"In my book, a leisure centre isn't for playing sport,
it's a cathedral for the modern community."
But its blending of workplace and domestic comedy is lame and clumsy, and it is far too obviously a vehicle for former Red Dwarf star Chris Barrie. His one-dimensional style was fine for the role of the obnoxious hologram Rimmer. When cast in the role of a flesh and blood character, his approach lacks just that: flesh and blood. Clearly Brittas is not supposed to be likeable, but the way in which his long-suffering, adulterous and Valium-addicted wife (Philippa Haywood) discusses him with her female confidantes implies a well-intentioned bungler who deserves our sympathy, if not our respect. After all, even David Brent has moments of high pathos. And where Ricky Gervais captures the essence of modern day bullying management is in Brent's ingratiating, shirt-sleeved matey-ness. Barrie as Brittas on the other hand is just a cold fish in a black blazer with an annoying nasal voice. The Royal Variety Performance sketch demonstrates that his broad style works better in a cabaret sketch format than in the TV series.
Unfortunately, Barrie is about the only thing The Brittas Empire has going for it, apart from the two female supporting actresses (Haywood, and Julia St. John) who bravely struggle to play their roles straight. The show has a few hit-and-miss attempts at black comedy, which often end up coming across as cheap and ham-fisted. Like the theme tune, which is as irritatingly crass and chirpy as Brittas is, they are more likely to grate rather than to amuse. It is the show's earache inducing refrain - and the running gag about the personal hygiene problems of Brittas' hapless subordinate, Colin - that are my main memories of this show.
DVD extras: Brittas Fitness Quiz, Royal Variety Performance 1996, star profile, and a stills gallery.