Dee writes BBC's answer to 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'

A comedian walks into a dry-cleaner's; the man behind the counter starts telling him how much he admires his work, but all the comic is concerned about is why the "invisible mending" on the coat he is collecting is, in fact, highly visible.

This is a scene from Lead Balloon, a new BBC4 comedy and Britain's answer to Curb Your Enthusiasm. It is co-written by and stars Jack Dee as a disillusioned stand-up comic. In the six-part series, which is in production and will be shown on the digital channel in the autumn, Dee plays Rick Spleen, a successful but world-weary comedian and writer.

Spleen spends more time than he would like hosting corporate events such as the distinctly unglamorous Heating and Ventilation Awards. And in a wry reference to Dee's own appearance in a series of high-profile adverts for John Smith's brewery, when Spleen is not entertaining audiences of heating engineers, he is appearing in television commercials.

Much of Spleen's life is spent sitting around with his American co-writer Marty, devising work avoidance strategies. His wife Mel, played by Raquel Cassidy, is a showbiz agent whose clients are C-list celebrities, who pass the time having enemas and going to fat camps for reality television shows.

BBC4 controller Janice Hadlow said: "It's the life of a London comic. It's not quite Jack - his character is much less successful than the real Jack."

If the show is successful, it could follow the example of Armando Iannucci's political comedy The Thick of It, which transferred from BBC4 to BBC2.

Dee is one of a number of big-name signings to BBC4, including Michael Sheen, who will play Kenneth Williams in Fantabulosa, a drama about the life of the complex comic.

David Tennant takes on the role of Richard Hoggart, the star witness in the Lady Chatterley trial, in a new screenplay by Andrew Davies, while Francis Wheen has written The Lavender List, a drama about the final days of Harold Wilson's government.

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