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Series / The Brittas Empire

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Gordon Brittas and his "empire".

A Brit Com starring Chris Barrie running seven series between 1991 and 1997. It was created by Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen (previously known for producing Chance in a Million), and written by them for the first five series, after which they departed and a new team of writers took over. note  The Brittas Empire is a slightly surrealist look at proud English leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas (Barrie), 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 (Pippa Haywood), 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 (Julia St. John) and Colin Weatherby (Mike Burns), secretary Angie (Andrée Bernard) - who was quickly replaced by Julie Porter (Judy Flynn), receptionist Carole Parkinson (Harriet Thorpe) and pool attendants Gavin Featherly (Tim Marriott), Tim Whistler (Russell Porter) and Linda Perkin (Jill Greenacre). Other non-staff characters include Gordon's philandering, unstable, pill-popping wife Helen, sauna/solarium manageress Penny Bidmead (Anouschka Menzies) note  and Councillor Jack Drugget (Stephen Churchett). Many of the characters are almost as dysfunctional as Brittas himself.

Chris Barrie landed the leading role on the show during the various multi-year hiatuses between series on Red Dwarf and 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.

After the end of the show, a short miniseries (Get Fit with Brittas) was aired in 1997, which aimed to educate the public on physical health and exercise.

Came forty-seventh in Britain’s Best Sitcom.

"Welcome to Whitbury New Town Tropes Centre, how may I help yooou?" (With a smile):

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  • Accidental Adultery: The episode "Temple Of The Body" reveals at the end that Brittas had sex with Carole under the belief that he was bedding his wife Helen (it was a costume party and they were in the same tiger costume). This becomes an issue when Carole falls pregnant from the encounter (though neither finds out until the very end of the series).
  • Accidental Murder: A fair amount of the deaths which occur are examples of this trope. For example, the episode “The Trial” has Brittas, glued to a chainsaw and trying to help a gangster who is unconscious on the other side of the door, accidentally cut his head off with a chainsaw instead.
  • 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 it's Brittas inside the locker, decide to play a prank which ends up with Colin breaking several bones.
  • Acquainted with Emergency Services: It has been stated in the series that the emergency services are called so much that they would much rather leave Brittas to his latest disaster than help him in any way.
  • Acquired Error at the Printer: A Running Gag is that Gordon would order badges which would get ‘accidentally’ misprinted to something embarrassing e.g "I've Been for a Swim in the Poo", "'S'hitbury Leisure Centre" etc
  • 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 a 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: In Episode 5 ("Stop Thief!"). Gordon's wife reveals that Gordon briefly worked for the Samaritans, on what became known as Black Friday because all four people he spoke to committed suicide. And one of them was the wrong number. In the Red Dwarf episode "The Last Day", two years earlier, Rimmer, also played by Chris Barrie, had also mentioned he worked for the Samaritans, on what became known as Lemming Sunday for the same reason, complete with the wrong number.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Gordon Brittas frequently refers to his wife Helen as “my darling” (and to a rarer extent “my love”).
  • 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 train to Whitbury next to his wife Helen, where he is 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 train who haven't heard of Brittas and most certainly do not work at leisure centres.
  • All There in the Manual: The tie-in book Gordon Brittas: Sharing The Dream reveals some details about the main character that wasn't included within the show. For instance, his mother is given the name of "Jane", he is apparently the older of the twins, his brother Horatio was named after Horatio Nelson and Gordon himself was named after Charles George Gordon.
  • 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, both 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 fiance 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.
  • And Here He Comes Now: Happens in the episode "The Elephant's Child". Whilst trying to assist Julie through her childbirth in the leisure centre, Helen states that she wishes Gordon were there now. Cue Gordon entering the room planning to make a citizen's arrest. (they had broken into the centre in the dead of night).
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The first time Brittas was announced to be dead, 1200 people are stated to have come to his funeral, with the heavy implication that they came because of this trope. The cast doesn't seem too bothered by the death either, with Tim and Gavin at least being remarkably pleased once they hear of it.
  • Animal Assassin: The episode “That Creeping Feeling” had someone try to kill Brittas by sending over a pair of highly poisonous spiders. One of them eats the other in transit, then bites Colin instead (although he survives in the end).
  • 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.
    • There's also Pam Rhodes (in real life a presenter of Songs of Praise), who shows up at the centre to organise a performance of the show. Of course, said performance is eventually wrecked by an emu crashing into it.
  • Assassin Outclassin':
    • The plot of "Assassin" has a man named Larry Whittaker try to kill Brittas because he was having a negative impact on the attendance figures of the local choir. Unfortunately for him, all of his attempts to kill him (cutting the brakes, trying to trip him down the stairs with wire, trying to electrocute him down the roof) fail in some way or another and he ends up accidentally being electrocuted and falling off the building himself.
    • Someone tried to kill Brittas by sending over a poisonous spider. It bit Colin instead. Who survived in the end.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Occurs twice:
    • One episode has Gordon Brittas (who was genuinely dead) revive in the middle of his funeral. The rest of the attendants there find out when he begins knocking on the door of his casket.
    • A later episode ends with Gavin, who had been captured by pirates for the episode, showing up at his funeral wondering who it's for (since the staff had assumed that he had been lost at sea).
  • 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, with who she also had an affair with.
  • Balloonacy: In “The Elephant's Child”, Helen attempts to stop a promotional balloon from floating away after Tim and Gavin let go of it. She ends up getting airborne. She gets down by crashing into Gordon, and they fall into a pile of elephant shit.
  • 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.
  • Bag of Holding: One episode dealt with Helen having a primal desire to go shoplifting when she becomes pregnant. After a significant amount of stuff is extracted from her coat, Brittas asks if there is anything else stored there.Helen lifts her coat up from the back and...
    Brittas: Good God, a barbeque set.
  • Batter Up!: The opening minutes of the show has Brittas, in an Establishing Character Moment, confiscate a cricket bat that his stepsons (and his neighbour's son) were using and start trying to show them how to use it properly. He gets whacked below the left knee with said cricket bat in response.
  • 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.
  • Beast in the Building:
    • In "The Old, Old Story", something is attacking the customers and users of the Leisure Centre building, so the staff fear that a serial killer is on the loose. It turns out to be an emu, who was turned loose in the building by the army when Brittas refused to allow them in for the reopening of the centre.
    • In "At the Double", a bear that belongs to the Ruthenian circus runs loose in the centre, so Brittas tells everyone to hide in the pool. Unfortunately, Helen thinks that the bear is Brittas wearing a costume for Kinky Role-Playing, and ends up on top of the bear as it bicycles down the side of the pool.
    • In "Mr. Brittas Falls in Love", Brittas is inspired by some time spent with dolphins on a European fact-finding trip to host a "Dolphin Day", complete with a dolphin in the swimming pool. Unfortunately, a combination of Julie's poor secretary skills and Tim's desire to use only the finest ingredients for his cooking leads to a shark being put there instead. Whilst Linda tries to remove it alongside her animal rights group, chaos ensues when the shark is feared to have gobbled up a girl there on work experience.
