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Josh Reviews Avenue 5 Season One

Avenue 5 is a sci-fi comedy series created by Veep creator Armando Iannucci.  Set sometime in the future, the show depicts the fallout from an accident aboard the Avenue 5, a space-ship cruise-ship, that turns their five-week cruise into a years-long journey.

I loved Veep and I love sci-fi, so a sci-fi comedy from the creator of Veep was of course something I wanted to see.  The series is funny and I enjoyed watching it.  But it’s not nearly as funny as I’d expected, based on Mr. Iannucci’s involvement and the spectacular cast (that includes Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Zach Woods, and many more terrific comedic performers).

Each and every episode made me laugh.  Is that enough to recommend this short (nine half-hour episodes) first season?  Perhaps.  And yet, in almost every episode there was also something that felt somewhat off about the storytelling, as if the many great components of this show weren’t quite clicking together.  A few examples: In the first episode, for quite a while I thought Josh Gad was playing some sort of rock and roll star, a pampered and privileged celebrity aboard the Avenue 5, when in fact he was playing the cruise-line’s owner.  It feels to me like the storytelling should have made that much clearer; and that the show should have given us a reason why the company’s super-rich owner was traveling on board this cruise ship.  Here’s another example: it feels to me like the show should have been able to get a lot more comedic mileage out of the idea that the ships’ head of customer relations, played by Zach Woods, would have a meltdown after the accident hits and his carefully-run cruise ship collapses into chaos.  But that doesn’t really happen, because that character is played as an unhinged loon right from the beginning of the first episode, when we see him being very rude and impatient with the (admittedly demanding and obnoxious) passengers.  So there’s no arc.  Mr. Woods is funny, as always, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

Also, I know the show is a comedy, but it feels like there are too many plot questions the show doesn’t bother to address.  How is it that there is only one engineer on the entire ship (Joe, who meets an untimely demise a few minutes into the first episode) who seems to know anything about how to actually run the ship?  (OK, two engineers: Lenora Crichlow’s Billie is also competent.)  The show could have intended to made an Idiocracy-like point about no one in the near future knowing anything about anything (or how Wall-E, which has a similar premise regarding trouble on an idyllic, futuristic cruiseliner-like … [continued]