The sign of a good writer or director is when you can watch a programme that you have no previous knowledge of, and instantly recognise who it is by. With Avenue 5 we have:
- an HBO production.
- It has English actors as leads (Hugh Laurie and a barely recognisable Rebecca Front).
- It involves an ensemble of not particularly likeable characters coping with a disastrous situation at breakneck speed.
- There is a LOT of swearing.
Yep, it must be an Armando Iannucci show. Iannucci’s big breakthrough was as the producer and writer of On the Hour, the sublime Radio 4 comedy which lampooned current affairs and news reporting. Fronted by the subversive Chris Morris it also introduced us to Alan Partridge and Rebecca Front. The show transferred to TV as The Day Today and Iannucci went global. The Thick of It, Veep and Death of Stalin established the Iannucci style (described above).
In Avenue 5, he has moved from politics to deep space. The show follows the exploits of the space cruiser, Avenue 5, which is operated by Judd Industries. Judd a simple, blonde haired megalomaniac who for bears no, I repeat no similarity to Richard Branson at all. In episode one the ship experiences a malfunction (as it transpires, all of Judd’s ships seem to) and veers off course resulting in the prospect of a 5-week cruise lasting 3 years.
As with all the best sit coms, the situation is a tiny (if amusing) source of the comedy; it’s all about the characters. Josh Gad as Judd is brilliant and I can some of his lines such as “.21 degrees, that’s like what, less than half a right angle” appearing on T shirts at Comic-Con by the end of the year. Hugh Laurie as an Englishman pretending to be an American (talk about art imitating life) and Zach Woods as a customer relations officer who hates customers. (If he wasn’t working on cruise liner, I guess he would work for the utilities helplines on earth).
Unlike Set MacFarlane’s The Orville, which is essentially Star Trek with a few more gags, Avenue 5 is Veep in Space. Fast, funny and fond of the F word. Episode one has already set it up for at least a 3-year run. Let’s hope it can live up to its early promise.
Avenue 5 is on Sky 1