Avenue 5

Dept. of Spacetime Satires


Armando Iannucci’s Avenue 5, premiering on HBO in a few days, has a mouthwatering premise. A space cruise (you know, like a cruise ship, but in space) helmed by Hugh Laurie, encounters problems on it’s maiden voyage.

Said problem.

I came to Iannucci late. It wasn’t by way of The Thick Of It, but rather the spin off feature film In The Loop. That was where I was first introduced to the creative potty mouth that is Malcolm Tucker and the biting satire of Armando Iannucci.

The premise of Avenue 5 certainly is enticing and Hugh Laurie is well, one of the greatest, but despite all of that, the show unfortunately comes across as being rather flat. The dialogue is full of pointed one liners and insults, but nothing as memorable (or as graphic) as the stuff on The Thick Of It or Veep

A big issue with the series is that the “problem” faced by the ship Avenue 5, is both really serious and incredibly slow. There is no imminent danger. Unlike, say, in Veep, where the conflict is thick, fast, and ultimately so inconsequential that the seriousness of the reaction is hilarious.

The problems that take place on Avenue 5 aren’t menial at all. But as the bombshells keep coming, and are faced down by the incompetent and annoying billionaire owner (played either spectacularly or rather annoyingly by Josh Gad), an ill prepared crew, and an even less prepared captain, it feels like none of it really matters. 

He really is annoying.

If Avenue 5 was done as a straight up drama it may have been more arresting to watch. Because as of right now, it just hasn’t found it’s comedic feet. Which is weird given the calibre of performers in it. Suzy Nakamura plays an excellent ice-cold personal assistant to Gad’s billionaire Avenue 5 owner Herman Judd. Zach Woods plays the nihilist Head of Customer Relations. Which, to be fair, should be funny all on its own, but unfortunately gets really old really fast.

Having seen the first four episodes of a reported eight, I’m really hoping that it’ll turn the corner soon. With Iannucci’s track record, and a cast so stacked with comedy potential, I’m really hoping that the last four episodes fare better than the first four. 

Unlike Iannucci’s previous work, which has leaned heavily towards political satire, Avenue 5 feels like a straight up comedy. Nothing more. Nothing less. In Veep, for example, Iannucci was always able to interject absurd humour into the otherwise mundane life of the Vice President. And maybe we’ll see that soon in Avenue 5. But after watching these first four episodes, I still have no idea why it needed to be set in a cruise ship, in the future, in space.

Whatever the case, and my reservations aside, I must say that Avenue 5 is still a must watch if you like well written shows that are played out by well regarded actors. It isn’t, however, anything like Veep, and that may not be a good thing.

Avenue 5 premieres, same time as the U.S., at 11AM, on the 20th of January, on HBO Go and HBO (Astro 411/431HD).

Avenue 5
HBO, Season 1, 8 Episodes
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Hugh Laurie, Suzy Nakamura, Rebecca Front, Zach Woods, Josh Gad, Lenora Crichlow, and Nikki Amuka-Bird

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

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