Running from 1991 to 1997, The Brittas Empire was a classic comedy series that was massively popular at the time. Starring Chris Barrie in a role that he seemed born to play, leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas was one of those characters that you could see was always trying to do the right thing, yet always got it wrong.
The show has developed a real cult following and strong fan base over the years, now let’s take a look back at the show with some facts you may not have known about The Brittas Empire.
10. Hardly any of the show was filmed in an actual leisure centre
In spite of managing to look the part throughout, much of The Brittas Empire was actually filmed in a studio rather than a leisure centre, making the look of the show even more impressive.
On occasions when a real leisure centre was needed for some of the shots in and around Whitbury Newtown Leisure Centre, the Ringwood Health and Leisure Centre in Hampshire was used. The town of Ringwood was also used for other exterior scenes.
9. Barrie was filming Brittas Empire and Red Dwarf at the same time
The Brittas Empire ran for much of the 1990s – and as fans of leading man Chris Barrie will remember, this wasn’t the actor’s only hit TV sitcom at the time.
Back to back with this, Barrie was also busy playing Arnold Rimmer in an sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, giving him a difficult schedule to juggle.
8. Brittas and Arnold Rimmer had one very specific thing in common
One detail from Gordon Brittas’ history is that he served one day on the Samaritans switchboard, on which all the people he spoke to wound up committing suicide, including one person who got the wrong number.
Red Dwarf fans will find this extremely familiar, as we are told that the exact same thing happened to Barrie’s character Arnold Rimmer.
7. The show’s body count was surprisingly high
For a gentle comedy series, The Brittas Empire actually featured a very high body count, and got a lot grislier than you might have remembered.
with people electrocuted in swimming pools, mob shoot-outs and even the decapitation of an already dead man with a chainsaw.
6. An ex-Doctor Who was the first choice to play Gordon Brittas
It’s very hard to think of anyone other than Barrie in the main role of Gordon Brittas, but he wasn’t the first choice for the role.
Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor Who actor also known for TV series All Creatures Great and Small, was offered The Brittas Empire first.
5. Barrie played Brittas in a series of public information films about fitness
The Brittas Empire took a distinctly light-hearted, even sarcastic look at the leisure and fitness industry, but at one point the character of Gordon Brittas appeared in a number of short films intended to teach viewers about the real importance of fitness.
Get Fit With Brittas was a short series of public information films each lasting under 10 minutes, starring Barrie as Brittas.
4. Brittas was supposed to die at the end of series 5
The show was only meant to run for five seasons (plus a Christmas special), with Gordon Brittas being killed off at the end. However, the show’s popularity prompted a change of plan.
The Brittas Empire was instead brought back with a different writing team for a further two seasons – and another Christmas special.
3. The show’s actual ending was highly unpopular
In the final episode of the show, it is revealed that the whole of the seven series had been a dream of Mr Brittas’ on his way to start his time as the new manager at the leisure centre.
Many fans don’t like the “it was a dream” ending and critics also felt it was a poor way to finish the show.
2 It was voted one of Britain’s best sitcoms
The Brittas Empire never seems to have enjoyed the same cult status as Barrie’s other sitcom Red Dwarf, but clearly it has long been well-remembered among viewers.
A 2004 poll held by the BBC to find Britain’s Best Sitcom saw The Brittas Empire make the list, coming in at a respectable 47th place.
1. Brittas briefly returned in 2014
In 2014, 17 years after the end of The Brittas Empire, Barrie reprised the role of Gordon Brittas for Sports Relief.
Barrie (by then aged 54) appeared as Brittas in the Little Mix video for their song Word Up, which also featuring Melanie C, AKA Sporty Spice.