The BEST Episodes of Lead Balloon

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Network: BBC Four

Jack Dee stars as Rick Spleen, a successful but world-weary stand-up comedian who spends too much of his time hosting corporate events. He and Marty, his American co-writer, spend their days arguing, drinking too much coffee, and devising work avoidance strategies. Further distractions are provided by Magda, Rick’s home help, his show-biz agent wife Mel, their teenage daughter Sam and her feckless boyfriend Ben. Lead Balloon is co-written by Jack Dee and Pete Sinclair.


#1 - Rita

Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 26, 2007

Rick gets a part in a film starring cinema legend Rita Stetler. Michael's father is a huge fan of Rita's and when Rick offers to get the star to sign his vintage poster he gets less than he bargained for.

star 8.90
31 votes

#2 - Points

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 29, 2007

Three more points on his licence will be a ban, so he tries to persuade Mel, Marty and Madga to take the blame. Meanwhile, the local cafe owner railroads Rick into doing a fundraiser to save the town library. On top of it all, his daughter Sam has decided to get a tattoo.

star 8.76
34 votes

#3 - End

Season 4 - Episode 6 - Aired Jul 5, 2011

In the concluding episode, Rick has at last found the fame and success he so desperately craved. Thanks to his ordeal as a hostage, the 'Prison Siege Comic', as he is now known in the tabloids, is on an all-time high. He is inundated with offers - from appearing as a hostage expert on the national news, to featuring in a celebrity survival series. When he is asked to host The Brave Britain Awards in front of a live television audience of millions, Rick thinks all his dreams have finally come true. But, as he prepares to go on stage, it seems that the dream is about to turn into a nightmare.

star 8.40
5 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#4 - Karma

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired Nov 27, 2008

Rick decides to change his ways after an accident and will only see the positives in people from now on. He is pushed to the limits by Magda as she looks to offload some of his most treasured items, and Marty is sure it won't last. Elsewhere, Ben and Sam begin to move in a different direction and may have to split up.

star 8.20
5 votes

#5 - Gas

Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired Nov 13, 2008

The episode opens with Rick at a celebrity charity auction trying to attract bids for the waistcoat of an ex-rock star. To start the bidding, he opens with a bit of £500 but with no takers, he ends up with it. Seeing Michael's father at the auction with a man, he assumes that they are a gay couple and resolves to protect Michael from this revelation. Meanwhile Magda has had to move out of her flat as the gas boiler is faulty and moves into the Spleen household. It is clear that Michael believes his father's companion is solely a business colleague, however, when he relaunches his cafe as a chic restaurant, with less than complete success, it becomes clear that this is not the case; Rick's suspicions had been correct. The waistcoat bought by Rick turns out to be worth considerably more than he paid for it, but he has given it to his daughter, whose boyfriend has cut it up for a textiles project at college.

star 8.00
7 votes

#6 - Giraffe

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired Nov 15, 2007

Tonight, Spleen appears on a quiz show as a guest celebrity and manages to talk a contestant out of winning a car. As usual it's Rick's hopeless attempts to lie and wriggle his way out of disaster that are the meat of the comedy. But the sauce is the fine supporting characters, notably gloomy eastern European home-help Magda (who tonight announces she is "unheppy" and wants to quit) and Spleen's hilariously vague teenage daughter Sam.

star 8.00
5 votes

#7 - Hero

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired Nov 22, 2007

Rick becomes a local hero when he stops someone from committing suicide. He gets even more excited when, as a result, a TV executive agrees to come to dinner to talk about Rick s career. Magda prepares a traditional dish from her country for the evening, but when the guests finally arrive, Rick gets an unwelcome surprise

star 8.00
6 votes

#8 - Idiot

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Dec 6, 2007

Rick's agent Mel's other client, ex-ice skating champ Gina Therese, has a new series coming up. Rick scoffs at the idea of an ice skater hosting a chat show until she asks him on as a guest. At home, Magda asks his advice on where to take her friend sightseeing when she visits England.

star 8.00
6 votes

#9 - Panda

Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Nov 20, 2008

Magda has begun settling in, to the extent of infiltrating her fridge magnets and watching The Jeremy Kyle Show in the afternoons; meanwhile Rick has signed up for a television programme to trace his ancestry. Ben and Sam have formed a pop duo, "Ben and Sam." who are shown performing a track called "Tragic" on Youtube. Michael is inexplicably missing after the revelations about his father, but Rick and Marty find him working out in his garage, seemingly unconcerned. Rick has discovered his Scottish ancestry for the programme, but since his family name is Shaw, the confused Magda thinks he may be Chinese. It turns out, however, that his family history is not interesting enough for the television programme, and is rejected.

star 8.00
5 votes

#10 - Lucky

Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired Jan 3, 2008

Rick is sick of doing endless corporate gigs and accuses his writer Marty of lacking ambition, but a call from Hollywood changes everything. One of Mel's clients is going through a divorce, Ben and Sam start their own dog-walking business and Michael the cafe manager has started going to 'cuddle parties'.

star 7.83
6 votes

#11 - Mistake

Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 18, 2008

Rick and Marty have to make extra room around the house when Mel has to work from home. Rick is annoyed by Marty's liking of Mel's assistant and the constant disruptions, until he realises he might be able to get a job through Mel.

