Synopsis: Set 40 years in the future, Avenue 5 follows the captain and crew of a luxury space cruise ship as they navigate disgruntled passengers and unexpected events after experiencing technical difficulties onboard.
Review: The first season of Avenue 5 was nine 30 minute episodes, which made it a perfect show for binge viewing. I watched the whole thing in a day, and the show was welcome commentary in these troubled times.
For readers familiar with British comedy, Avenue 5 was a cross between Red Dwarf and creator/producer/writer Armando Iannucci’s previous series The Thick of It. For readers not familiar with British comedy, Avenue 5 was a combination of M.A.S.H., Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, The Poseidon Adventure, Galaxy Quest, and Iannucci’s previous HBO series Veep.
I’m not going to go into heavy detail concerning the plot. Suffice to say, Murphy’s Law drives the narrative. Characters actually die, and the survivors are left behind to deal with the consequences. The humor is black and absolutely necessary. Avenue 5 is basically a more well-rounded version of Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.
For its part, HBO shelled out the money to construct an insanely gorgeous space cruise ship set. Seriously, Avenue 5’s aesthetic was worth the price alone. Moreover, HBO paid the salaries of a top-notch cast and crew.
The cast is preternaturally good. Hugh Laurie played the ship’s captain. I don’t know for certain, but I would be willing to bet Iannucci wrote the role specifically for Laurie. Captain Ryan Clark seemed to be a love letter to every part Laurie had played up to that point.
Lenora Chichlow, leading lady of the original Being Human, played Billie McEvoy. She was the ship’s engineer and one of the show’s wonderful comedy straight people. Chichlow cycled through multiple reactions to the various developments like the pro this material required.
Ethan Phillips of Star Trek: Voyager fame played Spike Martin, a former Mars mission astronaut turned passenger longing for his glory days. Phillips played the tricky mix of smarmy nostalgia perfectly.
Josh Gad, best known for voicing Frozen snowman Olaf, played the reason for all the comic straight people, and he played him to the utter hilt. Herman Judd was a composite of Richard Branson and Donald Trump and a marginal improvement on both. Founder of Judd Galaxy and owner of Avenue 5, Judd was walking commentary on everything that requires commentary these days, and Gad committed to the role. This, in turn, gave the other actors I’ve detailed and many superb ones I haven’t ample scope to do their jobs.
I’m glad to report that Avenue 5 has been renewed for a second season, which is good news as the first season ended on cliffhangers. The potential bad news is that there’s no telling to what extent the real-life COVID-19 disaster we’re living through now will delay the show’s 2021 return.
Avenue 5, Season 1 is available to buy on D.V.D. or V.O.D. now.