British Comedy Guide

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

Lead Balloon

BBC Two and BBC Four sitcom. 27 episodes (4 series), 2006 - 2011. Stars Jack Dee, Raquel Cassidy, Sean Power, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rasmus Hardiker, Tony Gardner and Anna Crilly.

Press Clippings

Radio Times launches a poll to name the best sitcom since 2000

Radio Times has launched a poll to name the best British TV sitcom broadcast since the year 2000. There are 40 shows in the shortlist.

British Comedy Guide, 19th July 2016

Pete Sinclair interview

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

James Cary, Sitcom Geek, 10th May 2014

The greatness that is Lead Balloon

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.

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 fĂȘted 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

Robbie Coltrane in Lead Balloon brilliance

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.

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

Interview: Robbie Coltrane, actor and comedian

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

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

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