Avenue 5 blasted off into space with its pilot, “I was Flying.” We meet the crew, select passengers, and the reality that space tourism is crazy business.
What if corporations actually were people? Once we got passed the excuses of feudal punishments dealt on actual people as a means to protect the corporate organism, we could be real with each other. Not all corporations are the best and brightest. Yet, many of those privileged corporations go on to achieve great things. Things that are pointless and destructive. That’s right. Like a media mogul who’s covered up one too many of his own scandals, corporations lose their souls. The liquid-hot, slow burn that results is fun to watch. And that’s where Armando Iannucci’s Avenue 5 enters.
Three Years is Longer than 26 Seconds
Avenue 5 is the fifth space tourist trip, which is funded by Herman Judd’s (Josh Gad) corporation. The captain of the ship is Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie). Judd’s, and really the ship’s, executive assistant is Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura). The head of the Passenger Experience Department is Matt Spencer (Zach Woods). And, the essential engineers are Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow) and Joe. There is a 26-second delay between the ship and all contact points on Earth. There’s no way to fix this. Plus, when you’re flying out near Mars, 26 seconds seems like quite a small delay. But it drives Judd crazy.
So, Joe goes on a space walk to see if he can shorten the delay. During the work, there’s a glitch and the gravity shifts from one side of the ship to the other. Everyone on the ship is thrust to the other side of the ship, which knocks it off course by approximately 0.21 degrees. That lengthens the duration of the trip from eight weeks to over three years. The worst part is that the one guy who could fix it is Joe, but he’s killed when the gravity is corrected. And, by the way, he’s also the ship’s real captain. Say what?!
Clark is regaled as a hero for saving lives on Avenue 3 when a fire broke out, bur he keeps reminding people that it wad the firefighters and sprinklers that were the real heroes. Sporadically throughout the episode, Laurie’s English accent would slip out. I thought that was odd. But, it was part of the con. Ryan Clark was hired by Joe to be the face of the ship. Clark is gregarious. He uses an American accent because, apparently, that makes people feel safer. He knows how to make people feel good and be genuine about it. Hey. They’re all on the ship for 8 to 156 weeks. Make the best of it, right? But, besides Joe, there’s no one with a lot of knowledge on how the ship works. It’s essentially self-maintained.
Where do We Go from Here?
That’s the plot of Avenue 5. It’s also where “I was Flying” ends. Avenue 5 will be enjoyable to anyone who has worked in an office that deals directly with people. Especially when dealing with passengers like Karen (Rebecca Front) who demand information and will spread tidbits of facts to the whole ship with no regard to their accuracy. Zach Woods is perfectly detached in his customer support role. He has to listen to grown people complain about the smallest junk for a living. He’s got the thousand-yard stare and he cheers up when faced with the possibility of death.
Nikki Amuka-Bird stands out as Rav Mulcair. She’s the head of Judd’s Mission control on Earth. For all intents and purposes, Rav controls the ship from Earth. She’s dealing with the course deviation, Joe’s death, and a tour group that witnessed the accident. Rav is confident, yet seems to know the program could do so much more if it wasn’t being run by the likes of Judd.
Josh Gad is fine as Herman Judd. He’s there to make jokes about how the number one priority is the interest of shareholders. He uses faux analytics to make snap decisions, like turning the lights in the cafeteria to red, which makes some people feel like they’re being warned about something. It does appear like the core of the show will be Laurie, Nakamura, and Crichlow’s characters. They have the best report and keep scenes moving at a sharp pace when they’re in them.
The pilot did have a lot of world-building to establish. It did that. Here’s hoping the rest of the series snaps into focus and gets into the fiercely mundane minutia that’s the most fun to watch.
What did you think of Avenue 5’s premiere? Were you left wanting more? Let’s discuss in the comments!