HBO Max’s Avenue 5 is solid proof that comedy CAN exist in science fiction. Seriously, it sounds cliche, but Avenue 5 is literally a non-stop stream of pure comedy gold. And its based on a doomed spaceship, involves engineers, gravity, poop shields, and so so much more.
First off, Hugh Laurie is the singular thing that holds this show together as “Captain” (quotes for a resaon) Ryan Clark. Without his a-level god-tier performance in this series, it would be completely useless garbage. His ability to dead-pan through literally everything is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve ever been a fan of his from the old “Bit of Fry and Laurie” days, then you’ll know of what I speak. If you’re here looking for “House 2.0” then you’ll get a little bit of satisfaction, for sure, but hopefully you’ll become a convert.
The plot is pretty simple, really. In the not-to-distant future, the space cruise ship Avenue 5 gets thrown off course by an accidental gravity inversion during a record-setting yoga session. The impact force of all those bodies simultaneously hitting the same side of the ship at the same time… you, know, physics and shit.
From there its a never-ending spiral into madness as they discover, and cope with, the fact that they won’t be returning to Earth for months, if not years, depending on which episode it is, instead of mere weeks.
The owner of the cruise ship, and of multinational megacorp Judd Industries, Herman Judd (Josh Gadd) is the embodiment of the clueless rich kid. Fumbling his way through most situations only with the help of his more than capable but ever bitchy assistant Iris (Suzy Nakamura.)
Also on board Avenue 5 are now-chief engineer Billie (Lenora Crichlow), Head of Customer Relations, Matt (Zach Woods), literal passenger-Karen, Karen (Rebecca Front) and her husband Frank (Andy Buckley), former Canadian astronaut Spike (Ethan Phillips) and NASA mission director Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and a host of other characters large and small.
And that’s really the star of Avenue 5, well besides Laurie, is the sick, twisted, morbid, and dark asfuck humor. Whether its the sheer irony of having several corpses orbiting the ship in a protective ring of shit… and then having the pope magically appear in it as its lit up in a totally rad fireworks festival…
…or the tongue-in-cheek jabs at reality television as multiple people kill themselves by going out the airlock, each one believing that the previous was just “really good effects.”
Or the fact that none of the “crew” have any kind of skill at anything at all. But now I’m getting into spoiler territory.
I love it. I loved nearly every minute of it. Yes its at times crass, crude and rude. There’s lots of language and even some relatively gory bits, and a lot of innuendo. The interplay and banter between the characters is just killer. Parts of it seem forced, because they are. The goal is non-stop comedy, one-liners, and situation comedy. We’re not building a new MCU here, folks. It’s just funny. But, it doesn’t devolve into just stupid slapstick, profanity and potty humor. I mean, it does, kind of, but not in the “basic” way that so much else is. “Huhuhh he said taint.” No matter the situation or the laughs, there’s always something more behind it, whether its a dark commentary on humanity’s stupidness, or the spiteful yet still caring enough to matter arguments between jaded couple Mia (Jessica St. Clair) and Doug (Kyle Bornheimer.)
Each episode presents its own unique mini-story, as episodic stories should, and it doesn’t muddy up each by trying to be more than it shouldn’t. From trying to conserve oxygen during a supposed leak, collecting junk to spit out the airlock to get closer to course… There’s always something going on.
Back when season one ended, there was talk of a season two getting the green light. However, that was concurrent with the pan-de-mic becoming a thing in early March last year. Soooooo…. I honestly have no idea if its still on. There’s no telling. The official HBO site simply says “renewed for season 2.” I hope it comes to pass. I mean, they left the door wide open, so to speak, so its not like they’re gonna have to struggle to come up with ideas.
Make it happen, HBO. If you’re into stuff like this, then Avenue 5 will be an instant classic for you, like it did me. If not, you’re probably just gonna walk away.
3.7 / 5. Yes I went that high, its hilarious, smart, and dark af.
Oh and holy shit be sure to check out the official website of Judd Industries, Juddspace!