    • In "Wake Up the Lion Within", Colin purchases a lion with the intention of presenting it as part of his newly opened Children's Corner, all under the cover that it's a "Tasmanian Chipmunk". By the end of the episode, it ends up escaping, wandering through the centre, and hitching a ride in the car of the woman who has just given the centre a European award for Excellence.
  • Bed Trick: This was how Carole got impregnated with her twins in the first place. The encounter took place at a New Year's Eve Costume Party and unfortunately for her, both she and Helen (Gordon Brittas' wife) decided to go using the same tiger costume. This eventually led to Gordon having sex with Carole genuinely believing it was Helen under the costume.
  • Belly Buttonless: Gordon doesn't have a belly button after some plastic surgery following his return from the dead.
  • Birthday Episode: Considering the large size of the cast, this occurs on a fairly frequent occasion:
    • Helen celebrates hers in "An Inspector Calls", where in a subplot, she almost leaves Brittas when he gives her a crappy moped as a gift.
    • Laura's is in "Sex, Lies, and Red Tape", where she has to deal with her slimy ex-husband bothering her.
    • Colin's is in "Blind Devotion", which turns out to be one of the only good things to happen to him during a day involving an epic Trauma Conga Line.
    • Carole's one becomes part of an intricate web of lies to cover the truth of Helen's affairs from Brittas in "The Lies Have It", although it being Carole's, the actual event ends up being a Forgotten Birthday for her.
    • Played With as it isn't actually his birthday yet, but Carole throws a birthday party for Ben in "Body Language". Hilarity Ensues when two of the party guests escape and are mistaken for aliens by Colin.
    • Although they're not for the main cast, birthday parties are also thrown in "Brussels Calling" (where the staff's attempts to host a birthday party whilst Brittas is in Brussels end in an explosion) and "The Disappearing Act" (where a party held for Julie's niece Melanie goes horribly wrong when Colin thinks he's made the birthday girl disappear).
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: An epic Trauma Conga Line (including temporary blindness, death of an aunt, death of a pet, loss of life savings) for Colin is revealed halfway through to have taken place on his birthday in "Blind Devotion".
  • 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.
  • Black Like Me:
    • In the episode 'Stuff of Dreams', Brittas, troubled by his mortality and wanting to push age awareness, goes into the centre disguised as an old man. Naturally, this leads to a fight with another pensioner in reception and the destruction of said pensioner's glasses.
    • There is also a reference to a Noodle Incident in 'The Chop' where Brittas seemed to resign, then went into a building disguised as a woman to highlight the sexism in the centre.
  • Bowdlerize: The UKTV airings of the show censors out some of the worst words used in the show, with the use of "bastard" in both "Bye Bye Baby" and "Underwater Wedding" being cut out.
  • 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.
  • Business Trip Adultery: In "Brussels Calling", Helen has an affair with a lawyer (drafted in when she tried to kill a teacher) whilst her husband is away on a job interview in Brussels. In the next episode, everyone tries to cover up the affair on his return.
  • 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.
    • Carole, who has a tendency to get into Yank the Dog's Chain situations and whose home situation is so bad that she literally has to raise her children in the leisure centre. Of course, it doesn't help that in earlier series, Brittas had a tendency to call her unattractive.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: The show is revealed to be the entirety of a dream at the end of the series, with Brittas using random bystanders as characters within the dream. For instance, Colin is a ticket conductor, Carole is with Gavin, Julie is an onboard caterer and Linda is a nun (and seemingly with Tim).
  • 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.
  • Car Fu: In “Back From The Dead”, Carole, believing that Brittas is about to take the body of her son for eternal youth, attacks his car (with him inside it) with an excavator.
  • Catchphrase:
    • 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.
    • 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!". Also, "Nyaaah!" and "Wooooo".
    • P.C. Edwards (an One-Shot Character from "Reviewing The Situation") has "ASSUME THE POSITION!".
  • Chalk Outline: After Brittas is crushed to death in “The Last Day”, Ben (Carole’s son) is seen putting flowers on a chalk outline of his body in the centre.
  • Chainsaw Good: At one point in the episode “The Trial”, Brittas gets his hand stuck to a chainsaw. He winds up accidentally causing grievous bodily harm to several elderly women (by slipping and sawing through their walkers) and (also accidentally) decapitates a gangster.
  • Christmas Episode: Two Christmas specials were made in 1994 and 1996 respectively, although neither special specifically deals with a Christmas theme.
    • The 1994 special (In the Beginning...) is the more memorable of the two, showing the leisure centre staff in various vocations on New Year's Eve in the year 2019, as they recall New Year's 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’s rather nice being with people I like!
    • The 1996 special ("Surviving Christmas") 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.
  • Chronically Crashed 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.
  • 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' 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).
  • Circus Episode: The episode “At The Double” is about the Ruthenian State Circus coming to Whitbury as part of an EU initiative. Hilarity Ensues when one of the clowns performing as part of the act, Vlad, is revealed to be an Identical Stranger to Brittas.
  • Clingy Jealous Guy: Tim, to the more level-headed Gavin - he has a tendency to believe that Gavin is cheating on him with another person and freak out as a result.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Gordon Brittas, who finds time to hold morning singalongs and team-building exercises, even while stranded for days in a blizzard with no food, electricity or heat.
    • Colin is farther out than Brittas. Remember when he saw aliens and hung himself from a coat rack in defence?
  • Coincidence Magnet: Anything can happen at Whitbury New Town. Anything! From a gas leak, to an ostrich getting loose to a Roman Legion destroying the centre.
  • 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.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Whether or not Gordon is a well-meaning but incompetent woobie or an actual bellend tends to vary. It usually evens out at well-meaning but incompetent bellend.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: The show is usually a Work Com which treats subject matter as grim as death and suicide as Black Comedy. However, "The Last Day" features Brittas sacrificing himself to save Carole from a falling water tank. Although lightened by some jokes (such as the reveal that Julie has a Dartboard of Hate for Brittas and Brittas being eventually Kicked Out of Heaven for being too annoying), the staff's reactions to his death and Brittas' funeral are played dead seriously otherwise.
  • Courtroom Episode: 'The Trial' has Gordon Brittas being put on trial for the procession of drugs, the murder of seven gangsters and the grievous bodily harm of three old women, with flashbacks being used to show How We Got Here.
  • Crashing Dreams: The final episode, which concludes with Gordon Brittas waking up on an ark that Colin the janitor has been secretly building in the car park of the leisure centre. After a moment, he's jolted out of the dream by Colin repeatedly calling "Tickets, please" and realizes that he's been asleep on a train... also that Colin is in fact the conductor, he's on his way to the interview for the job he's had throughout the series, and the entire fifty-odd episodes of the program have been a dream.
  • Credits Montage: The credits had stills from the episode that had just aired. The only exceptions to this was "High Noon", whose final still was a unique shot of Brittas receiving his George Medal with Helen in tow and the Christmas Specials.
  • 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.
  • Cringe Comedy: A fair amount of the humour of the show is watching the disastrous consequences that come from Gordon Brittas' poor social and management skills. A stand-out example comes from "Mums and Dads", which ends with Brittas playing a hilariously disastrous rendition of "Knock Three Times" that cringes out the audience watching.
