More TV Memories – Get Fit With Brittas.

Get Fit With Brittas (BBC1, 1997)

The Brittas Empire was one of my favourite sitcoms of the 90s. There were seven series with lots of memorable moments, even though the final episode really did have the most awful cop-out ending. But this wasn’t the last that we would see of the leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas, as played by Chris Barrie. There was actually one more series after this, although it is little-remembered by comparison now.

Get Fit With Brittas was a six-part series shown on Friday nights where every edition was just ten minutes long. This was a part-comedy part-education series where Mr Brittas offered advice on various types of fitness. A few of the other cast members also appeared, including the hapless Colin, along with various celebrities who spoke about what they like to do to keep themselves fit. vlcsnap-00418

So for example, Lesley Joseph of Birds Of A Feather fame was rather keen on aerobics, and encouraged Brittas to join in as well, so he got his leotard on. Also taking part in the series were various sportspeople who told us why running, jumping and so on, was rather a good idea too. And there were also features from various people on how they changed their lifestyle which helped them to get fitter. vlcsnap-00420

The basic idea of the show was to encourage viewers to have a go at trying something themselves, whatever level of skill and fitness they were at. And well, why not try going to a leisure centre. Preferably not the one run by Brittas though, where it was chaos. There were so many people running around at some points, that I got exhausted just watching this. It was proof that it was good to have a hobby. vlcsnap-00421

There was also a tie-in book released which offered more advice on information on how to get moving. Unlike the regular series, Get Fit With Brittas wasn’t ever released on VHS or DVD. There have been a lot of rumours, especially in the past few years, that The Brittas Empire will return to the screen one day. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but until then, this is the closest that we’ll get to an eighth series.

The Comedy Vault – The Brittas Empire Christmas Special.

The Brittas Empire Christmas Special (BBC1, 1994)

The Brittas Empire is one of my favourite sitcoms from the 90s and there were a couple of Christmas specials made, so here’s a review of the one shown in 1994 called “In The Beginning”. This episode is set at the end of 2019 which would have been 25 years away when it was originally shown, but now is barely a couple of years in the future which is rather remarkable.

Every year on New Year’s Eve the staff reunite at a castle in Scotland to remember when the Leisure Centre opened which was the time that they first met one another, with this occasion being the 30th anniversary, although most of them have gone to have success in much different areas in the years that have passed. For example, Gavin is now a politician, Carole is a concert pianist, and Tim is a novelist. vlcsnap-00171

There are some continuity errors in this episode. Firstly, it states that the Leisure Centre opened in late-1989 when it was early-1991, and the flashback also features the series five cast, at least one of which didn’t appear in the first series. We discover what happened at the start, Christmas 1989 has just passed, but there has been a heavy snowstorm, and no-one is able to leave. How will they fill the time? vlcsnap-00174

As the days pass, they begin to despair. They are beginning to run out of food, it is still very cold, Colin is having trouble with his boiler, and Mr Brittas is struggling to keep the morale up. They then realise that a lorry that crashed outside was containing costumes for a play, and they will come in very useful. And they see in the New Year together by having a party, before the snow finally clears and they can go home. vlcsnap-00164

The difficult situation helped them to bond though, and despite some of them now being successful millionaires, everyone still takes the time to fly round the world to attend this special occasion every year to meet old friends including Mr Brittas who now has a knighthood, seemingly for his services to solving all the world’s problems. Well, it was his dream. vlcsnap-00162

I’m fairly sure that this was supposed to be the final episode of The Brittas Empire, as everything had been concluded, but due to popular demand Mr Brittas actually returned to cause chaos for another two series, and this was also the final episode that was written by Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss who were also the creators of the show. Earlier this year the cast of The Brittas Empire reunited 20 years after the show came to an end, it was great seeing them back together again, who knows if there will ever be any more episodes?

The Comedy Vault – The Brittas Empire.

The Brittas Empire (BBC1, 1991-1997)

This was a great sitcom that starred the talent of Chris Barrie and was created and written by Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss. One day the enthusiastic Gordon Brittas arrives at the newly-opened Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre to become the manager. He has a dream that soon people who enjoy sport from all walks of life will be playing with one another on the gymnasium floor, but he often has trouble working with his staff and getting enough people in to use the facilities on offer because he is a by-the-book busybody. vlcsnap-01698

As well as Brittas, there were so many other memorable characters. He is married to the long-suffering Helen. Of course there is the idea as to why she would put up with him at all but they already have some children and in one episode she later gives birth to twins. When Brittas first meets his staff they are ready to work with him but soon become irritated with his style even though they see that he wants the best for everyone. vlcsnap-01702

There is the deputy manager Laura who does find it difficult to work with Brittas but does admire him. There is also the handyman Colin who seems to enjoy working with Brittas the most, even if it does sometimes means he ends up being electrocuted. There are also the coaches including the young Linda and Gavin and Tim who are constantly bickering with one another. vlcsnap-01703

There is also the receptionist Carole who is a very upset woman who likes to keep her children in the draws because she doesn’t have anywhere to live, and from the second series Julie becomes Brittas’s secretary but she doesn’t want to ever do any work for him, often answering him by simply saying “I’m busy!” which was about as close as the show got to having a catchphrase. vlcsnap-01699

There were so many great episodes throughout the seven series. Just to pick a few examples of the ones that I always like to go back to watch again include the time that Colin pretended to be the manager to try and impress his long-lost daughter, when Brittas’s twin brother Horatio turned up to announce that he was going to get married, and the leisure centre also seemed to explode on various occasions thanks to some sensational stunts. vlcsnap-01700

It looked like the show would end after the fifth series, but it seems that you really can’t keep a good character down and even Brittas seemingly being crushed by a water tank couldn’t stop him from enforcing his ludicrous ideas on his staff. The show eventually ran for seven series and over 50 episodes, although different writers worked on the final two series. All the series have also been released on DVD with a few interesting extras such as when the cast performed a short sketch at the 1996 Royal Variety Performance. vlcsnap-01701

I don’t remember seeing the final episode of The Brittas Empire at the time in 1997, but there seemed to be a buzz about it with lots of people wondering how it would all end. I finally saw it on a repeat run on UK Gold a few years later and it seemed to insist it that none of the show ever happened which was a rather disappointing way to conclude, but at its best it was a very good sitcom.

The Brittas Empire is definitely one of my favourite sitcoms from the early-90s and it remarkable to realise that the first series launched on BBC1 25 years ago this month. Chris Barrie as Gordon Brittas was always great, annoying people with his plans and his irritating voice, and he was also giving good value in BBC2’s sitcom Red Dwarf which ran at the same time. There have also been rumours recently that the show might return, but we’ll just have to wait and see for now.