Lead Balloon - In The Press

Pete Sinclair talks about working with Jack Dee to create Lead Balloon.

Written by James Cary. Sitcom Geek, 10th May 2014

I'm guessing a few of you are already sitting in front of the telly eagerly awaiting the Sunday night premiere of the new season of Sherlock on PBS. If you happen to be in the North Texas area and KERA is your local public television station, then hang out with us until 11:00pm for the premiere of Lead Balloon, starring Jack Dee.

Written by Bill Young. Tellyspotting, 5th May 2012

The concluding episode of the series, and at long last cynical comedian Rick Spleen (Jack Dee) has found fame. Following last week's hostage situation in which he was trapped in the prison library, Rick is fêted in the tabloids as the "prison siege comic". He's inundated with offers, including an invitation to star in a celebrity survival series. But Rick knows he's hit the big time when he's asked to host the Brave Britain Awards - a ceremony broadcast live on TV. Of course he accepts, and, of course, things don't quite go according to plan.

Rachel Ward, The Daily Telegraph, 4th July 2011

Not so much scene as scene-stealer of the week was undoubtedly Robbie Coltrane, single-handedly lifting Lead Balloon (BBC2), the rather smart yet unaccountably underrated Jack Dee thing, into a new stratosphere.

How much would you want to be held hostage in a prison library by heavy jailbird Coltrane, who only wanted to like you and viscerally psychoanalyse you? I can think of worse things, chief among them having to ever watch any more of that thing called The Marriage Ref on ITV on Saturdays, utter hound (the original, produced in the US by Jerry Seinfeld, was also an utter hound and, blissfully, allows me to say that I was smart for never understanding the niche of Seinfeld).

Jack Dee, the person, actually looked physically scared in front of Robbie Coltrane, the person. I can understand. I once gave Coltrane my favourite clutch-pencil because he expressed a faint interest in it. Dee's fabulously picaresque pizza order, done under similar scared-boy circumstances, sent, when eaten, Coltrane to sleep. Allowed Dee to escape for another episode: and, I would hope, another series.

Euan Ferguson, The Observer, 3rd July 2011

Those lucky enough to reside within range of a BBC Two signal last night, hopefully, saw a brilliant episode from the new season of the genius British comedy series, Lead Balloon, starring Jack Dee. In an apples and oranges kind of scenario, this reminded me of last years "Rope" episode from Psychoville in that it was not only innovative television, but pushed the boundaries of an ongoing series from a creative standpoint to a level that showcases the creative genius of the series.

Written by Bill Young. Tellyspotting, 29th June 2011

I was a bit down (appropriately) on Lead Balloon when this final series started, and there hasn't been much since to make me change my mind. It's felt tired. Until this one, in which Rick is taken hostage by a dangerous criminal at Belford jail. It's just the two of them in the prison library for the whole half-hour. Well, one really: Jack Dee does a lot of his squirmy, crumpled-forehead thing but the episode belongs to Robbie Coltrane, who is excellent as Rick's volatile but sensitive captor. A cracker then, again appropriately.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 28th June 2011

Even those of us who once loved this sitcom have had to admit that the fourth series has felt tired, leaning on a formula we know too well: Rick Spleen's lies and hypocrisy lead, via some gentle farce, to humiliation - a social embarrassment, a public shaming, a further slide down the ranks of washed-up celebs. Tonight, though, is very different. Last week's episode, where Rick took his comedy class to Belford Prison, ended in a moment of real jeopardy: a prisoner took Rick hostage with a razor blade. The inmate was played by Robbie Coltrane and tonight he and Jack Dee share a two-hander that is radically different from your average Lead Balloon, and all the better for it. It's not bursting with belly laughs, but Coltrane is superb as the touchy drug dealer desperate for a chess set. And the light he casts on Rick's hopeless inability to tell the truth is strangely satisfying.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 28th June 2011

Cracker has turned psychopath in a quest for comedy gold. Robbie Coltrane tells our reporter why he loves miserablist humour - and Hagrid hero-worship.

Written by James Rampton. The Scotsman, 28th June 2011

Let's be honest. This series of Lead Balloon has gone down just about as well as its title would suggest and it's time it was quietly retired for good.

But tonight is different. Jack Dee's whiny anti-hero Rick Spleen is taken hostage in a prison library by category-A, knife-wielding inmate Donald. The episode is a two-hander between them.