  • Crushing Handshake: After he is revived, Gordon Brittas is shown to have become so strong that a casual handshake from him causes male members of staff to wince in pain and fall to the floor.
  • Curse: The final episode has a gypsy put a curse on Gordon so that anything that he cooks is lethal to anyone who eats it. Casualties include a lot of birds and Councillor Druggett.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note:
    • Jonathan (Helen's son)'s English teacher accidentally receives one of these in "Brussels Calling", reading "I know where you live and I am going to get you". Since Helen had only recently attempted to murder him, he naturally believes that she's making another attempt at it.
    • Julie also receives a series of these in "Reviewing The Situation", leading to her getting a bodyguard to protect her. They turn out to be coming from her ex-boyfriend, who wants to get back together with her.
  • Dangerous Workplace: "Last year, 600 people visited this Center and nearly 500 returned home without any loss of life or serious injury."
  • Dartboard of Hate: In “The Last Day”, Julie is revealed to have a photo of him in her locker for this purpose, which she takes down in response to his death. Amusingly all the darts are embedded in the crotch area.
  • Daydream Surprise: Brittas has one of these in “UXB” where Laura declares her love for him and snogs him. Naturally, the audience doesn’t find out that this is a daydream until said kiss is immediately followed up by the door opening again and the real Laura coming in.
  • Dead Hat Shot: After Brittas is crushed to death by a falling water tank, the only part of him that can still be seen is his tie sticking out from the water tank.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: In "Blind Devotion", Gordon Brittas accidentally kills Colin's pet canary (by closing a door whilst it was getting out and becoming crushed as a result). He immediately gets Tim to buy a replacement canary. We never do find out if Colin fell for it (as he was blind for the episode) but Brittas does complain that it looked too yellow for his liking.
  • Death Amnesia: When Brittas initially returns from the dead, he not only does not remember his time in the afterlife, but that he even died in the first place. Once he is told that he died at one point though, it does all come flooding back to him.
  • Death from Above: Gordon Brittas died in one episode when he was crushed by a water tank that had been crashing through the building.
  • Denser and Wackier: Whilst the show was never really grounded, its plots at least had some reason and grounding to them. However, it gets goofier and goofier as it goes on, culminating in the end of Series 5 and after, with plots such as the main character being brought Back from the Dead for being too annoying for the afterlife and being rebuilt as a cyborg, Plant Aliens, an Doppelgänger of the main character, sentient bossy alter-egos, and a killer Gypsy Curse.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: People do tend to over-react to Gordon's criticisms. A number of examples in the first episode include a workforce of builders going on strike, just because Brittas asked one of them to put his empty cigarette box in the bin, the cleaner quitting because of a petty squabble over a spilt coffee, and one of his staff trying to kill him because he wasn't going to put in any table tennis facilities.
  • Distant Finale: The first Christmas special was intended to be a Downplayed example. It does shows what the cast is doing 25 years from the premiere year of the episode (1994) but the majority of the episode is a Whole Episode Flashback to 1989. Of course, the BBC renewed it for two more seasons after that.
  • Does Not Understand Sarcasm: Actually, make that Does Not Understand Anything Subtler Than Total Brute Honesty.
    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?"
    Helen: Oh, you didn't...
    Laura: I just never thought.
  • Doorstopper: According to Sharing the Dream, the instructions to the "Gordon Brittas Game of Life" board game is 900 pages long, complete with illustrations.
  • Dreadful Musician: Gordon is revealed to be one of these in the episode "Mums and Dads". Apparently, his wife had to burn their piano just to stop him from playing it. We later on in the episode get to hear him play (a horrible rendition of "Knock Three Times"), which is shown to cause mass cringing amongst those present.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Near the end of the series finale, Gordon is knocked unconscious by an angry goose. He initially wakes up in Noah's Ark, with Julie, Helen, and Carole telling Brittas that they have to use him to repopulate the world with him. After this, he then wakes up on his way to the interview for the centre, revealing that the entirety of the series was All Just a Dream. The strangest part is that Brittas' literal dreams have been important plot points in earlier episodes, leading to a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream scenario.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Series 1 has quite a few differences compared to later on:
    • Brittas has a more nasally and posher-sounding voice, lacks his "Eeeexcccelleeeent!!!!" Catchphrase, and is much more of a Jerkass than in later series, with it not being until Series 2 that his more sympathetic side shows up.
    • Helen hung out with next-door neighbour Pam, who undergoes Chuck Cunningham Syndrome afterwards and is replaced by a closer friendship with Laura.
    • Carole wasn't quite living in the centre just yet - that change wouldn't occur until Series 2's "Temple of the Body". Instead, she was on the verge of losing her flat, having to bring in Ben because there was no-one available to watch over him - as a consequence of this, she's portrayed as much more of a Shrinking Violet vulnerable to Inelegant Blubbering than in later series. For that matter, when she does fall pregnant at the end of Series 1, it's implied that it was her landlord who impregnated her, with it not being until Series 2 that it was established that it was Brittas' fault.
    • Julie is absent, with her role instead being performed by similarly snarky secretary Angie.
    • In the first series Helen was portrayed as someone whose neuroses stem entirely from her relationship with Brittas and who otherwise might be relatively normal. Later on the show revealed that she was always something of a walking disaster even before she met Brittas and that she herself isn't so easy to live with.
  • Electricity Knocks You Out: In "Opening Day", Laura is asked to bring her black friend Michael to function as a Token Minority for the Royal Opening of the leisure centre. Unfortunately, he gets trapped in the malfunctioning automated doors of the building and in his attempts to get out, uses a rod against the opening mechanisms of the doors, giving him an electric shock and zapping him unconscious.
  • Electrified Bathtub: A concussed Colin once took Brittas' sarcastic statement of asking him to attach one end of the rope to a lightning conductor and the other to a trouser zip and jumping off seriously and needed to be stopped.. In the resulting kerfluffle, said conductor winds up being thrown into the pool and electrocuting a group of Pentecostalists who were being baptised.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: "Reviewing The Situation" reveals that Tim Whistler's true last name is actually Göebbels. Making matters worse, Tim is also revealed to have been born in East Germany. With this in mind, it's not hard to see why he illegally changed his surname out of shame.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Helen spends the entirety of "The Boss" trying to remove a tattoo that she doesn't remember getting (the tattoo being something explicit with "I'm a Goer" written underneath it). She's eventually able to change it into a tattoo of a butterfly with I ♥ Gordon written under it).
  • Epic Fail: Brittas has an awful tendency to take what are minor problems and turn them into epic failures thanks to his poor social skills and obsession with rules. Some highlights:
    • Brittas once volunteered for the Samaritans for a night. His tenure there led to four people committing suicide after talking to him, with one of them having gotten the wrong number.
    • Once, Brittas tried to put up a novelty clock which he had purchased for his (then former) staff. This led to the leisure centre blowing up.
    • Brittas also tried to get a staff photo taken. Although the attempts made were all failures, the final one takes the cake - it is ruined by an exploding bomb shelter, an out-of-control car, and Helen parachuting in to the photo in that order.
  • Establishing Character Moment: A couple of these in "Laying The Foundations":
    • Gordon Brittas' first scene in has him attempt to show his stepsons how to play cricket, annoy the hell out of them and then confiscate the cricket bat when they don't listen. This displays how he is a person who tries to help but is too annoying to be truly helpful.
