Lead Balloon. Rick Spleen (Jack Dee). Copyright: Open Mike Productions
Lead Balloon

Lead Balloon

  • TV sitcom
  • BBC Two / BBC Four
  • 2006 - 2011
  • 27 episodes (4 series)

Sitcom starring Jack Dee as Rick Spleen, a grumpy misanthropic stand-up comedian whose life is plagued by let downs and embarrassment. Stars Jack Dee, Raquel Cassidy, Sean Power, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rasmus Hardiker and more.

  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 5,105

About Lead Balloon

Lead Balloon. Image shows from L to R: Marty (Sean Power), Magda (Anna Crilly), Ben (Rasmus Hardiker), Mel (Raquel Cassidy), Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), Rick Spleen (Jack Dee). Copyright: Open Mike Productions
Lead Balloon. Image shows from L to R: Rick Spleen (Jack Dee), Michael (Tony Gardner), Marty (Sean Power). Copyright: Open Mike Productions

Written by Jack Dee and Pete Sinclair, Lead Balloon focuses on the life of a successful but disillusioned stand-up comedian and those that must suffer knowing him.

Dee stars as Rick Spleen, the world-weary stand-up comedian who spends too much of his time hosting corporate events. The Heating and Ventilation Awards may not be the most glamorous gig, but the money Rick earns allows him to concentrate on his first love... TV commercials. Ahem.

Rick is a comedian who has lost his way. He's not as funny as he wishes he was, or in fact even as funny as he thinks he is (he often re-packages jokes he has heard earlier in the day and pretends he came up with them). Rick is hopeful that there's something around the corner and is sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why it hasn't happened yet.

Rick also has to cope with his ever morose housekeeper Magda (Anna Crilly); his impecunious daughter Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), and her boyfriend Ben (Rasmus Hardiker), who are constantly cadging money from him. Meanwhile his wife Mel (Raquel Cassidy) is just trying to get him to chill out. Then there's his quick-talking American writing partner Marty (Sean Power); the local cafe owner Michael (Tony Gardner), whose grasp on reality appears to be getting ever looser; and annoying neighbour Clive (John Biggins) who is always dropping around to complain.

Rick and Marty spend their days arguing about every subject under the sun, drinking too much coffee, and devising work avoidance strategies. Further distractions are provided by Magda, Rick's Eastern European daily help. Magda is learning English from daytime television but her own tales of woe put to shame anything you might hear on Trisha.

Lead Balloon. Image shows from L to R: Rick Spleen (Jack Dee), Mel (Raquel Cassidy). Copyright: Open Mike Productions

Rick's wife Mel is a showbiz agent who looks after C-list celebrities hoping for that big break (having an enema, live on Fat Camp!). She knows that Rick is his own worst enemy, unless you count anyone he comes into contact with!

Rick and Mel have a 17-year-old daughter, Sam, who would be the world's least motivated human being, were it not for her boyfriend Ben.

Then there's Michael, the owner of the local wholefood café where Rick and Marty spend a lot of their writing time; he appears to be completely unhinged. Whenever Rick comes into contact with Michael he manages to do something unfortunate that is rather hard to explain. It must be said Michael is a little too kind in accepting Rick's feeble excuses, although that said, you do get the feeling that Michael understandably hasn't quite forgiven Rick for running him over in his car yet (that was a very suspicious incident which was, we are sure, no way connected to the fact Rick was trying to get out of having accidentally sponsored Michael £5-per-skip in a charity skipathon!).

Whether he is being accused of putting on weight, suspected of being gay, or worried about accidentally poisoning another performer, Rick combines a mass of neuroses and petty grievances with a terrible propensity for lying - it is not a recipe for success!

Following the success of the first series, Lead Balloon moved over to BBC Two in November 2007 for the second season. This series started with Rick on his way up - his career was going from strength to strength and he'd never been so popular. In other words, he was still the same old self-deluded liar, making a living from corporate gigs, low-rent chat shows and hoping for a big break.

There was plenty to pre-occupy Rick in the second series: From the points on his driving licence, via the shadowy hitman he was convinced was on his tail, to the run-in with a children's entertainer famous for his giant inflatable spanner - life was the usual bundle of worries. As always, the trickiest problem of all for Rick though was how was he going to lie his way out of each situation?

Lead Balloon returned in 2008 for a third series and a Christmas special. Magda practically moved in, Ben and Sam temporarily split up, and Rick got himself into all kinds of new embarrassing situations.

After a long break (partly due to the fact Jack Dee had been busy on other projects), Lead Balloon came back for a fourth series in 2011. The series sees Rick's career hit an all-time low - even by his own dismal standards. From public humiliation on live TV to private embarrassment at a Comedy Workshop, it seems that everything Rick touches turns to mould.

Lead Balloon. Image shows from L to R: Marty (Sean Power), Magda (Anna Crilly), Ben (Rasmus Hardiker), Mel (Raquel Cassidy), Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), Rick Spleen (Jack Dee). Copyright: Open Mike Productions

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