The prisoner is played by Robbie Coltrane and, while there's nothing scary about being held hostage by Hagrid, Coltrane effortlessly shows up Jack Dee's limitations as an actor and Rick Spleen's inadequacies as a human being.

Within minutes he's discovered that all of Rick's problems - in fact the whole premise of Lead Balloon - stems from his compulsion to lie.

It's a brilliantly written episode, all in all. So much so that what we'd like to see next is a spin-off series for Coltrane in which he decides to drop in on an assortment of other television shows to helpfully point out where other folk are going wrong.

Jane Simon, The Daily Mirror, 28th June 2011

After his wonderfully shocking introduction last week, lurching into the final shot with a shiv, Robbie Coltrane returns to hold Jack Dee's Rick Spleen hostage - he even gets co-headline billing in the opening titles. It's good to see him back on the box; he's always a huge presence on the small screen, and not just because of his immense girth. They're trapped together in the prison library and all that he wants from Spleen is some honest conversation, so having an inveterate liar as a hostage may prove problematic.

Phelim O'Neill, The Guardian, 28th June 2011

Tonight's slice of this winningly acerbic sitcom is a two-hander. After the comedy workshop Rick (Jack Dee) holds at Belford Prison, Donald (Robbie Coltrane), a jovial, knife-wielding prisoner, takes him hostage. An increasingly nervy Rick is forced to bond with Donald over pizza, red wine and a dissection of Rick's lacklustre career. "If you were any good, you'd have made it by now," scoffs Donald. It's a treat to see these two seasoned performers play off each other with such aplomb.

Toby Dantzic, The Daily Telegraph, 27th June 2011

Robbie Coltrane makes a rare TV appearance in Jack Dee's acerbic BBC2 sitcom, Lead Balloon...

What's On TV, 21st June 2011

A couple of episodes down of the mildly anticipated forth run of Jack Dee's Lead Balloon. I guess it is time to let you know what you have missed so far. Lead Balloon is the creation of Jack and Pete Sinclair. It is a sitcom which focuses on the career of Rick Spleen (Jack Dee) a nearly big time comedian ambling from failed TV audition to advert voiceover work.

Written by R. Green. Comedy Critic, 15th June 2011

Washed-up comic Rick Spleen has more reason than usual to look sour. One of his wife Mel's clients is nominated for three comedy awards, while Rick remains stuck in the steerage class of showbiz, scrabbling for scraps of work. Tonight he auditions for a car wax advert - and doesn't get it. "This is a global thing I'm up against," he blusters unconvincingly. "I'm just laying low until China kick-starts the whole thing, then I'll be up and away." But fate has another plan, and Rick is offered a wonderfully low-rent gig presenting on a shopping channel, a chance he seizes with both hands. Jack Dee gets across Rick's slightly desperate excitement about his new job brilliantly and delivers another slow-build, touchingly absurd episode.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 7th June 2011

Rick gets a job presenting on the Bargain Channel but only Magda is genuinely impressed at the news. Meanwhile, daughter Sam and her hang-dog boyfriend are looking for work, but no job offers are forthcoming from their position on the sofa. It pushes the suspension of disbelief a bit that Rick hasn't had a breakdown yet, but maybe that's coming before the end of the series. The performances continue to be flawlessly executed.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 7th June 2011

Another desperate bid to salvage his career sees Rick (Jack Dee) take a presenting job on a downmarket shopping channel - much to his wife Mel's (Raquel Cassidy) bemusement, and writing-partner Marty's (Sean Power) unconcealed disdain. On the other hand, housekeeper Magda (Anna Crilly) is seriously impressed by Rick for the first time ever... Beautifully observed, this sitcom is full of quiet exasperation.

Gerard O'Donovan, The Daily Telegraph, 6th June 2011

I can remember the great Irish stand-up comic Dylan Moran once saying that whenever you are having a discussion with a German, all that you are thinking about when they talk is: "Yeah, yeah, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler..."

In the same way, I suspect that many people watch Jack Dee's Lead Balloon while for most of the time they are thinking: "Yeah, yeah, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Curb, Curb, Curb Your Enthusiasm," and perhaps throwing in the occasional, "Larry David" for a bit of variety.

I myself have never been the biggest Lead Balloon fan, but it was funny in parts. One subplot of the opening episode was of failed stand-up Rick Spleen (Dee) trying to write a book, a scenario which did make me chuckle when Dee asked if, "They sell books in Lidl?"