    • Helen's Brittas' first scene has her wearily agreeing with everything Brittas says, then hitting the bottle once he leaves the room. This shows how she is a wife who is so broken down by her husband, that she has become an Addled Addict.
    • Colin's first scene has him rattle off all his various infections and treatments much to the displeasure of Laura. This shows how he is basically a physically disgusting character who has a tendency to give off Too Much Information about his afflictions.
    • Carole's first scene has her having a meltdown in reception, showing off how she is not the happiest person and that she’s perpetually struggling (especially when it’s revealed that it’s because her husband has left her and she’s suffering from post natal depression).
  • Epunymous Title: The name of the show is a play on "The British Empire", starring a man named Gordon Brittas.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: The first episode ("Laying The Foundations") is about Gordon Brittas' first day on the job. Whilst there, he (and the majority of the rest of the employees) meet each other for the very first time.
  • 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 (a situation which should be highly unlikely). When a fire actually does break out minutes later, fourteen people attempt to escape via the ladder and are badly injured.
  • Faking and Entering: In "The Elephant's Child", Helen wanted to run the solarium and sauna. Unfortunately, she does not have the money to do so. To resolve this issue, she engineers a break-in of the centre with Julie so that she can take her fur-coat so that she can claim it was stolen, and get insurance for it. Unfortunately for her, the plan is complicated by Julie giving birth in the centre.
  • Fictional Board Game: "The Chop" begins with the staff playing a game called the "Gordon Brittas Game Of Life" which as the name suggests, was invented by the titular character. From what we see of it, it involves designating characters as a "Wise Virgin" or "Foolish Virgin" as well as each character having to suffer a catastrophe each year.
  • 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.
  • Final Season Casting: The show lost Laura between its fifth and sixth series. She was initially replaced with Suspiciously Similar Substitute Penny, but she only lasted a series and the show didn't replace her for its final series.
  • Finding a Bra in Your Car: The plot of "Temple Of The Body" kicks off when Gordon finds a pair of underwear down the back of one of the couches in his main office, which is later revealed to be the result of a one-night stand that his wife had. Unlike most examples of this trope, Gordon never does find out that it's his wife's; he initially assumes it comes from one of his staff and he drops it once he discovers Carole's bedroom in the leisure centre.
  • Forceful Kiss: Gordon Brittas daydreams about deputy manager Laura and himself; the fantasy sequence starts with him being entirely oblivious to her desperately trying to tell him how much she loves him. Finally, she gets fed up with this and starts kissing him passionately. Just then, Brittas is jolted out of his daydream when the door opens and the real Laura comes in
  • 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.
  • Fun with Acronyms: A Running Gag in the later series. For instance, one episode of the series features Gordon replacing the locks with Time Instigated Totally Integrated Security, (or T.I.T.I.S).
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The show becomes this in its last series, having a main cast consisting of 4 females (Carole, Julie, Linda and Helen) and 4 males (the titular Gordon Brittas, Tim, Gavin, and Colin). Beforehand though, the show was a Downplayed example of this, having a slightly dominant female staff of 5 girls and 4 boys.
  • Genki Girl: Linda, who's also the only staff member who seems to respect and admire Brittas, apart from Colin.
  • The Ghost: A couple of examples of these:
    • Brittas' three stepchildren. They're mentioned a fair amount but the most we get is a distant shot of two of them (which doesn't establish which is which) in the first episode. One of them never even gets named.
    • Simon, an alleged "Uncle" of Helen's who she had an affair with, was mentioned in the first series (before they broke up around the second series) but never showed up.
  • Gift-Giving Gaffe: Gordon Brittas gives his wife Helen a moped (complete with tacky "Hi, I'm Helen" helmet) for her birthday, thinking that it would resolve the issue of her having to ask for the car. This displeases Helen so much that she almost leaves him.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: “Wake Up the Lion Within” has Carole accidentally spawn an alter-ego when she decides to “roar like a lion” to unlock her true potential. Said alter-ego then cajoles her into becoming the new manager of the centre and bullies the rest of the staff. It’s not until Carole stands up for herself that said alter-ego vanishes.
  • Gonk: Throughout the series, Colin looks like he's just crawled out of a coal mine in 1970s 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.
  • Good Behavior Points: According to "Assassin", Brittas uses a sticker-based award system, with the eventual award of dinner at the Berni Inn with him. Of course, since Brittas is a Pointy-Haired Boss, we see Gavin trying to get out of it by removing his stickers and giving them to someone else. However, he is caught by Brittas, who gives him more stickers for what he perceives to be a good act.
  • Grand Finale: The show ultimately ends with the episode "Curse of the Tiger Woman", which has Gordon (and Carole) find out that he is the father of Carole's twins (resolving a plotline from Series 2), and has a more apocalyptic than usual plot involving poisoned cooking and a marsh gas build up threatening the centre. The episode ends with Brittas being pecked unconscious by a goose (with the centre about to blow up), revealing that the entirety of the Series was just a dream that Gordon was having on the train on his way to the interview for said Leisure Manager job.
  • 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.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Brittas and Linda are implied (they’re covered in blood and feathers and Brittas mentions he was attacked to have been attacked by a man using the body of a dead hawk after Brittas accidentally helps set up its death in “An Inspector Calls”.
  • Groin Attack: A frequent source of physical pain for male characters, especially early on in the series. Colin gets it the worst, getting a button hole right through it off-screen in "The Boss", punching himself in the dick to get rid of a fly in "UXB", and getting a jet of scalding tea to his cock in "The Last Day". Oddly enough, Brittas himself doesn't get one until the short-lived spin-off ''Get Fit With Brittas", when Lesley Joseph decks him there to shut him up.
  • Group Picture Ending: The episode 'High Noon' ends with the staff getting a photo taken in front of the destroyed leisure centre.
  • Gypsy Curse: The final episode has an angry gypsy curse Gordon so that his cooking becomes lethal to anyone who eats it.
  • 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...
  • Harmless Electrocution: Happens twice:
    • Colin gets electrocuted trying to retrieve juggling balls from a live wire in "Sex, Lies and Red Tape". Despite being electrocuted (and falling a significant height as a result) however, he's only mildly stunned, and he's okay several scenes later.
    • Gordon himself gets electrocuted when he is linked up to one of Colin's contraptions in "Playing with Fire", but aside from a couple of twitches and slight burns, he's okay.
  • Hereditary Twinhood: The titular character has a twin brother (Horatio Brittas), becomes a father to no less than two sets of twins over the course of the series and is apparently part of the fourth generation of twins in his family.
  • 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 doesn't last, because even Saint Peter can't stand Brittas.
  • Horrible Honeymoon: According to "Snap Happy", during Brittas and Helen's honeymoon, Brittas, wanting to check out the highest diving board in the country, slipped off it and injured a troupe of synchronized swimmers, giving Helen a fear of heights. The earlier episode "Playing With Fire" had also implied that something happened on the second day which made Brittas realize that the woman he had married was...not the most mentally stable of women.
  • Hospital Epilogue:
    • The episode "Assassin" ends with Brittas lying in intensive care after having been run over by a treacle lorry.
