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The Brittas Empire

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7.7/10 TV

Country of origin  United Kingdom
First episode date  3 January 1991
Network  BBC One
7.3/10 IMDb

Theme music composer  Frank Renton
No. of series  7
Final episode date  24 February 1997
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Created by  Andrew NorrissRichard Fegen
Directed by  Mike StephensChristine Gernon
Starring  Chris BarriePippa HaywoodJulia St. JohnMichael BurnsRussell PorterTim MarriottHarriet ThorpeJudy FlynnAndrée BernardAnouschka MenziesJill GreenacreStephen ChurchettJohn Carrigan
Cast  Chris Barrie, Pippa Haywood, Harriet Thorpe, Julia St John, Russell Porter

The brittas empire series 1 episode 1 part 1 of 3

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


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The show ran for seven series and 53 episodes — including two Christmas specials — from 1991 to 1997 on BBC1. Norriss and Fegen wrote the first five series, after which they left the show.

The Brittas Empire BBC confirm Brittas Empire return TV amp Radio Showbiz amp TV

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

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

The brittas empire series 5 episode 1 part 1

Plot summary

The Brittas Empire BBC Comedy The Brittas Empire

Gordon Brittas (played by Chris Barrie) is the well-meaning but incompetent manager of Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. He trained at the fictional Aldershot Leisure Centre. Completely tactless, totally annoying and forever coming up with 'half-baked' ideas (and oblivious to all of his aforementioned faults), Brittas is frequently upsetting his staff, public, and his frazzled wife Helen, often bringing confusion and chaos into their lives.

The Brittas Empire List of The Brittas Empire characters Wikipedia

Helen Brittas (Pippa Haywood) finds it increasingly difficult to cope with Gordon, and often turns to pills and affairs with other men to maintain her sanity. She is also helped by supportive friend Laura Lancing (Julia St. John), Brittas's calm and efficient deputy. Laura (though she is fully aware of his incompetence) has a grudging admiration for Brittas whom she regards as honest and decent - unlike her former husband (who in one episode tries to buy his way back into her affections by making a large donation to the centre).

Brittas's other deputy — the dim-witted Colin Weatherby (Michael Burns) — has several skin allergies and an infected hand. Though he is technically an assistant manager, he works as the centre's caretaker. Carole (Harriet Thorpe) is the unfortunate and often tearful receptionist who keeps her three children in the drawers of the reception desk. Amongst other members of the team is Julie (Judy Flynn), the sarcastic secretary who hates her boss and refuses to do any work. Lively Linda (played by Jill Greenacre), gentle-hearted Gavin (Tim Marriott), and his paranoid partner Tim (Russell Porter) are more co-operative members of the team.

Carole's son Ben was played by Jonathon Norriss.

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

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


The Brittas Empire was broadcast for fifty-two episodes between 1991 and 1997, spanning seven series and two Christmas Specials, along with one short episode for Children in Need. Series one, two and three in 1993, and series four and five both aired in 1994. The Brittas Empire then returned to BBC1 for three final series, and the cast also performed in the 1996 Royal Variety Performance. Chris Barrie played Brittas again in the short fitness series spin-off, Get Fit with Brittas.

For the first five series the show's creators Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss co-wrote the show, after which they left, along with actress Julia St John who played Laura. Series five was originally meant to be the final series, and Norriss and Fegen killed off Brittas at its end, when he was crushed to death by a falling water tank.

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

'Curse of the Tiger Women' is the final episode in 1997. This ending claims all seven series were part of a dream that Brittas is having on his way to the job interview for manager of the leisure centre. It is an ending that is regarded as poor by many critics and viewers, and contradicts the 1994 Christmas Special by Fegen and Norriss, showing what happens to the staff post-Whitbury Leisure Centre.

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

DVD and VHS releases

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

  • The VHS title: Brittas Empire - The Stuff of Dreams was released on 7 August 1995, and features the episodes: 'The Christening' (Series 4: Episode 2), 'The Stuff of Dreams' (Series 3: Episode 6) and 'Not a Good Day' (Series 4: Episode 1).
  • Then on 2 April 1997, The Brittas Empire - Laying the Foundations VHS was released; it features: 'Laying the Foundations' (Series 1: Episode 1), 'Back from the dead' (Series 2: Episode 1), 'Set in Concrete' (Series 2: Episode 4), 'An Inspector Calls' (Series 2: Episode 3) and 'The Trial' (Series 3: Episode 1).
  • From 2003, Eureka Video began bringing the entire series to DVD, in single series box sets. The Brittas Empire - Complete Series One was released on 21 July 2003, followed by series two on 20 October 2003, and then series three was released on 29 January 2004. Series four was released in the same year on 29 July, and the final series by Norriss and Fegen, series five, was released on 4 October 2004.
  • The Brittas Empire, Complete Series Six was released on 21 February 2005, and the final series along with the 1997 Christmas Special, was released on 23 May 2005.
  • The Brittas Empire, Complete Series One-Seven, a set comprising the entire series, was released on 8 October 2007. However the complete series DVD set is no longer in production and is now out of print). But due to the popularity of the show the boxset fetches upwards of £50 on eBay, almost three times the price it was usually sold for.
  • Critical response

    Critics John Lewis and Penny Stempel commented that:

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


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


    The exterior shots of 'Whitbury Leisure Centre' were filmed at Ringwood Leisure Centre, Hampshire. The interior shots of the swimming pools seen in the show were also shot there.


    The Brittas Empire Wikipedia