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Armando Iannucci's 'Avenue 5' Is Back and Better Than Ever

By Isabel Parigi | TV | October 26, 2022 |

By Isabel Parigi | TV | October 26, 2022 |


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Armando Iannucci’s most recent HBO comedy, Avenue 5, has finally returned for its second season following an extended Covid hiatus. Season 1 premiered in January 2020, unfortunately airing in the weeks leading up to global shutdowns. Now three episodes into Season 2, Avenue 5 has met and exceeded my already high expectations for satire-expert and VEEP creator, Armando Iannucci. Episode 3, “Is It a Good Dot?”, premiered Monday, October 24 on HBO.

Activities on the now not-so-shiny space cruise liner include: a daily live cooking show that highlights tips and tricks for cooking fancy-ish dishes with only hotel room supplies; meals that may or may not be getting smaller and less tasty; toddler fight club in the soft-play area; and watching a number of marriages fall apart in real time.

Season 1 of Avenue 5 introduced us to Iannucci’s near-future sci-fi premise: An eccentric billionaire (think Elon Musk meets Richard Branson), Herman Judd (Josh Gadd), gets into the space tourism industry. Thanks to his hubris and general cost-cutting-narcissistic billionaire (evil) behavior, Judd and his “luxury” 6,000-passenger space-cruise ship are knocked off course, extending their estimated travel time from eight weeks to eight years.

Without the tedious responsibility of setting up the premise and introducing us to—-and making us root for—-a handful of horrible people, Season 2 leans into the “situation-comedy” format seeped in a contemporary sense of dread. The first three “situations” of Season 2, which tend to present themselves as life-threatening emergencies rather than traditional “antics,” have included: informing passengers they will not be home for eight years, a possible collision course with the Sun, and accidentally making contact with a Black-Ops Military Space Prison.

While talking about researching Washington DC during his tenure as VEEP showrunner (Seasons 1-4), Armando Iannucci said of imposing government buildings, “Everything looks like it knows what it’s doing.” Apply that sentiment to a TV show about near-future space travel and you’ve got Avenue 5. Season 2 is Iannucci doing what he does best: Exposing the limits and fragile stability of institutions that want to seem all-powerful. He mocked new-Labour via his 2005 BBC show The Thick of It, contemporary US neoliberalism in VEEP, and, at the very least, mocks the false-reverence afforded to billionaires (especially billionaires in space) in Avenue 5.

It feels criminal to continue on about the show while ignoring its out-of-this-world cast. Hugh Laurie plays Captain Ryan Clark, a British actor who is hired to play a “suave but rugged” front-facing captain of Avenue 5. His charisma is complemented by the ship’s senior-most surviving Engineer, Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow), a rocket scientist with less than stellar people skills. Matt Spencer (Zach Wood), Head of Customer Relations, swings between over-bearing activities director and the de facto ship-wide therapist. Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura) is the brains behind the “Judd” operation and operates with a near-violent Type-A mentality. She is the direct line between Avenue 5 and the organization now assigned to its rescue—-one of my favorite B-plots of the Avenue 5 universe—-TOTOPOTUS (The Office of the Other President of the United States): TOTOPOTUS, based on what we know so far, is an executive position in the near-future US government. It seems to be a secondary executive position (likely equal to the president) that deals with issues of national security and general resources(?).


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The main cast is rounded out by passengers (husband and wife) Frank (Andy Buckley) and Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front); former head of Earth-side mission control and current onboard member of the damage control team Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird); and Spike Martin (Ethan Phillips), a former Canadian astronaut, lover-of-space, and Avenue 5’s resident crazy uncle.

Although certain gags from the first season have been “fixed”—-namely, the 26-second communications delay between ground control and the ship is solved via TOTOPOTUS-provided AI—-the stakes for survival in space are no less present.

The best Season 2 bit so far? It seems near-future streaming audiences are just as interested in (too soon) adaptations of current events as high production value streaming dramas. Yes, the day-to-day survival efforts of the passengers and crew is repackaged and fed to obscenely hot actors for next-day dramatization. Iris, of course, picks up on the show’s popularity, buys it, and uses fan engagement as a means to leverage a potential rescue mission.


Avenue 5 airs Mondays at 10 EDT on HBO and is available to stream on HBOMax

Isabel is a writer based in New York. You can follow her on Substack and Twitter.