    • “We All Fall Down” ends with Brittas visiting Helen in hospital and dropping off some blackcurrant juice for the electrocuted children in intensive care, not knowing that Helen had drugged the juice with laxatives earlier in the episode.
  • 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.
  • Hypno Fool: The episode ‘Mr. Brittas changes trains’ opens on the outcome of a stage hypnotist, leading to the staff exhibiting strange behaviour for 24 hours (Patrick gets a Potty Emergency when he hears a bell, Colin says “I love you” when someone mentions ‘need’, etc). Later, Brittas sends in the hypnotist to try to cure Helen’s stress-related paralysis. It winds up hypnotising him instead into a better person (temporarily).
  • I Ate WHAT?!: When Linda finds out that she ate carpet foam instead of dessert topping in "Snap Happy", she pukes in a packet of crisps.
  • 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.
    • Gavin gets shot in the shoulder and pinned to a door by a bumbling Colin with a harpoon gun in an earlier episode.
  • Identical Stranger: One episode has a dodgy East European acrobat appear in the centre who looks just like Gordon Brittas. Hilarity Ensues when he tries to seduce all the women.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Gordon Brittas. Yes, he is an absolute prick, insults people and can start fights very easily, but the show makes it clear that he only ever has good intentions and that it is more a combination of his stupidity and lack of people skills that leads to chaos.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: The plot of the episode "An Inspector Calls" revolves around a visit by the Southern Area Inspector. Brittas is concerned due to the abysmally low attendance figures and his case is not helped by him greeting the inspector covered in eagle blood. Luckily for Brittas, the Southern Area Inspector turns out to be just like him (believes in the dream, more interested in cleanliness and noticeboards than attendance figures etc.) so he doesn't get fired.
  • Internal Reveal: The identity of the father of Carole’s twins. The audience finds out early in Series 2 that the father is Gordon Brittas, but neither Gordon nor Carole finds out until the very end of the show in Series 7.
  • Invented Invalid: Helen Brittas uses this excuse to get away from Gordon, who is driving her mad. She claims she is going to nurse an invalid elderly uncle for two days, but as she is seen in stockings and suspenders and dressing to kill, the audience is primed to doubt this... she does pack a "nurse's outfit", though.
  • Ironic Name: Gordon Wellesley Brittas. Sir Arthur Wellesley (better known as The Duke of Wellington) was one of the greatest English generals of all time, and never lost a battle. This is in contrast to Brittas, who has a tendency to cause chaos and is a Pointy-Haired Boss.
  • Judgement of the Dead: One episode has Brittas dying and being sent up to heaven. He is read a List of Transgressions from Saint Peter and is subsequently prevented from going to Heaven. However, Peter then receives word of the Heroic Sacrifice he committed beforehand, which allows him in.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: In one episode, Gordon claims to know French when answering a phone call. He proceeds to simply put on a silly French accent.
  • 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.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The final two series, produced after the original writers left, introduced some changes to the series:
    • Laura was written out and replaced by a solarium/spa manager called Penny, who filled her niche of being the Only Sane Employee if much more outspoken about it. She wasn't very popular with fans however, and was both written out and not replaced for the final series.
    • The plots become Denser and Wackier, with more fantastical elements such as Plant Aliens and doppelgangers being much more common, and there is a move away from Brittas being the instigator of episodic conflict in favour of the whole cast.
    • Whilst up to Series 7, Councillor Drugget only tended to pop up Once a Season, he becomes a recurring character and antagonist in the final series, presumably to try to fill the Only Sane Man niche that Penny left behind.
    • Helen becomes the centre's psychiatrist and officially part of the staff in Series 7, giving her a new reason to come to the centre after Laura and Penny had been written out.
    • Even before the original writers left, Series 5, their final series, was much more continuity-driven than the previous 4 series, with an ongoing Story Arc about Brittas taking up a job in Brussels driving many of the plots of the episodes.
  • Latex Perfection: "The Stuff of Dreams" has Brittas, worrying about his mortality and wanting to push age awareness, disguise himself as an old man this way. The result is remarkably effective and it does dupe Colin (although Laura isn't convinced).
  • Life Isn't Fair: During "The Chop", Tim goes up to Brittas to complain that the game they were playing was unfair (as he was getting worse off despite being sensible with his money whilst Gavin was spending money like crazy and is still rich). Brittas, who is suffering from some personal issues (he has been threatened with mandatory retirement) replies with this:
    Gordon Brittas: That's life for you, Tim. Life is not fair. It never has been. In real life, it doesn't matter how hard you work or what you believe in, it's all based on luck. You work hard, you give it everything you've got, but at the end of the day, all you actually do is roll a dice. You roll the right number and you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Throw another number and it all goes down the sewers.
  • List of Transgressions: Gordon Brittas has quite a long list when he turns up in heaven including 115 separate acts of manslaughter, cause of 4 suicides, and 23 people driven clinically insane. They'd been counting up a while before he arrived too. Luckily for Gordon, he gets in anyway due to a Heroic Sacrifice performed just beforehand.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: ...Because the ceiling fell on him while he had a barbell stuffed down the back of his suit.
    Gordon Brittas: [modestly] I just happened to be the bloke under the beam at the time.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Subverted. Mr Brittas's wife Helen tries withholding sex as a sign of displeasure at a proposed move to Belgium in "Blind Devotion". A few weeks later she admits to a friend "it's been Hell!" for her while he hasn't even noticed.
  • Maintain the Lie: In “Biggles Tells a Lie”, Colin tells his daughter he is the manager of the leisure centre, even though he’s not. When she comes to visit, the other staff attempt to maintain the deception and eventually a sympathetic Brittas even joins in.
  • Mama Bear: When Carol thinks her baby is in danger, she's perfectly capable of commandeering a digger and using it to smash up Brittas' car. With him inside it.
    Carole: You won't put this on my resume, will you Mr. Brittas?
  • Man on Fire: Downplayed. In the episode, “Playing With Fire”, Gordon is trying to locate Colin. As he does this, he finds several small fires that were set up by Gavin’s long lost fiancee Jenny. As he is trying to put them out, the fire spreads onto his leg, causing him to go around partially on fire yelping “Help me! Help me!”.
  • Maternity Crisis: 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.
  • Messianic Archetype: Brittas has traits of this. For starters, his entire purpose in life is to spread peace and harmony throughout the world. Additionally, Series 5 starts with him being betrayed by one of his best friends, like Judas betraying Jesus, and ends with him committing a Heroic Sacrifice and dying before being resurrected. This is of course Played for Laughs - Brittas is more likely to spread chaos and disharmony than unity and the entire reason he was resurrected was that he proved to be Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: One of the Character Tics of Brittas is to emphasise anything he says with exaggerated hand movements. Lampshaded in "Two Little Boys", where it is possible to earn points for managing to get Brittas to do one of a series of specific gestures in the "I-Spy Brittas" game.
