We had almost forgotten about HBO’s dark comedy Avenue 5, which debuted just before the world shut down in response to a global pandemic. But the series, which stars Hugh Laurie as the captain of a luxury cruise ship traveling around the solar system, was renewed for a second and final season. And now we have an official trailer that gives 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 fantastic HBO comedy series Veepwhich won several Emmy Awards during its seven seasons. Avenue 5 is set about 40 years in the future, when private space travel, also called space tourism, is a thing. The titular space cruise chip is modeled after today’s luxury vessels, complete with good food and regular exercise classes. But the ship experienced major technical difficulties, resulting in a course error that meant it would take three years for the return journey, 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 Valley‘s Zach Woods as Matt Spencer, head of customer relations, and Josh Gad as sleazy billionaire Herman Judd, the owner Avenue 5 and pretends to be a man of the people, when frankly he is quite a snob. Making Captain Ryan’s job even more difficult is Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front), a bossy passenger who is apparently on board under false pretenses, having used her sister’s (non-transferable) ticket.
Rounding out the cast are Suzy Nakamura as Iris Kimura, an associate owner of the ship; Lenora Crichlow as Second Engineer Billie McEvoy; Himesh Patel as stand-up comedian Jordan Hatwal, performed on Avenue 5; and Ethan Phillips as former astronaut Spike Williams, whose wacky womanizing ways inevitably cause tension.
The big reveal of the pilot episode: the chief engineer was killed and Clark admitted that he was actually an actor, hired to be a reassuring figurehead on the ship. In fact, all the visible “crew” on the bridge were actors and models, and the bridge “controllers” were just props, because Judd wanted to achieve a certain look for Avenue 5. The real crew operates “backstage” and does the real work of operating the ship.
In the season finale, Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird), head of Mission Control on Earth, successfully brought a two-man bus to Avenue 5, but only one person could go back with the pilot—which meant that if Judd went back, Rav would be stuck on the ship with everyone else. In the end, Iris was accidentally sent back. Meanwhile, an attempt to discard ballast (unnecessary items) to correct course and shorten the return voyage to six months instead of three years backfired spectacularly. The ballast was thrown from the port side instead of the rear, and now the return journey will take eight years.
I enjoyed the first season, although I felt it never quite found its comedic footing and the tone was a bit uneven. It can be difficult to find humor in an inherently dark situation. I guess it depends on how funny you find a debris field that includes ejected coffins circling the ship — or seven passengers throwing themselves out of the airlocks to their deaths because they’re convinced they’re on a prank reality show — darkly funny or disturbing. Filming of the second season was delayed due to the COVID pandemic, but finally wrapped last November. Per HBO’s official description:
Picking up five months after failing to divert the vessel, season two follows the crew – including fiery engineer Billie, unpredictable head of customer relations Matt and faithful right-hand woman Iris – as they struggle to lead, calm, control and necessary, hiding from increasingly unruly passengers. On Earth they are hailed as heroes, and in space everyone can hear them screaming.
In the trailer, we see Matt insisting that the passengers be informed of the new, longer timetable for the return journey. Clark gives up, mostly because the food is about to run out. If he tells the truth, “I’m going to be the next all-you-can-eat buffet.” He even insists that all is well for Iris, who is now back on Earth with Mission Control. But maybe they won’t have time to starve to death since the ship seems to be on a collision course to tilt the sun—as Rav calls it, “The big yellow cancer factory made of lava. That one.” But hey, at least they have options.
The second and final season of Avenue 5 coming to HBO and HBO Max on October 10, 2022.
Listing image of YouTube/HBO Max