Over twelve years after the first broadcast, Series One of The Brittas Empire has finally been released in its entireity, thanks to Eureka Video. Eeeeeexcellent.
Prior to this release, only the pilot episode, Laying the Foundations, had been released, on a rubbish ‘Best of’ compilation some years back. Now, however, it is joined by the rest of the opening series – Opening Day, Bye Bye Baby, Underwater Wedding, Stop Thief and Assassin. Of course, these are not official titles, just ones given to the episodes by the fans.
I cannot stress enough how brilliant it is to have Brittas on shiny disc. Although the first series isn’t quite up to the standard of later ones, which is perfectly understandable, it’s still a top-notch sit-com. The better episodes are the ones that degenerate into farce, such as Opening Day and the superlative Underwater Wedding. The characters aren’t fully realised at this point, however, and Angie, played by Andrée Bernard, is rubbish. Nevertheless, the series is highly watchable and provides a nice taster of the sheer brilliance to come.
The sound and picture quality on the DVD is great. This is the best print of Brittas I’ve seen in a long time, far better than the one currently being used on Granada Plus. Perhaps this is due to the low capacity utilisation of the discs – spreading six episodes over two discs hardly stretches the capabilities of DVD, but does lead to a better bitrate. Also, Eureka may have chosen to split the series in this manner in preperation for later series, which were up to eight episodes long, two of which having a corresponding Christmas Special. Despite the sound being in mono, (which was presumably the norm at the time, although Red Dwarf IV, made round about the same time, is in stereo), it doesn’t sound too bad, and there is some element of depth.
The extras here are few and far between, but this is understandable as the DVD is released by an independant company, who don’t necesserily have access to the archives and resources of the BBC. The most interesting extra is the 1996 Royal Variety Performance; it’s not particuarly funny, but it’s good to see the effort being made to release rare footage. There is also a multiple-choice quiz, which is not too difficult if you do it just after watching the series. It would be nice to have some sort of reward at the end, as is the convention for DVD quizzes. Another good extra is the Management Notice Board, which contains some good trivia notes for the series, some of which even I didn’t know. There’s also a profile of Chris Barrie, which is extraordinarily complete, and a small collection of stills. Finally, there is a trailer for Series Two, comprising of a montage of clips and a ‘coming soon’ message.
The packaging is lovely. Although I normally disapprove of digi-packs, this one is very nicely done, with none of the wasted space that is normally associated with them. As well of some well-doctored stills, with the characters set against red-tinted backgrounds, there are details of the chapters and a complete cast list for each episode. Similarly, the discs look lovely, with a picture of Brittas on Disc One and Helen of Disc Two. The menus are also good; a compilation of clips in the background, with Chris Barrie pulling a funny face in the foreground. What more could one ask for?
As I’ve already said, it’s great to see Brittas on shiny disc, and Eureka Video have done a good job with it. It would have been nice to see more extras (I’m sure Mike Stephens and Chris Barrie could have been hauled in to record a commentary track), but nevertheless, this opening release is highly recommended.