I’ll Review Anything: Avenue 5 (HBO Series)

One of the silver linings of the dark cloud of being in quarantine is that you have more time to experiment with stuff. More specifically, for me, it’s watching shows that I never knew about. In the age of simply streaming entertainment to your home, it actually can be risky as the choices are more plentiful now that everything is on demand. With so many options, you just never know if you’re going to be watching a dud. But sometimes the risk is worth is as you may come across a gem you would have never discovered if you didn’t take the plunge.

Some time ago, I decided to go see an HBO series called Avenue 5. I literally knew nothing of the show but I saw the trailer and I thought, “What the hey. It’s only nine episodes long.” So I decided to give it a whirl to see if it was any good.

Boy, am I glad I did! Avenue 5 is a really good show and I got a big kick out of it but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Avenue 5 is actually the name of an interplanetary luxury cruise ship that is supposed to take a leisurely cruise around the solar system. However, when the ship’s artificial gravity systems malfunctions for a brief moment, it veers the ship off its intended course by a few degrees. Unfortunately, as this is space, this slight change in trajectory turns what was supposed to be an eight-week journey into a three year odyssey! To make matters worse, the only man who can make the necessary course correction, the head engineer, is killed in the accident as well.

Probably one of the reasons why I love Avenue 5 is its rather dark humor. If you really look at it, the situation should be absolutely dire and the scenario would be more fitting for something like a drama about people trying to survive. But there’s just a mean spirited humor about it all and I like it. The humor is also really fast paced as they do throw a lot of jokes at you at a breakneck speed and, if you don’t get it, they won’t wait for you to catch up.

Also, a good chunk of the comedy also relies on knowledge about, well science. One of the running gags on Avenue 5 is that, whenever they do a video conference to Earth, there’s constantly a very long delay between when the other person receives the signal because of the distance the ship is from Earth. It’s not instantaneous like in other sci-fi films and I appreciate the attention to detail here.

While these things are the biggest reasons why there were dozens of times when laughed out loud while watching Avenue 5, I’m not sure everyone will get them. It’s much different from your standard sitcom where the actors pause to allow you time to laugh and where some of the jokes lack nuance. I do realize I’m sounding rather pretentious as I’m writing this down but I guess this is just a warning. I say if you get the humor of British comedy programs, you’ll probably get the humor of Avenue 5.

I also think that a lot of the jokes are actually improv and not scripted as there’s just a natural flow to most of the jokes. Like I said, it can feel a little jarring if you’re used to regular sitcoms as the lines there are scripted in such as way to illicit the most bang for their buck. In Avenue 5, the jokes do feel more subdued and more organic.

The acting is Avenue 5 is also really brilliant for the most part. Hugh Laurie plays Captain Ryan who, unfortunately, was hired because he was mistakenly reported to have saved another ship. Because of this, he has to keep up an act of being a confident and competent captain, even though he has no ideas about the inner workings of the ship at all. Josh Gad played Herman Judd, the billionaire owner of Avenue 5 and a man who thinks highly of himself. I would say that these two were perfectly cast for their roles as they play them to a hilt. I do have to give some major props to the writers for working in the fact that Hugh Laurie actually speaks with a British accent. That’s something I didn’t expect at all!

I do have to say I had the most fun with some of the supporting cast as the majority of them to a phenomenal job. There’s Karen, the super bossy, know it all passenger, Spike, the womanizing former astronaut and Billie, the engineer who just wants a little credit for her work. These guys do wonders with their roles as, while they do come off as stereotypes, they just work in this satirical world. Oddly enough, the people who I had the most laughs with would be Iris, Herman Judd’s sarcastic and mean spirited personal assistant, and Matt, the hapless airheaded head of Customer Relations. While they’re generally opposites and I laugh at them for different reasons, it’s simply the execution of their personalities that land.

Although I do like most of the characters, there is still a good amount of dead weight when it comes to that. Several characters do come to mind when I think of people who don’t really add much to the show. There’s the stand up comedian on board and a rival billionaire on the ship as well as a philandering wife and her jealous husband. They should be contributing to the general interconnected story but they just don’t add anything in the grand scheme of it all. This goes double for the bickering couple as they just didn’t illicit a single snicker from me. Even the beautiful bridge crew got more laughs from me!

It’s also rather disappointing that they didn’t devote enough time to a secondary storyline of how the Earth is handling the news that Avenue 5 has been knocked off course. I know the main storyline is on Avenue 5 but they could have devoted more time to the Earth setting as there were some interesting developments, like Judd’s company hiring fake protesters to rile up public support for a government rescue (so the company won’t have to pay for it). It’s there but it doesn’t really go anywhere, which is a shame.

With all of that said, I will say I really enjoyed Avenue 5. I was rather disappointed when I got through all nine episodes rather quickly as I really wanted to see what would happen next. As expected, the season ended in a ridiculous cliffhanger but I will be eagerly awaiting Avenue 5’s return since HBO already renewed it for a second season. I just hope it’ll be coming in soon rather than the three years Avenue 5 is supposed to take in the show.

Have you seen Avenue 5? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

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