The Brittas Empire
The Complete Series Seven

Starring: Chris Barrie and Pippa Haywood
Eureka Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 23 May 2005

Gordon Brittas continues to dream up new schemes to promote and improve Whitbury Leisure Centre, including a bungee jump, staff reviews and computerisation - all with his usual diplomacy, aplomb and mayhem. Colin has several tons of elephant manure delivered, puts a frog in his trousers, and lets a rat take a dip in the pool. Meanwhile, Helen Brittas is studying to be a therapist. Uh oh...

The seventh series of The Brittas Empire is a slight improvement on the sixth one, thank goodness, though its first two episodes, The Elephants' Child and Reviewing the Situation, barely raised a smirk on the face of this reviewer. At least the production team had the good sense to get rid of the unfunny character of Penny Bidmead, who is casually written out by means of a passing comment that the Sauna and Solarium franchise is up for renewal.

The hi-tech havoc that ensues in http://etc works rather better, as do the truly bizarre events that unfold in Wake Up the Lion Within, The Disappearing Act and Curse of the Tiger Women. Wake Up the Lion Within sees the timid Carole (Harriet Thorpe) unleashing her assertive alter ego. She then goes on to become deputy manager and eventually replaces Brittas (Chris Barrie) himself! You think it's all going to turn out to be a dream, but incredibly it doesn't - that familiar old device is saved for a later episode. And watch out for the Alice in Wonderland references in The Disappearing Act.

Curiously, the best episode in this two-disc collection isn't even one of the main features. It's the Christmas special, Surviving Christmas, which originally aired a couple of weeks before the seventh series and which is listed here among the special features. This instalment contains some of the series' best lines, including Gordon's: "You'll have to forgive my wife - she's a woman!" Why it wasn't decided to list this instalment among the main episodes on disc one - or, even better, tack it on the end of Series Six, which runs an episode shorter than Series Seven - I do not know.

Following in a close second place is Gavin Featherly R.I.P., which, as you've probably guessed from the title, depicts the staff's reactions when Gavin (Tim Marriott) goes missing, presumed dead.

The only other extra is a stills gallery, though this mainly contains images that are used on the product's packaging anyway. The discs' presentation is also let down by some dodgy encoding, which causes the picture to lose resolution on several occasions, seemingly as a result of rapidly changing light levels.

As I have said, this series is an improvement on the previous one, but it's still not what Brittas would describe as "ehhhhhxcellent".

Richard McGinlay

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