(think 'Allo! 'Allo!
- only with possibly even fewer laughs), shown on BBC 1
for most of the Nineties
. Christ knows
how this ever got commissioned in the first place, let alone how it ran for most of a decade
. It's strangely watchable
in a totally unfunny
The situation... concerns the life and work of Gordon Brittas (Chris Barrie), a leisure centre manager and a truly loathsome creation. Brittas is a horribly petty bureaucrat, is gruesomely smug and self-satisfied, and truly believes that he's performing some great service to the community by running a swimming pool and a gym. He's oblivious to the chaos that seems to follow his every move, dismissing the staff's urgent cries for help with incessently recurring lines ("Now, now Colin, what seems to be the problem...") delivered in a nerve-grating nasal Brummie whine.
Taking a leaf from the Croft and Perry book (of knuckle-dragging unfunny music hall shite), the show has numerous running gags. The receptionist (Carol) has an increasing number of children living in the cupboards behind her counter. (I believe this gag started with a baby-in-a-drawer, and grimly escalated over a number of years.) We later find out that one or all of these offspring were sired by Gordon, who mistook Carol for his wife (the Valium-popping Helen) at a staff fancy dress party.
Other characters in the show include the pestilent Colin (a maintenance man with a proliferation of boils and rashes, usually found shovelling sewage or sick or something equally unpleasant), the gay couple Tim and Gavin (possibly the most overly-subtle portrayal of homosexuality in television history), Brittas's assistant Laura, and an annoying woman with a Lancastrian accent (Carole).
The plot (ahem) usually involves one or more comedic misunderstandings. The situation gets further and further out of hand until catastrophe strikes, possibly wounding some guests but failing to dent Brittas's shell of optimism. Though its tea-time slot means that most of the content is fairly humdrum, there have been some alarmingly sick plot twists. As well as the kids in the cupboards, we have seen Brittas being attacked by a goose, shot, blown up, and accidentally decapitating a guest with a chainsaw (while trying to cut through a door). The final episode had Brittas fantasising he was Noah, feeding people poisoned cake and at the final moment waking up to find himself on a train with his wife, heading for his first day in the job (as was the setting of the very first episode).
The other notable point about this evil, evil programme is the colour scheme. Nearly everyone wears lurid turquoise tops, and the Whitbury Newtown Leisure Centre itself is similarly unsightly. It probably wasn't intentional to make the show look so nasty originally (it was 1991 after all), but the producers stuck with the crappy costumes and naff video quality for all 7 series. I suspect that this was a conscious decision as it highlights the shear awfulness of the situation and the tiresome weakness of the comedy. It's like a little nightmare world. Like Fawtly Towers with its soul removed.