DVDs in Review #55: Lead Balloon: Series One

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Jack Dee as Rick Spleen
Raquel Cassidy as Mel
Anna Crilly as Magda
Sean Poweras Marty
Antonia Campbell-Hughes as Sam
Rasmus Hardiker as Ben
and Tony Gardner as Michael

The Show:

Lead Balloon first arrived on the screens of BBC 4 in October 2006 and is written by Jack Dee and Pete Sinclair. The show centers around the life, trials and experiences of Rick Spleen; a morose, grumpy and self-defeating mid-level comedian. Jack himself cited quite a few shows which influenced the tone of the show, most notable of these are Seinfeld and it's "offspring" Curb Your Enthisiasm. The influence of Curb in particular is evident throughout the series, Rick Spleen is very much a tamer version of Larry David.

The show is very well put together, with some excellent performances from the cast; Jack is good - which isn't surprising as he's hardly out of his comfort zone, essentially playing his stand up act as a character. But it's Tony Gardener as the slightly "odd" Michael and Anna Crilly as the brash and often hilarious Magda who often have the best lines and moments.

During this first series you'll see Rick get insecure about his weight, lie about having cancer, steal spoons and worry about accidentally killing another comedy performer by coffee poison. Each episode unfolds in a fun and well timed manner which sets up Rick and the comedy nicely. I will say that often it seems Rick is more a victim of circumstance rather than his own foibles, Rick Spleen seems to be his own second worst enemy, the universe and chance seem to be his greatest. Larry David in comparison is 100% his own worst enemy, no doubt at all.

If I was going to liken the experience of watching sitcoms to eating chocolate then at the top you'd have Arrested Development with a top of the range Fritz Knipschildt experience, and only a little further down you'd have Curb Your Enthusiasm with a rich, exsqusit Richart taste. Lead Balloon on the other hand is more like eating a Nestle Milkybar, it's still a highly enjoyable experience but it's not something you'd rave about for weeks. It's a great experience while you're there, but you tend to forget about it afterwards.

At least until you see another Milkybar.

The Other Stuff:

The Packaging:
As always the BBC stick with the same high standard they always provide. Lead Balloon is contained in a standard DVD case with a single middle page for the first DVD. To be honest this middle page is a little unneeded now we have double DVD cases, but the inside cover is used for a BBC Comedy advertising leaflet instead of DVD 1. Apparently I should rush out and purchase Ruddy Hell! It's Harry & Paul (no thanks!), Lead Balloon: Series 1 (umm...), Saxondale: Series 1 (never heard of it) and Gavin & Stacey: Series 1 (good advice that last one, if you don't have it. Get it).

The Menus and Start up:
Start up on BBC DVDs is always a quick and easy experience, too many companies forget that we've purchased these DVDs with our own money and as such we don't need to be advertised at while waiting for the main menu to open up. These days I actually go make a cup of tea everytime I put a DVD in, I don't want to waste time watching the various company logos, FACT/Copyright warnings and sometimes (annoyingly) adverts for other shows.

Seriously, the average human has about twenty seven thousand days in their full lifespan (if they're lucky) and many of us have less than that. Why do companies feel the need to waste our time? They're my precious minutes you're stealing away with your unskippable logos, copyright screens and adverts. I've already paid for this with my money (which costs my time to make). Time = Money. So stop your passive time murdering!

Sorry to go off on a rant here, I just felt I needed to take a stand (and I apologise for wasting your time too!) I'll get back to Lead Balloon now...

The start up is clean and fast, the menus themselves are nicely designed and keep with the theme of the title credits from the show. I don't really have any complaints at all about the product here at all.

The Extras:
There are a few extras on the set, they're mostly located on the second disc. Which is entirely extras, so if you're not interested in watching them you can use that disc for anything you like. A coaster is always a favourite, but I do enjoy indoor DVD Frisbee at times. It can be a little scary to have a DVD flying at you, but the art of wall ricochets is a great skill to develop.

The extras are as follows:
• Behind the scenes Featurette
• 5 Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary from Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair and Alex Hardcastle on two episodes
• Out-takes
• Bloopers

While I remember, I'm not condoning you using this DVD for throwing recreation, it's both dangerous and disrespectful. I suggest throwing The Newly Weds or 24's sixth season instead. (And I claim no responsibility for any injuries received during this highly dangerous indoor sport).

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Region: 2 + 4 Colour PAL UK
Runtime: 173 mins
Soundtrack: English, Stereo
Subtitles: English HOH

The Price:
Lead Balloon can be had from play.com for the very reasonable price of £6.99, this is a pretty average 4ppm (for a British sitcom anyway). Nothing to shout home about, but nothing to complain about either.

The Bottom Line:

It's absolutely impossible to talk about Lead Balloon without also talking about Curb Your Enthusiasm and in some ways this is a bit of a shame. Lead Balloon is an accomplished and enjoyable Brit-com with solid performances, fun moments and clever scripts. But for those of us who have had the pleasure of seeing Larry David in full improvisational swing on 'Curb' it's very difficult to watch Lead Balloon without making unfavorable comparisons.

The first series of Lead Balloon is a great show in it's own right, it's just in the shadow of a true comedy giant and that detracts from it a little.


1 comment so far.

  1. Aaron 9 February 2009 at 11:13
    Saxondale was Steve Coogan's latest attempt at creating a new comedy character. It was okay but not worthy of DVD purchase.

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