Until yesterday, it seemed as if The Brittas Empire had been lost to the mists of time. The sitcom ran for six years on BBC1 in the 1990s, and arguably laid the groundwork for characters such as Alan Partridge, but it never really entered the fabric of popular culture. Perhaps it was just too singular to ever become a national treasure, since each episode tended to be an awkward mix of traditional farce, bleak character study and endless violent death.
But still, it’s got another chance. The BBC has announced that The Brittas Empire will be returning for a Christmas special, and possibly a new series. If it works – and arguably, tastes have advanced enough for people to warm to a mainstream sitcom that includes the chainsaw dismemberment of several innocent people – it will open the doors for dozens of other hazily remembered BBC sitcoms to return to television. These should be top of the list.
Remember Brush Strokes, the cheeky Karl Howman sitcom that everybody loved? Mulberry was exactly like that, except Howman played an apprentice Grim Reaper sent to the British countryside to murder an elderly spinster, and the whole thing stank of a kind of suicidal despair. So maybe let’s bring that back, and perhaps get Fatboy from EastEnders to be Mulberry’s new best friend. Fatboy could do a rap. It’d be very current.
Nelson’s Column (1994-1995)
A sitcom so obscure that clips are impossible to come by. John Gordon Sinclair played Gavin Nelson, who had a newspaper column. From memory, the character was essentially a stalker, hell-bent on bending Emma Thompson’s sister to his gruesome will. So an updated version would neatly marry his ongoing resentment at being denied a sexual conquest for 20 years, the technological advances that have made stalking so much easier and the fact that, as a professional journalist, he now makes £3 every six months by submitting tiresome Buzzfeed-style lists to offshore viral content farms.
Goodnight Sweetheart (1993-1999)
n the original series, Nicholas Lyndhurst found a magical time portal that took him back to the second world war, where he bedazzled the locals with his knowledge of Beatles songs. Two decades later, it’s time for the show to be rebooted for a Christmas special. Another man from 2015 finds the portal. He travels back to the 1940s, attempts to pass twerking off as his own invention and swiftly gets beaten to death as a result.
If You See God, Tell Him (1993)
An extraordinarily bleak comedy where Richard Briers played a mentally ill widower who drives people to suicide and ends up being committed to an asylum after disembowelling a stranger. Given that Briers is now dead, it is hard to see how this could be revived, but that shouldn’t stop anybody. Maybe his part could be played by Fatboy from EastEnders, to keep things current.
Ronnie Corbett starred in this unwittingly creepy sitcom about Timothy, a man in his 40s trapped at home by his domineering elderly mother. Corbett is now 84, so the time is ripe for Sorry! to make a return. His mother is long since dead, so Timothy could take her place as the the overbearing dungeonmaster, trapping the collection of dolls he bought to replicate his unborn children and screaming embittered tirades about his unlived life at them for half an hour at a time. Look, it would still be better than bringing My Family back.