  • Mirror Character: Southern Areas Inspector Brian Kitson is this to Gordon Brittas. They both have had experience running a leisure centre, both have a dream, believe that attendance figures are not important in the long run and are more interested in tidy noticeboards and clean centres. This actually saves Brittas from getting fired as any other inspector would likely have closed the place down.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: A frequent occurrence in the series, with it being most important in "Bye Bye Baby", (where Carole's husband walks out on her because he is led to believe that she had cheated on him and produced a Chocolate Baby), and "Surviving Christmas" (where a mix-up in Christmas cards leads Helen to believe that Brittas and Carole are having an affair with each other).
  • Mistaken for Gay: Inverted. Brittas spends the majority of the series believing that Tim and Gavin are both single men who are still looking for female love. In truth, they're both gay and in a loving relationship with each other. There is an early episode where he suspects that Tim is gay at least, but he otherwise remains oblivious to both's true sexuality.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant:
    • Gordon Brittas spends an entire episode accusing 17 staff members of being pregnant, thanks to a mix-up in samples, including Tim Whistler. The pregnancy is eventually revealed to be Julie's.
    • Inverted in Series 2, where Brittas thinks that Carole is gaining weight when in reality, she is pregnant.
  • Mistaken for Undead: In the episode "Back From The Dead", Brittas is presumed to have been killed in Bulgaria. Naturally, he later turns up alive and well but a series of misunderstandings lead Carole and Colin to believe that he is a bodiless spirit and that he is trying to get back to the land of the living by taking Carole's body. Later, Carole believes that he is trying her son Ben's body for eternal youth and tries to crush Brittas' car with him inside it.
  • Monochrome Casting: The series is 100% white for pretty much its entire run, a good representation of semi-rural England.
  • Mood Whiplash: Brittas' death and funeral in "The Last Day" is played surprisingly seriously for the show, with everyone being very sad. However, this is then followed by a scene in the afterlife which has Brittas being his usual humorous annoying self, to the point where he is actually kicked out.
  • Moving Away Ending: Although not shown on-screen, Series 5 (then intended to be the final series) ends with this fate for several characters. Brittas (alongside his wife Helen and children) is due to be moving to Brussels to take up the role of European Commissioner of Sports, Carole is moving to Austria to teach singing lessons to a man's children, and Laura is moving to America to raise a child with her reconciled husband. When this proved to be a Series Fauxnale, some of the fates had to be backtracked. Brittas also had a stint being dead at the end of Series 5, so this is revealed to have led to him failing the medical for said job and the man who Carole was heading off with cheated with a nun, leading to both's return. Laura's departure stuck, however, and she's never mentioned again.

  • New Baby Episode:
    • The episode "New Generations" features Carole and a pregnant cow ingesting herbs (meant to induce pregnancy in overdue mothers) and going into labour as a result. Hilarity Ensues when a mix-up leads to Carole being tended to by the vet and the cow by a doctor. For bonus points, the episode ends with the reveal that Helen's pregnant with twins as well.
    • "The Stuff of Dreams" has Helen give birth to twins in the middle of the high street whilst being tended to bypassing medical students in the latter half of the episode.
    • Later on, "The Elephant's Child" has Julie give birth to a child in the leisure centre during a break-in orchestrated by Helen to steal her own fur-coat. She winds up naming the child after Gordon and Colin (who were present at the birth).
  • New Year Has Come: Although it was released as a Christmas Episode, the plot of 'In The Beginning' is closer to this. It features the former staff of Whitbury Leisure Centre coming together to celebrate New Year's Eve 2019 whilst flashing back to the time when they spent New Year's Eve 1989 snowed in the centre.
  • 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.
  • No Full Name Given: Angie (Brittas' secretary in the first series) is only referred to by her first name during her time on the show.
  • Non-Residential Residence: A key element of Carol's character is that not does she sleep in and live in a room in the leisure center, but that she raises her children in the cupboards and drawers behind the reception desk.
  • No Title: The first series didn't go out with any names. Averted come Series 2, which had titles provided for it via Radio Times listings, and from Series 3 onwards, where the title for the episode shows up in the episode proper.
  • Noodle Incident: All we find out about Gordon's training at Aldershot was that he caused three and a half million pounds' worth of damage, that he had to dig people out and that he won a medal for bravery and was promoted.
  • Number Two: For chrissakes, her name is even Laura Lancing.
  • 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. 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!
  • Off with His Head!: Although the camera cuts away before we see the chainsaw hit flesh, Gordon Brittas is stated to have accidentally cut off the head by accident of a South American gangster in the episode "The Trial".
  • Only Sane Employee: Laura, who is the only one to remain consistently normal whilst everyone else is either naively peculiar (Carole, Colin), or has gone peculiar after prolonged exposure to Brittas' style of management.
  • 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 series two, we have a veterinarian delivering a pair of twins in the sauna and a gynaecologist delivering a calf on 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.
  • The Pearly Gates: Gordon Brittas shows up here after his Heroic Sacrifice in "The Last Day". He is initially denied access by Saint Peter, but after they receive word of this sacrifice, let him in. They later kick him out through said gates because he's a git.
  • 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.
    • It's referred to, though not by name, in the very first episode, and it's implied that it's the only reason Gordon got the job in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Photo Memento:
    • In "Shall We Dance?", Laura gives Brittas some photographs from the time he spent building an arbour for her, with the intention that he keeps these photos as a memento of the hard work he did.
    • After a dramatic climax where Brittas saves several people from the burning ruins of the leisure centre (leading to him getting a George Medal and his job back) in "High Noon", the episode ends with the cast getting a photo taken of themselves sometime later in front of said centre.
  • Pocket Protector: Gordon gets shot three times by Julie's police bodyguard in "Reviewing the Situation". Luckily for Gordon, all three of the bullets hit his cigarette case with "I've been to Gravesend" (given by his wife as a gift) inscribed on it.
  • 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.
  • Politician Guest-Star: One episode had an appearance by MP at the time Sebastian Coe. He winds up chained to a side rail whilst an army of Romans rampage through the centre.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Brittas takes the recommendation in Sharing The Dream that his book would require a page of its contents... differently from what the publisher wanted and produces several pie charts of what it contains, including advice, discipline and weight. He is later disturbed to find out that he just needed a list of contents.
  • Post-Adventure Adventure: The story begins when the titular character is Kicked Upstairs from his previous job at Aldershot Leisure Centre. What little we do hear of it suggests that his time there was just as hectic (and also his fault) as with Whitbury (for one thing, it apparently ended with Brittas having to dig up people from some rubble and getting a medal for bravery) but we never see any of it.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: The centre's motto is Semper Omnibus Facultas, which Brittas translates it in "Underwater Wedding" to "Open to All".
  • Real After All: Colin spends the duration of the episode “Body Language” believing that aliens not only exist but are about to invade the centre due to a series of misunderstandings. At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that a plant brought in by Helen war actually an alien. It concludes that there is No Intelligent Life Here before warping out in front of a shocked Colin.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • In series 7, 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'.
    • The first episode of series 3 features Gordon playing with what he presumably assumes to be a toy pistol, which then naturally goes off and hits a wall.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated:
    • In "Back from the Dead", Brittas is presumed to be dead. In reality, he had spent about a week in a chicken coup in Bulgaria, with the mix-up being because someone had stolen his possessions and was wearing them when they were flattened.
