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Jack Dee stars as Rick Spleen, a successful but world-weary stand-up comedian who spends too much of his time hosting corporate events.

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      22.02.2010 23:35
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      A really great understated comedy

      Lead Balloon is a sitcom starring Jack Dee. Originally commissioned and shown on BBC in 2006, it now has 3 series under its belt, with a fourth due to be produced and shown in 2010. It has been repeated on the Dave channel. DVDs are available of the first two series.

      Essentially Dee stars a Rick Spleen. A once prominent comedian, he has fallen out of favour with the public and now makes a comfortable but unfulfilled living doing small-scale projects and corporate gigs. His wife meanwhile is a successful TV agent. His daughter is a manipulative wastrel, blank on the surface but together with her boyfriend hatches evermore extravagant and half-baked plans to get money from Spleen in the guise that they are speculating to accumulate.

      He also has a lively and talented co-writer called Marty, who's ideas Spleen passes off as entirely his own. Also the manager of their local cafe where they tend to meet makes an appearance, neurotic and overly sensitive, he is inevitably due to be insulted and humiliated. Best of all is Magda, the Spleens' endlessly glum and sardonic housekeeper who comes up with the best one liners in the show.

      Essentially each episode shows the gradual humiliation of Spleen, as a result of his own misjudgement or via attempts to inflate his own ego or make his career more credible. Most of the time the person worst effected is himself but just occasionally he drags others into his screwball plans in order to share the burden. Endlessly miserable and striving, and sometimes unaware of the effect he is having on others around him as he both creates and tries to solve his own mess - he is no doubt a complex character but also a very funny protagonist.

      The show has been compared unfavourably to a 'UK version of Curb Your Enthusiasm'. I think that this is unfair as, despite some obvious thematic similarities, it really does have a sense of humour and style all of its own. It is well scripted, as to how the story develops (even if it is at times inevitable how things are going to worsen for Spleen during the course of an episode), and very funny. In fact, despite the fact that it is co-created and written by Dee, he gives a lot of the good material and character development to the secondary characters. Magda is a work of comedy genius, fantastically played by Anna Crilly who is a great comic actor.

      Stylistically, it is quite simple but has quite a distinctive visual style as everything is shot through a darker filter than normal.

      Ultimately this is a really simple, but great show that deserves attention but is also perfectly suited to its modest level of success. Funny perhaps more in an amusing rather than riproaring way, it is smartly written and really well considered as a thinly veiled satire of the frequent personal futility that you can find if you are merely reliant on making people laugh for a living at any cost to yourself or the people around you.

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