Welcome to space, where the body count is high, the leadership is questionable and there’s no one actually flying the ship. Avenue 5 is definitely not another Star Trek spin-off, nor is it quite as cheesy as Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. In fact, the best description may come from series star Olaf Josh Gad himself who said it’s basically the “Game of Thrones of comedy.” The Frozen and Book of Mormon star is kidding of course, but considering this show is all about the messed-up politics of space, he really isn’t that far off-course. The workplace comedy revolves around a futuristic group of citizens aboard a space cruise-ship, where they do group yoga and book spa packages while taking a turn around Saturn. But when the ship is thrown off-course and they learn their captain (played by Hugh Laurie) actually doesn’t know how to fly the ship, it’s total chaos.
A little bit of Veep
If you’re picturing a bit of Veep and all those morally-questionable leaders (we see you, JLD), you’re on the right track. Avenue 5 comes from the mind who gave us Veep, The Thick of It and In the Loop, Armando Iannucci, who is definitely interested in what happens to a group of citizens when their leader is utterly clueless.
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Enter the Fyre Festival
To be clear, there are a ton of pop-culture influences in the series, from the people who tried to pull off the dumpster-fire that was the Fyre Festival to Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes. Basically, Iannucci and his team wanted to take a deep-dive into the madness of a crowd and how one person can influence the many based on charisma (or populist sentiments) alone.
“I knew after doing 10 years of Veep and The Thick of It, I didn’t want to do another political show,” Iannucci said Wednesday during the 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. “There’s an air of uncertainty [in the world]… and a sense of foreboding doom and no one is doing anything about it. The madness of crowds and populism, I wanted to tap into that. But I also love sci-fi, so I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be good to put this pressure cooker into space?'”
Josh Gad has a glorious new look
Look, audiences have seen Gad play pretty much everyone and everything, but we’ve never quite seen him like this. And by “this,” we’re referring to the glorious blonde wig he wears as Herman Judd—a character inspired by those aforementioned fraudsters and by real-life (and larger-than-life) characters like Richard Branson and Elon Musk.
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“[He’s like] these great salespeople who have nothing worthy of selling,” Gad said during the TCA panel. “We decided, wouldn’t it be great if Judd has his hair done like Richard Branson?”
Speaking of Branson, he’s deceased in this series but the writers still manage to find a way to fit the billionaire in. Or more accurately his beard, which is among Judd’s collection of artifacts.
“[We] reveal how [Branson] died, which is not as expected,” Iannucci said.
This cast though
For Laurie, it was a no-brainer to work with Iannucci again after collaborating on Veep where he guest-starred as Senator Tom Jame, Selina Meyer’s foe and sometimes lover. Especially since Laurie thinks there are lots of comparisons to be made with the current situation in the States.
“There’s an air of unpredictability and anger and anxiety and sense of foreboding about the climate and nobody’s really doing anything about it,” he said. “Populism and how crowds can take on a life of their own.”
If you think a cast with Laurie and Gad sounds impressive though, let us raise you a Zach Woods, of The Office and Silicon Valley fame.
He was also at the TCA panel, where he explained that his co-star Rebecca Front’s curse-averse character Karen at one point “called me Tony Macaroni but with the same inflection you’d call someone a mother******* c*******er.”
Because that’s how this show rolls. And we can’t wait to see what else might come out of these characters’ mouths.
Avenue 5 debuts Sunday, Jan. 19 on Crave.