    • In "Mr. Brittas Falls In Love", a girl who was having work experience at the centre, Rosemary Rawlinson, was believed to have been eaten by a shark. Thankfully, she turns out to have been huddling under a staircase and crying the whole time.
    • Later on in "Gavin Featherly R.I.P", Gavin is also believed to be dead after he is lost at sea. In reality, he was captured by Ruthless Modern Pirates.
  • Retcon: Several times:
    • The 1994 Christmas Special shows Julie working at the centre in 1991 mere days after it first opened. This contradicts Series 1, which had the long-lost Angie working there instead.
    • Initially, Carole's twins were a boy and a girl (Tom and Emily). However, by series 5, Tom had turned into a girl, Jessica.
    • Also, initially, Helen and Gordon had three children, Jonathan, Tom, and an unnamed third child. This increases to five with the birth of Matthew and Mark in Series 3. However, "Shall We Dance?" retcons this away by having Helen claim to have four children, which is maintained on into the end of the series.
  • Revolting Rescue: In "That Creeping Feeling", Colin gets bitten by a spider and will die unless someone sucks out the poison. Unfortunately, this involves doing so around the crotch and from a person known to be The Pigpen. Nonetheless, Brittas volunteers, which is enough for the staff, (who had been giving him the Silent Treatment earlier on for spying on them whilst they were changing to create fitness targets) to talk to him again.
  • Road Apples: General rule of thumb; if an animal appears on screen, expect their poop to be mentioned. Notable examples include a pigeon, a dog, and a cat pooping all over the gymnasium in “An Inspector Calls”, Brittas being dragged through emu poop in “The Old Old Story”, and both Brittas and Helen falling into elephant poop in “The Elephant’s Child”.
  • Rodent Cellmates: A side plot in "Set in Concrete" involves Ben becoming friends with a mouse, much to his mother Carole's horror. It is also suggested that the reason that Ben became friends with the mouse is that, having to spend much of his time playing in a cupboard whilst Carole works behind reception, he is probably in desperate need of company.
  • Romantic False Lead: Michael T. Farrell III, Laura's sleazy, estranged, billionaire American husband, who magically turns up in Whitbury just as the sexual tension between Laura and Gordon begins to take hold. Gordon is understandably pissed off.
  • Rule of Pool: Being a sitcom centred around a Leisure Centre, the show naturally has a pool as part of the main attraction. Surprisingly though, it takes until Series 6 for someone to actually be pushed into the pool, with Tim pushing Gavin into the pool during a lovers' tiff ("Back with a Bang") and a somewhat blinded Gavin pushing a woman into the pool by mistake ("Body Language") respectively.
  • Running Gag:
    • Brittas ordering leisure centre badges that get 'accidentally' misprinted as a matter of routine:
      "I've been to Whitbury Leisure Centre & swum in the poo"

      "'S'hitbury Leisure Centre"

      "I Fartied with Mr. Jolly"

      "I Piddled for a Medal"
    • 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 doughnut 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.
    • In the first 5 series, Brittas being conveniently interrupted just as he is about to wax about his Dream.
    • In the later series, Brittas using management tools that involve Fun with Acronyms.
  • 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.
  • Sadistic Choice: Councillor Druggett gives Brittas one of these in 'The Chop': Either he accepts responsibility for the the irregularity in the petty cash and resigns from his job, or his wife (who actually took it to buy a dog) accepts responsibility and goes to jail. He takes the blame and resigns. Luckily for Brittas, he doesn't lose it for long.
  • Sassy Secretary: Julie, Brittas' secretary from Series 2 onwards, usually never agrees with him on anything at all and is never without a snarky put-down at him.
  • Scale Model Destruction: Colin presents Brittas with a model of the leisure centre in “Back With A Bang", only for him to accidentally sit on it and destroy it later on.
  • 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.
  • Sex at Work: After discovering a pair of pants down the back of one of his couches in his main office, Brittas spends the majority of the episode trying to gather evidence that a "love nest" existed in the leisure centre. Whilst doing so, he discovers that Carole has started living in the centre, having recently been kicked out of her flat. Whilst trying to comfort her, a group of reporters (there for a different reason) barges in and, believing it to be a love nest, captures a photo and makes it headline news in the newspapers. Ultimately Subverted when the pants are revealed to have eventually come from a one night stand that his unemployed wife Helen had with someone not from the centre.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Brittas get shot in the episode 'Reviewing the Situation' due to Collin throwing him a water pistol in front of Julie's bodyguard.
  • Shout-Out: Series 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". Also doubles as an Actor Allusion.
  • The Show Must Go On: In the episode "Mums and Dads", the pianist that had been meant to play has been knocked unconscious by a piano and they need to find another one in the next half hour to start the concert planned that night. Unfortunately, a poor choice of words by Laura leads Brittas to play the piano instead. Cue Cringe Comedy.
  • Silent Treatment: In “That Creeping Feeling”, the majority of the staff refuse to speak to Brittas after he obtains their personal fitness targets through ... privacy-violating ways. They eventually start talking to him again after Brittas sucks the poison out of a spider inflicted wound in an ... awkward area of Colin.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: In the episode, "Sex, Lies, and Red Tape", Laura gives the confused Mr. Brittas a rather strong kiss after yelling about her unrelenting hatred of his idiocy.
  • Slapstick: Although the men are more susceptible to the slapstick, this doesn't mean that the women are immune. Helen, in particular, has given birth to twins in the middle of the street, headbutted a woman in the face for being called a bad mother, had all her muscles seize up, been puked on, gotten an embarrassing tattoo, sent to an insane asylum, electrocuted, chased by a shark, fell out of a plane, fell into a pile of elephant shit and tried to murder a reporter with an axe. Not to mention all her mental breakdowns and drug abuse which were all Played for Laughs.
  • Slipping into Stink: "The Elephant's Child" ends with Helen and Gordon Brittas falling into Elephant excrement. Even worse, Gordon manages to swallow a ring that had been swallowed by the elephant sometime before.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Gordon's father taught him to have an unshakable belief in his own abilities. It might have been a positive thing if he actually had any.
  • Snowed-In: The flashback sequences in the first Christmas Episode ("In The Beginning") sees the staff stuck at the leisure centre due to a severe winter storm in the final week of 1989. The major source of drama (and comedy) comes from them having to survive when they run out of food and electricity. They ultimately survive the experience and decide to come together every New Year's Eve onwards.
  • So Hideous, It's Terrifying: Colin. He's quite grimy and not the most pleasant to look at, and it doesn't help that one of his Running Gags involves the most disgusting things happening to him. One episode had a group of fleeing pool-goers try to get his autograph because they thought that he was the monster from A Nightmare on Elm Street, whilst another had him realize that this was the case when he is replaced for an exposive documentary on the centre with a more conventionally handsome actor because his appearance was too disgusting for TV, not helped by him remembering that his face was always being covered in the school plays he was in.
  • 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.
  • Spiders Are Scary: "That Creeping Feeling" had someone try to assassinate Brittas by sending over a mating pair of extremely (as in, the poison kills in minutes) venomous spiders to the centre. The female ate the male in transit and eventually bit Colin in an unmentionable area, leading to Brittas having to Suck Out the Poison in order to save his life.
  • Spin-Off: Get Fit with Brittas, a short miniseries released in 1997 which focuses on Brittas giving out exercise tips to the general public.
