We had almost forgotten about HBO’s dark comedy Avenue 5, which debuted right before the world shut down in response to a global pandemic. But the show, which stars Hugh Laurie as the captain of a luxury cruise ship touring the solar system, has been renewed for a second and final season. And now we have an official trailer to give us an idea of what’s in store for the beleaguered passengers and crew.
(Spoilers for the first season below.)
As I’ve written before, the series is the brainchild of Armando Iannucci, best known for creating the stellar HBO sitcom Veepwhich won several Emmy Awards during its seven season run. Avenue 5 takes place about 40 years in the future, when private spaceflight, aka space tourism, is totally a thing. The honorary space cruise chip is modeled after today’s luxury ocean liners, with fine dining and regular exercise classes. But the ship ran into major technical difficulties, resulting in a route malfunction that meant it would take three years to make the return trip, instead of the planned six months. The crew tried to solve the problem while keeping the passengers from panicking.
In addition to Laurie as Captain Ryan Clark, the cast includes Silicon ValleyZach Woods as Matt Spencer, head of customer relations, and Josh Gad as smart billionaire Herman Judd, who owns Avenue 5 and he pretends to be a man of the people, when he is honestly quite a snob. Making Captain Ryan’s job even more difficult is Karen Kelly (Rebecca Frod), a domineering passenger who apparently boards the ship under false pretenses, having used her sister’s (non-transferable) ticket.
Rounding out the cast is Suzy Nakamura as Iris Kimura, co-owner of the ship. Lenora Crichlow as Second Engineer Billie McEvoy. Himesh Patel as stand-up comedian Jordan Hatwal, who plays in Avenue 5; and Ethan Phillips as ex-astronaut Spike Williams, whose sly womanizing ways inevitably cause tension.
The big reveal of the pilot episode: the master engineer is killed and Clark admits that he’s actually an actor, hired to be a reassuring figure on the ship. In fact, all the visible “crew” on the bridge were actors and models, and their bridge “controls” were just props because Judd wanted to achieve a certain look for the Avenue 5. The actual crew operates “behind the scenes” and does the actual work of running the ship.
In the season finale, Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird), head of Mission Control on Earth, successfully brought a two-person shuttle to Avenue 5, but only one person could return with the pilot—which meant that if Jud returned, the Rav would be stuck on the ship with everyone else. In the end, Iris was accidentally sent back. Meanwhile, an attempt to jettison ballast (unnecessary objects) to correct the course and shorten the return voyage to six months instead of three years failed spectacularly. The ballast was discharged from the port side rather than the stern, and now the voyage home will take eight years.
I enjoyed the first season, although I felt it never found its comedic footing and the tone was a little uneven. It can be hard to find humor in an inherently dark situation. I guess it depends on how much fun you find a debris field involving exploding coffins circling the ship — or seven passengers hurling themselves from airlocks to their deaths because they’re convinced they’re part of a reality show hoax — darkly hilarious or disturbing. Filming for the second season was delayed due to the COVID pandemic, but finally wrapped last November. According to HBO’s official description:
Picking up five months after failing to reroute the ship, season two follows the crew—including fiery engineer Billie, unpredictable head of customer relations Matt, and loyal right-hand man Iris—as they struggle to lead, calm, control and , if you have to, hide from increasingly unruly passengers. On Earth, they are hailed as heroes, and in space, everyone can hear them scream.
In the trailer, we see Matt insist that the passengers need to be informed of the new, longer timetable for returning home. Clark hesitates, mostly because the food is running out. If he tells the truth, “I’ll be the next all-you-can-eat buffet.” He even insists that all is well with Iris, who is now back on Earth with Mission Control. But maybe they won’t have time to starve, as the ship appears to be on a collision course and is tilting at the Sun – as the Rav calls it, “The great yellow cancer factory made of lava. This.” But hey, at least they have options.
Its second and final season Avenue 5 coming to HBO and HBO Max on October 10, 2022.
Listing image from YouTube/HBO Max