Veep writer’s new show is clever and funny
Armando Iannucci has been one of the most reliable comedic writers over the past two-plus decades, from I'm Alan Partridge to The Thick Of It to In The Loop to Veep.
All have had a strong sense of satire, with a style that is as layered as any of the best comedy writing on TV and films during that period.
Now he takes on the sci-fi space with his new HBO series, Avenue 5, which is now streaming on Foxtel Now.
The Gist: It's 2060; the initial cruise of luxury space liner Avenue 5 is going well.
Captain Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie) is showing passengers the bridge (which is more performance space than anything else, since the ship drives itself).
He's a hero, having been instrumental in the rescue of the Avenue 3 ship a few years back. He's definitely admired by Herman Judd (Josh Gad), the owner of the ship, whose name and image are inescapable.
His assistant, Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura), isn't quite as enamoured, as she can't talk to Clark for more than a few seconds without him stopping to schmooze with someone.
While a massive yoga class is happening on the main deck, engineer Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow) is working with Joe, the main engineer, to try to fix a communication delay with mission control lead Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird).
Suddenly, the gravity flips to the port side of the ship, hurtling everyone around the ship and causing hundreds of injuries.
When Billie fixes it, Joe, who is outside the ship, is slammed against it and impaled on one of his tools.
As the passengers start to wonder what's going on, customer service lead Matt Spencer (Zach Woods) gets inundated with questions, especially from super-nosy passenger Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front).
Rav and her crew back on Earth find out that the accident knocked the ship so off course that they're now stuck on the ship for 3 years.
This doesn't bode well for anyone, especially passengers Doug (Kyle Bornheimer) and Mia (Jessica St. Clair), a married couple who took the cruise to salvage their relationship but just end up hating each other more than they did before they boarded.
When Clark, Kimura, Judd and McEvoy meet to figure out what to do next, Clark, who has always downplayed his role in the Avenue 3 rescue, reveals that he's just an actor.
He was hired by Joe to be the face of the ship; the voice he uses isn't even his real voice, because somehow passengers think an American accent is more comforting than a British one. Joe was the one operating the ship, and now he's dead. What the hell are they going to do?
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Our Take: If you've watched Armando Iannucci's shows and movies for a long time, you can pick up on Avenue 5's comedic rhythms right away.
Just like The Thick Of It and the first seasons of Veep, the dialogue is naturalistic, the jokes are fast-paced and take effort to catch. But what Iannucci is most known for is sharp satire. Avenue 5 has plenty of that, but not where you might think.
The idea is that the people on this ship are going to slowly go mad as they spend their three years on this cruise that was supposed to be only eight days. Who will survive? Who will hook up? What will people do when they know that they'll eventually get home but that date is now in the distant future?
So while this may look at first blush to be a satire of science fiction shows, it's more a commentary on human nature, especially how crappy we can be to each other when put under stress. And we know that Iannucci is an expert at that kind of satire.
Some of that is evident in the first episode, like the fact that Clark is just a British actor playing an American captain (a fun comment on Laurie's penchant for playing American characters ever since House started 16 years ago).
It's also evident in the fact that Judd may own this cruise line, but he's a man-child who wouldn't know how to get dressed in the morning if Iris wasn't there to make sure stuff gets done.
Another character, Spike Williams (Ethan Phillips), is supposed to be the wise former astronaut that's there to teach people about Saturn and its moons, but his credentials aren't quite as sparkling as they seem.
So what we're expecting to see is lots of chaos, lots of jockeying for position, and lots of Lord of the Flies-esque rivalries crop up.
The first episode, while funny, is more there to set up what we'll see going forward, and we can't wait to see what Iannucci and his excellent cast has in store for us.
This story originally appeared on Decider and has been reproduced here with permission