Pros: Charming Hugh Laurie; absurd black humor from Armando Iannucci; political satire Cons: Focus on toilet and sexual themes; some episodes seem completely unfunny; the series loses a lot in the translation of Avenue 5 / “Avenue 5”
Genre black comedy
Creator Armando Iannucci
Starring: Hugh Laurie (Captain Ryan Clark), Josh Gad (Herman Judd), Susie Nakamura (Iris Kimura), Rebecca Front (Karen Kelly), Zach Woods (Matt Spencer), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Rav Mulcair), Lenora Crichlow ( Billy McAvoy), Ethan Phillips (Spike Williams), Himesh Patel (Jordan Hatwal), etc.
Year of release 2020–
A random comparison of Avenue 5 with the series “Steep Pike” from the video comics magazine “Pun”, which flashed in the article “The most interesting new series of 2020”, turned out to be not at all accidental. The space liner Avenue 5, which is “controlled” by the hero Hugh Laurie, really resembles the same Broiler 747 passenger plane that crashed over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for 325 episodes.
So, due to a failure of the artificial gravity system, the space cruise ship Avenue 5 goes off course in the Jupiter region. Now, instead of the planned two weeks, returning home will take three years. The ship’s captain Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie), passenger relations specialist Matt Spencer (Zach Woods), the ship’s owner Herman Judd (Josh Gad) and his assistant Iris Kimura (Susie Nakamura), as well as second engineer Billy McAvoy (Lenora Crichlow) must calm down the passengers and find a way to return to Earth. The only problem is that Ryan Clark and the entire bridge crew are not real astronauts, but good-looking actors who have no idea how to fly a spaceship and don’t even know much about high school physics. Well, the owner of the ship, the “genius” and billionaire Herman Judd, is simply a pompous, arrogant and poorly educated snob.
Actually, having seen in the credits the name of Armando Iannucci, the author (director, screenwriter and producer in one person) of the film The Death of Stalin and the satirical series Veep, released on the same HBO, one could guess what we will see in the end. Of course, a classic example of absurd English humor with elements of political satire and an emphasis on black stuff.
To implement his plans, Iannucci invited five stand-up comedians to the film at once, because all the leading actors, with the exception of Lenora Crichlow and Ethan Phillips (by the way, this is Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager), are primarily comedians, and then actors. The most ironic thing about this is that the only stand-up comedian stuck on Avenue 5 is played by regular actor Himesh Patel, perhaps familiar to you from the romantic comedy Yesterday.
British black comedies are a specific thing; you can either absolutely love them or cause an equally strong rejection. This is exactly the case with Avenue 5. The humor here is sometimes not just on the brink, it is beyond the brink. Especially when it comes to death and toilet topics. For example, the fourth and fifth episodes of Avenue 5 are almost entirely devoted to discussing human feces. Moreover, if the fourth episode is really very funny, then the fifth is not at all. A certain fixation on fecal themes and the sexual preoccupation of the characters is also typical of British black comedies, but in Avenue 5 Iannucci sometimes crosses the line, slipping into some kind of meaningless teenage giggle.
It’s also worth considering that Avenue 5 loses a lot in translation. Even a good translation deprives you of the inimitable voice of Hugh Laurie, who masterfully switches from an American to a British accent (yes, there are jokes about the unreliability of the British and Brexit) and generally plays just fine. Well, a bad translation completely kills all the jokes and atmosphere.
Let’s summarize. Avenue 5 is not science fiction, but an absurd black comedy. Only fans of British black humor should watch this series, and it’s better to watch it in the original language. If you’re looking for a more traditional fantasy show with a satirical twist, check out Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville.
So far, five of the planned nine episodes of Avenue 5 have aired, and HBO has already renewed the show for a second season, despite low ratings from critics and viewers.
An at times very funny British absurdist black comedy that loses a lot in translation