  • 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.
  • Sticky Fingers: It is revealed in the episode "Sex, Lies, and Red Tape" that every time Helen falls pregnant, she gains the urge to shoplift unnecessary stuff (one of the things shoplifted was a wedding dress that was too small for her). She had been convicted at least seven times before the events of that episode, leading to her freaking out when she was caught.
  • Sticky Situation: Gordon gets stuck (with super-glue) to various stuff over the course of "The Trial", culminating in him getting stuck to a chainsaw.
    Gordon: Can I have the solvent, Carol?
  • Straight Gay: Although not outright stated, it is made very clear that Tim and Gavin are in a relationship. Most of the humour from their relationship however instead comes from Gordon Brittas' obliviousness to it and they lack the traits associated with Camp Gay.
  • Suck Out the Poison: Colin gets bitten by a deadly tropical spider in 'That Creeping Feeling' and , due to the antidote being a considerable distance away, the only way to keep him alive long enough is to do this. Unfortunately, Colin had the misfortune of being bit near the crotch area. Brittas volunteers to do so and win back the respect of the staff, who had been refusing to speak to him at the time (He had been creating fitness targets for them by spying on them and violating their privacy).
  • 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!
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Penny, the health spa manager was an obvious replacement for Laura, with both being the female Only Sane Employee of the centre. The only real difference is that whilst Laura was liked by the staff, Penny was The Friend Nobody Likes.
    • Before that, Julie was one for Angie, with both being Brittas' blonde-haired Northern sassy secretaries.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: Gordon demands Tim take his clothes off to prove that he isn't a pregnant woman in "Pregnant!". When Tim refuses, Gordon rather disturbingly assaults him and attempts to rip his clothes off. Thankfully, Gavin comes in and punches Gordon in the face, which breaks his nose, in a bid to rescue Tim. This actually earns Gavin a permanent Deputy Manager position.
  • Talking with Signs: The beginning of the episode "Sex, Lies and Red Tape", has Gordon go on a sponsored silence to fund raise for a trampoline. As a result, to continue running the centre, he communicates with the staff through the usage of written signs, which becomes problematic when he has to take a call for Helen.
  • Temporary Blindness: In the episode "Blind Devotion", Colin is rendered temporarily blinded, courtesy of his garden blowing up. This proves to be only the beginning of a Trauma Conga Line for him in that episode.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in this case - A plot point in Series 1 and 2 is Helen trying to get marriage counselling for her and Brittas, although it ends poorly when Brittas is suspected of cheating on her. Additionally, by Series 7, it's revealed that most of the staff are in therapy thanks to Brittas and a plotline during the series has Helen becoming one herself.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The flashbacks in "The Trial", which involved the deaths of seven gangsters and the grievous bodily harm inflicted on several elderly people, is noted to have taken place on Friday the Thirteenth.
  • Tie-In Novel: Gordon Brittas: Sharing the Dream, released in 1994, is a book which gives us Brittas' perspective of the events of the first four series, as well as his philosophy of life and how to make it in the world.
  • Toilet Humour: Mainly focused around whatever gross physical ailment has befallen Colin this episode, but not entirely. Examples include characters falling into and being dragged through animal poop, rats being flushed down toilets, and the audience of a Christening held in one of the bathrooms ignorantly eating piss-covered cake.
  • Training from Hell: After Gavin is promoted to Acting Deputy Manager, Gordon puts him through extreme "disaster training". Poor Gavin is led to believe a tanker full of ethanol chloride has crashed into a milk float outside 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.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: 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.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: During "The Last Day", Gordon Brittas dies and goes into Heaven. After some time, Saint Peter and the other denziens of heaven become annoyed by Brittas' annoying personality and they get orders from upstairs to return him back to earth for another couple of decades.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Happens twice:
    • In "Blind Devotion", Colin becomes temporarily blinded, and loses his aunt, pet canary, and life savings in quick succession. This is also revealed to occur on his birthday no less.
    • In "Curse Of The Tiger Woman", Gordon Brittas loses his only friend to cursed cooking, finds out he is the father to Carole's twins, and is threatened with early retirement. Capping things off, the centre is about to explode, he is attacked by a goose and then finds out that the past seven series were All Just a Dream.
  • Truncated Theme Tune: Had its theme tune shortened from the sixth series onward, along with the removal of the creator credits from the title sequence.
  • 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.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born:
    • An odd subversion with Carole, who initially gave birth to a boy and girl (Tom and Emily Parkinson) at the end of Series 2. Tom was then retconned to a girl (now known as Jessica) in Series 5, now making them single-gender twins.
    • Averted with the twins Helen gives birth to at the end of Series 3, who are the male Matthew and Mark Brittas.
  • Urine Trouble: In "Blind Devotion", Colin leaves the manager's office to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, he has been temporarily blinded, so he winds up going back to the office and relieves himself on one of the potted plants in the office. Right in front of Brittas and Laura too.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The episode “Assassin” revolved around a man who was trying to kill the titular character. His first attempt at doing this was to cut Brittas’ car brakes. Of course, this fails, although Helen is injured as a result.
  • Verbal Tic: When Carole is hypnotised in the episode "Mr Brittas Changes Trains", she would (sub-consciously) end every sentence she said with a noise similar to that of a bullfrog call.
  • 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...
  • War Reenactors: The episode "Not A Good Day" had members of the Classical War Society (who were re-enacting the Roman era) besiege the centre (complete with an elephant).
  • We Can Rebuild Him: After his return from the dead, Brittas had to undergo extensive surgery. Although outwardly, he looks no different, he's stated to have a bionic butt, no belly button, and has enough metal parts within him that it wound up delaying his trip through a metal detector. He's also stated to be much stronger, gaining a Crushing Handshake and at one point lifting Linda up into the air with ease.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Where exactly is Whitbury? From what can be gathered, it's somewhere in Southern England and references to Ringwood (the filming location in real life) pop up from time to time, but there isn't anything definite.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The episode "In the Beginning" is this, flashing back to the first winter of the leisure centre and telling the tale of how everyone got snowed in over New Year's Day and bonded as a result.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Occurs in the first Christmas Episode:
    Brittas: No one is going anywhere. There's a force eight blizzard blowing out there, a windchill factor of minus thirty and some of those drifts are over twenty feet deep. Only a lunatic would go out in conditions like that!
    Helen: (outside, on top of the thick snow) Hello, Gordon? Can you let me in?
  • Who's Your Daddy?: Carole spends a considerable portion of the episode "Temple Of The Body" trying to find out the father of her unborn twins. Unfortunately for her, all she knows is that it was conceived at a New Year's party (the father had been wearing an animal suit at the time). Not helping matters was that the rugby team had gatecrashed the party, expanding the list of potential fathers considerably. It is revealed in the episode that the father was none other than Gordon Brittas himself, although he and Carole don't find out until the very end of the show.
  • Workout Fanservice: The opening credits is this, being just Gordon Brittas using various pieces of fitness equipment and exercising in shorts and a t-shirt.
  • 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?


"A VET!"

When Carole goes into labour, Brittas has no choice but to bring a vet in, much to the horror of Laura.

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