star 7.80
5 votes

#12 - Fax

Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 27, 2008

Rick has a bad day after doing poorly on a radio quiz and then finding out his email is broken and has to search for a fax machine. To make matters even worse his daughter and her boyfriend and rehearsing their music loudly which he isn't too keen on. His mindset changes though when he hears they could actually make some money out of it.

star 7.75
4 votes

#13 - Nuts

Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 23, 2008

Rick is looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas at home with Mel. It will be a well-earned break from the challenging acting role he is currently immersed in - playing the part of Mr Smee in a panto. Marty is no fan of pantomime, or of Christmas in general, and plans to head off for some winter sun - preferably to a country where carol-singing is punishable by death. Meanwhile, Michael has fallen in love at first sight with a chat room friend named Zoe and is already planning to propose on their first date. Ben and Sam are spending the holidays together, accompanied by Sam's gift to Ben of "homemade" mince pies. As for Magda, plans to return home to spend Christmas with her family are called off in favour of a week of mourning when her country's president dies.

star 7.60
5 votes

#14 - Spikey

Season 3 - Episode 5 - Aired Dec 11, 2008

Rick is forced to go and see a play which turns out worse than he could've imagined as the writer used to be the same level as Rick. He is happier though, to learn that his daughter is single once again until he realises who her latest love interest is.

star 7.40
5 votes

#15 - Rubbish

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Oct 4, 2006

Rick fronts a lame government TV recycling campaign which backfires spectacularly. He falls out with café-owner Michael over a homemade fruitcake, and has a full-on row with unhinged baby-present shopkeeper Maureen.

star 7.37
41 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#16 - Pig

Season 4 - Episode 1 - Aired May 31, 2011

Rick's career is at an all-time low: even his idea of writing a novel gets stuck on page one. So when a Sunday newspaper wants to do an 'At Home With' feature about his partner Mel, Rick naturally tries to muscle in on the action. But when he decides that having a pet pig would look good in the photos, Rick proves that if nothing else, he's the prize-winning author of his own downfall.

star 7.29
7 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#17 - Fatty

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Nov 8, 2006

Rick is publicly humiliated on TV by daytime chat-show host Adam Green. He also has an unfortunate encounter with an acquaintance at the gym, and Ben manages to destroy Rick's brand new DVD player by taking the back off.

star 7.23
35 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#18 - Wayne

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 11, 2006

A teaspoon crisis in the Spleen household leads Rick to petty theft. Meanwhile, Rick's sleep is disturbed by the paperboy, Wayne, who is very punctual, very noisy and has a brain the size of a walnut.

star 7.23
40 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#19 - Blade

Season 4 - Episode 5 - Aired Jun 28, 2011

Having accepted funding from the local council, Rick reluctantly agrees to teach a Stand-up Comedy Workshop in Belford Prison. But this turns out to be one of Rick's worst gigs: he is taken hostage, trapped in the prison library by a knife-wielding prisoner, Donald. Donald is a worrying mixture of charming and psychotic - and worse still for Rick, has a pathological hatred of liars. Can Rick talk his way out of trouble? Will the governors give in to Donald's demands? Or will this be the end of Rick's less-than-stellar career?

star 7.22
36 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#20 - Off

Season 4 - Episode 4 - Aired Jun 21, 2011

Rick is at his lowest ebb. With no other work on offer, he decides to set up his own stand-up comedy workshop. But the first week's class attracts just five students. Worse still, the second session includes a new wannabe comic - deranged cafe owner Michael. A disastrous session on how to deal with heckling backfires spectacularly, but hope is on the horizon - in the form of an earnest council executive, Libby. Meanwhile Magda is trying to claim compensation after tripping on a paving stone, but it turns out that Rick is the one who's in danger of serious injury.

star 7.21
34 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#21 - Debacle

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 20, 2007

Rick hosts an event for a pharmaceutical company. His stand-up goes down surprisingly well, but some of his ill-advised gags have far-reaching consequences.

star 7.20
35 votes

#22 - Pistachio

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Nov 1, 2006

Rick buys himself a scooter but worries that it makes him look gay. Hosting the Air Conditioning and Climate Control Awards goes disastrously, and a trip to the local dry cleaner ends in a heated argument.

star 7.19
36 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#23 - Allergic

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Oct 25, 2006

Rick discovers he may have inadvertently killed one of Britain's best-loved entertainers, but he's preoccupied by a missing shoe-organiser. Meanwhile Rick prepares for upcoming appearance on topical news panel show Bullet in the News.

star 7.17
35 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#24 - £5000

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Oct 18, 2006

Rick gets in a punch-up at an awards ceremony and ends up with a black eye. Marty is preparing to pitch a programme to the BBC and Michael is delighted that Rick has accidentally sponsored him a small fortune for his Skipathon.

star 7.16
37 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair

#25 - Dead

Season 4 - Episode 2 - Aired Jun 7, 2011

Rick lands a job as a presenter on the Bargain Channel - it's Britain's premier shopping channel, as he points out to anyone who will listen. For once, his new job impresses surly East-European help Magda, who is a big fan of the show. His writing partner Marty and local cafe owner Michael are not so easily convinced, but Rick is determined that he's finally found something he's good at. Meanwhile, Rick's daughter Sam and her boyfriend Ben are allegedly looking for work - without ever getting up from the sofa.

star 7.12
33 votes
Directors: Alex Hardcastle
Writers: Jack Dee, Pete Sinclair