A visit from Sebastian Coe (OBE), a bad case of lockjaw,
a hypnotist who leaves the staff doing animal impressions,
a staff member's long-lost daughter and a cabaret dog whose
repertoire includes removing ladies' bras and unzipping men's
flies are all part of the job at Whitbury New Town Leisure
his reviews of the previous three series, my colleague and
boss (so I'd better watch what I say here) Darren Rea compared
The Brittas Empire to Fawlty Towers. However,
personally I feel there's a crucial difference between Gordon
Brittas (Chris Barrie) and Basil Fawlty. Whereas Fawlty's
defining characteristic is that he loses his rag at the slightest
provocation, the crux of Brittas' character is that he tends
to remain annoyingly calm and relaxed, whatever the situation.
Only when things turn truly disastrous do we hear a note of
tension in his irritating nasal voice or see a look of panic
cross his face - as happens in the penultimate episode, The
least Darren and I agree that The Brittas Empire improved
enormously after its first series. By this, the fourth series,
the show has moved beyond mere slapstick pratfalls and cartoon
violence (though there are still plenty of those to enjoy).
What makes this particular set of episodes so special is the
development of the relationship between Gordon and this deputy,
Laura (Julia St John). Their unspoken mutual love is evidenced
in no fewer than four episodes. There are also some remarkably
poignant moments involving other characters, such as when
a satisfied (!) customer tells Brittas how much she and her
daughter enjoyed themselves in Not a Good Day and when
Carole (Harriet Thorpe) yet again fails to find love and happiness
in Shall We Dance?
Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen's scripts also break out
of the sitcom norm when The Chop ends on a cliffhanger,
which leads into the - as is traditional for Brittas
- spectacular and calamitous final episode, High Noon.
A rather meagre selection of special features merely comprises
a stills gallery and a web link. On a technical note, the
design of the menu screens can make it hard to see which option
you have selected.
never mind that. This collection is well worth buying for
its eight excellent episodes alone.