Brittas Empire #1: “The Opening Day” (1.2)

Here’s another strain of reviews, this time on the successful 1990s sitcom “The Brittas Empire”, another ensemble piece set in a Leisure Centre in the English Home Counties. The idea of this programme was to present an insufferably annoying, pedantically bureaucratic and downright incompetent manager Gordon Brittas and document the resulting disasters in his attempts to serve his public.

I started recording these at the 2nd episode. This one is about the preparations for the notional grand opening of the leisure centre, with the Duchess of York (a middle-ranking royal familiar at the time from making presentations at several major sporting events) supposedly due to arrive later on in the day. However, the building has several major issues (such as malfunctioning doors, a overfed boiler and a leaking swimming pool). Brittas in the meantime marches around his leisure centre and remains oblivious to the chaos about to arrive.

This chaos is rather impressive as a disaster movie unfolds: both in its presentation (the flooded boiler room for example) and the dramatics: particularly the baby basket getting jammed in the automatic doors (and Carol’s crazed reaction). I also rather liked how the writers Fegen & Norris handled the structure: initially Brittas wandering around annoying people, then his peeved reactions to the problems arising and then a smug desperation and chaos and failure arrive, in the midst of which he remains guided by his arrogance and petty snobbery. Verdict 3/5

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