Lead Balloon Review: Still Floating Nicely

LEAD BALLOON: Tuesday 31st May, BBC2, 10pm

Lead Balloon has been on television since 2006. Yes… 2006.

You wouldn’t know it. I mean if you watched the first episode of this new series, when Rick Spleen (aka Jack Dee) purchases a pig whilst his wife undergoes an interview with The Sunday Times, and followed it up with an episode of series one… you wouldn’t have noticed any changes. Any changes at all. It’s like being stuck in some sort of uncomfortable timewarp.

The characters have barely changed. Rick’s teenage daughter Sam (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) is still moping around with a monotone voice and a clear lack of any connection with reality, tagging alongside a boyfriend (Ramus Hardiker) who seems to have been wearing the same hat continuously for the last five years and has barely aged. Magda (Anna Crilly), the house cleaner, still dishes out inappropriate anecdotes about her homeland in Eastern Europe, tonight asking questions such as “You want me to kill pig for sausage?â€? when Rick’s wife Mel (Raquel Cassidy) rejects the pig being kept as a pet. Mel herself still seems to be uninterested in her marriage with Rick, whilst his American friend Marty (Sean Power) jabs into everything that Rick says or does…

Leaving a show in the status quo makes it an easy target to lay into, a show that doesn’t evolve or develop, a show that always deals with cynical and uncomfortable humour and nothing else, a show that never sees any character really leave or join the comedy at any time. But I’m not going to lay into it, because you know what, in a way this is what makes the show quietly brilliant.

Isn’t it nice to have a comedy that hits the nail on the head and know how it is doing so? A small and shameless comedy that never tries to get bigger, deeper or encounter new ideas the whole bloody time? Take My Family for example. It began as a fresh and, I don’t want to admit it right here but I will, frankly hilarious comedy because it turned the concept of a ‘happy loving family’ on its head. Then after Nick left to showcase the latest BT Broadband Routers, it could have easily settled back into the same territory and comedy or just leave on a high. But no. It didn’t. It had to get louder, it had to be more eccentric and tackle things. It had to introduce the dim-witted Abi, the frankly unfunny Father Dougal imitation Roger and the backwards Welsh man Rhodri. Storylines being backed into a corner had no choice but to become more and more absurd, such as in a recent episode when, after Ben Harper (Robert Lindsay) realises his son Michael (Gabriel Thomson) is gay, decides to go clubbing with him before befriending an obsessive older man who then immediately becomes his stalker…. Yes. Really.

Although I know that My Family is on its *groan* eleventh series and Lead Balloon is only currently starting its fourth, the length of time that Lead Balloon has ran over is a sure sign that it is at least committed to never going beyond its comfort zone. Never getting louder and more eccentric probably means that it will never win any awards… but hey with the new series starting on BBC2 it would make a nice alternative to the news, you’re always going to be happy if you managed to catch the show on air and hey, it’s always consistent.