoon gun.
Romantic False Lead: Michael T. Farrell III, Laura's sleazy, estranged, billionaire American husband, who magically turns up in Whitbury just as sexual tension between Laura and Gordon begins to take hold. Gordon is understandably pissed off.
Colin going to shake someone's hand and having his plaster come off on them.
Gordon constantly instructing Helen to buy herself a drink and a donut when she's upset.
Colin being late to every single staff meeting, then despite Gordon's protests ("Colin..."), proceeds to interrupt the meeting and go into a very lengthy and graphic story about his latest serious injury or disease.
Colin bursting into Brittas' office, and then knocking on the door.
Ruthless Modern Pirates: Gavin gets rescued and then promptly Bound and Gagged by French pirates after getting lost at sea on Colin's potato-powered lilo. He manages to call Tim for help, but nobody believes Tim when he mentions pirates.
Screaming Birth: Helen Brittas's disastrous birth of her twins in the middle of Whitbury High Street, delivered by passing transvestite medical students, after Gordon manages to get their car boxed in.
Serious Business: Pretty much the entire show is based upon Gordon Brittas taking his job far, far, far too seriously. Just the kind of bureaucratic nightmare manager who insists on banning pensioners from the pool for taking too long to change. Or ousting little children from a charity swimathon because they were wading instead of swimming. Or requiring triplicate claims forms, identification and CCTV footage over a 20 pence piece in a coffee machine. The list goes on...
Gordon: Colin! You have impersonated a leisure centre manager!
Servile Snarker: Laura. She likes Brittas more than most, but she still needs some heavy snarking at his expense to get through the day.
Shout-Out: Season 1 recycled a joke from Red Dwarf about Chris Barrie's character joining the Samaritans, and the resulting crop of suicides (one of which was a wrong number) being called "Black Friday".
Spanner in the Works: Pretty much every single episode in the entire 7 series features some sort of disaster of catastrophic proportions that prevents Gordon from being an effective, bureaucratic leisure centre manager. The spanners are often indirectly caused by Gordon himself, even when he is away in a hotel room in Brussels.
Spiritual Successor: A Prince Among Men was basically the same series, the key differences being that Chris Barrie was playing an ex-footballer, and that the series utterly sucked.
Status Quo Is God: And how. The leisure centre is blown up, burned down twice, fully computerised and attacked by an army of Romans complete with war elephants but it just doesn't take. The title character dies and he's back by the end of the episode.
Stuff Blowing Up: Plenty of disastrous explosions are peppered throughout the series, the biggest one being at the end of series 4. A motley collection of Chekhov's Guns build up and cause the entire leisure centre to blow up from a gas leak. The explosion completely razes the building to the ground, but miraculously, everybody survives.
Julie: What are you gonna do if the press get a hold of this? You know how they made a mountain out of a molehill when the centre burnt down!
Take Off Your Clothes: Gordon demands Tim take his clothes off to prove that he isn't a pregnant woman. When Tim refuses, Gordon rather disturbingly assaults him and attempts to rip his clothes off in an ambiguously gay moment.
Gavin punches Gordon in the face and breaks his nose to rescue Tim. This actually earns Gavin a permanent Deputy Manager position, as it disproves Gavin's own ambiguous gayness in Gordon's eyes.
Ted Baxter: Gordon's father taught him to have an unshakeable belief in his own abilities. It might have been a positive thing if he actually had any.
Training from Hell: After Gavin is promoted to Acting Deputy Manager, Gordon puts him through extreme "disaster training". Poor Gavin is lead to believe a tanker full of ethanol chloride has crashed into a milk float ouside the centre and caused a spillage of hydrochloric acid, a bus full of school children are trapped in the acid spill, a serious fire has broken out in the squash courts and a woman has become trapped inside a sunbed with only minutes left to live...on his first day. Gavin doesn't handle it very well and has a mini-breakdown at the end of the episode.
Turn In Your Badge: Gavin jumps the gun and orders a manager's nameplate for his desk. Gordon isn't happy to receive it by mistake, days before his departure to Europe, and it is implied it partly influences his decision to stay behind.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Laura disappears to America with her husband Michael T. Farrell III to raise their baby son, Barney. After lots of flirting and time spent with each other outside of work, Gordon is left hanging. Lampshaded when he lulls himself into a Daydream Surprise, where Laura confesses her feelings to him, before climbing onto Gordon's lap and passionately snogging him.
Vomit Discretion Shot: Helen walking into the leisure centre covered in vomit and baby food after a lovely family trip to Cornwall.
Wacky Cravings: After Julie's pregnancy begins to take hold, she starts compulsively eating paper, rubbers, pencils and coal. Those crazy Yorkshire lasses...
Weirdness Magnet: Anything can happen at Whitbury Newtown. Anything! From a gas leak, to an ostrich getting loose to a Roman Legion destroying the centre.
Zany Scheme: Gordon's rehearsal for the christening of his baby twins.
Gordon: Look, there is no need for anyone to think! It's all perfectly simple, I'll go through it one more time. I am the Reverend Horatio Brittas. Laura is Mrs. Brittas, my wife. Colin is me, except when he is standing over here with a candle when he is Colin. Tim is Uncle Herbert, Matthew's main Godparent, who'll be joining us from Godalming later. And he and Laura, who is Mark's main Godparent and who in these circumstances is Linda, come back and collect the babies from me, who is Colin, and Mrs. Brittas, who is Laura. What could be simpler?