TV Review: ‘Avenue 5’ Is On An Adventure to Nowhere

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Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad and Suzy Nakamura in "Avenue 5"

From “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci comes a new comedy set in space 40 years in the future. With space tourism at its height, thousands of people enjoy a two-month-long space journey around Saturn just as people now enjoy long cruises. Although Iannucci’s comedic fingerprints are all over “Avenue 5,” the show fails to meet its goal of a new brilliant comedy.

Hugh Laurie plays Ryan Clark, the suave and charming Captain of the ship. Josh Gad is the egotistical billionaire mogul Herman Judd with Suzy Nakamura as Iris Kimura, Judd’s buttoned-up assistant with a clipped tone and organized personality. Lenora Crichlow plays engineer Billie McEvoy, the only person on the ship who actually knows what they’re doing. Nikki Amuka-Bird stars as Rav Mulcair who runs Judd Mission Control on Earth and gets all the blame when something goes wrong in space. Ethan Phillips also stars as Spike Martin, a retired astronaut.

While “Avenue 5” does manage to convey Iannucci’s unique comedy style, the comedy falls flat more often than it soars. The most confusing character is Matt Spencer (Zach Woods) the nihilistic customer relations specialist whose character is a confusing combination of dark rudeness and occasional helpfulness and pep. Woods is the most distracting character as it seems nobody could decide which direction he should take, resulting in a character with no clear direction.

The best character is by far Josh Gad’s, Herman Judd. The classic idiotic and self-centered billionaire, his deep-rooted need to be the smartest guy in the room is the funniest and most enjoyable part of the show. The kind of guy who demands impossible things just to simply have it, Gad shines as the man child who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

Andy Buckley, Rebecca Front and Hugh Laurie in “Avenue 5.”

An additional distracting element to “Avenue 5” is that Hugh Laurie steps in and out of his American accent several times per episode. Although this fluidity of accents is written into the show, it creates a main character that one does not believe in or even like. With his ignorance and general dislike of everyone around him, Laurie’s character is not a solidified protagonist.

There are many similarities between “Veep” and “Avenue 5” as Iannucci attempts to create a brilliant comedic show which includes both rocky situations and demanding and vulgar characters. However, too many characters are underdeveloped, misdirected and off-kilter to create a show just as good as those before. “Avenue 5” is a comedic mess on an adventure to nowhere.

“Avenue 5” premiered on HBO on Sunday, January 19. The first four episodes were screened for review.

GRADE: (★½)

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