The actual main plot was Spleen preparing, or rather hijacking, a Sunday Times interview featuring his wife, and trying to make himself more interesting by getting a pet pig. The main scene near the end featured Spleen trying to get the pig out from underneath a table which was amusing... at first... and then the pig shat on him.

Now I don't mind toilet humour, but I am of the view that excrement is a much funnier when it is talked about rather than appearing on screen. The scene was too disgustingly graphic to be funny for me.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 6th June 2011

Back for a new series, BBC2's excellent Lead Balloon continues to be what most sitcoms aren't... funny. ­Supported by a fine cast, Jack Dee delivered a timely reminder that incontinent pigs can mess up your showbiz career. We need more Lead Balloons... and fewer Life Of Rileys.

Kevin O'Sullivan, The Sunday Mirror, 5th June 2011

Jack Dee was born with a scowl. Which is pretty much all you need to know about Lead Balloon (BBC2), the sitcom in which Dee does his middle-aged moany thing, although he's pretending to be a failed comic called Rick Spleen.

It's an act that's so familiar by now that all returns have diminished, though Lead Balloon does give the excellent Raquel Cassidy the chance to air her full range of withering scorn. Aside from her, Lead Balloon just goes down like the proverbial.

Keith Watson, Metro, 1st June 2011

It's been more than two and a half years since the third series of Jack Dee's comedy about a comedian. Everyone in Rick Spleen's world looks a little bit older, a mite more pinched and drawn, as if proximity to the man about the house is draining the blood out of its occupants. Time has not at all been kind to Rick himself (but then when was it ever?). His temples are awash with grey, his skin is sallow with failure, and his self-important delusions seem ever more steeped in bitterness and malignity. I for one have missed him dreadfully.

Written by Jasper Rees. The Arts Desk, 1st June 2011

While brand new must-see sitcoms seem to be a little thin on the ground on terrestrial TV, several popular series are quietly plodding along in the background - and gradually becoming very welcome small-screen mainstays in the process. One such example is Jack Dee's Lead Balloon, which has just entered its fourth series on BBC Two.

Written by Jane Murphy. Orange TV Blog, 1st June 2011

Rick Spleen is exactly the kind of comedian who would jockey for a good position at an Amnesty gig, the good cause foremost in his mind being the promotion of his own career. And then, of course, it would all go horribly wrong, since the essential dynamic of Lead Balloon, back for a fourth series, is that Rick should end up horribly humiliated by his own incontinent ambition. Or - as in last night's episode - by an incontinent pig, which anointed Rick with liquid manure while he was in the middle of trying to impress a Sunday Times journalist who'd turned up to write an "At Home With" feature.

Cruelly, the subject wasn't Rick at all but his long-suffering wife, Mel, who didn't really want to say yes in the first place but had been talked round by Rick. "It's probably not a bad time for me to put myself back in the public eye," he explained to his writing partner, Marty. "Any year now would be fine," replied Marty, whose drily unimpressed comments are an enjoyable grace note in the scripts. Planning to set-dress his life a little, Rick borrowed a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. "I honestly think it's the kind of thing a couple like us would have," he told Mel. "It's not," she replied testily, "because otherwise we'd have one." The pig turned in a fine performance. As did everybody else, actually, in a comedy that has a lot of small supporting roles but no negligible ones.

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 1st June 2011

Although I know that My Family is on its *groan* eleventh series and Lead Balloon is only currently starting its fourth, the length of time that Lead Balloon has ran over is a sure sign that it is at least committed to never going beyond its comfort zone. Never getting louder and more eccentric probably means that it will never win any awards... but hey with the new series starting on BBC2 it would make a nice alternative to the news, you're always going to be happy if you managed to catch the show on air and hey, it's always consistent.

Written by Scotty Bryan. On the Box, 31st May 2011

What's the funniest thing about the return of Rick Spleen? That would be the pig.

Written by Sam Wollaston. The Guardian, 31st May 2011

Of all the people better at being Larry David than Larry David, Jack Dee is doing it so well that short of George Costanza coming back he's probably going to win the prize. What he does so well is that - despite the fact that Rick Spleen is vain, ridiculous and only out for himself, whereas Larry is just a bit silly, a bit selfish but well-meaning - you still empathise more with Rick than Larry.

Tonight, An 'At Home With...' feature with The Sunday Times brings out the worst in Rick Spleen as even though the feature is clearly all about his wife, he begins pathetic attempts to give himself an image makeover, leading to a pair of glasses, a novel and Magda saying: "Oh, there is pig in the kitchen." Hurrah.

tvBite, 31st May 2011

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