I watched the first episode of AVENUE 5 on HBO when it premiered after a new episode of what I will always keep continuing watching if there are any more new seasons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I couldn’t even finish the pilot episode. It was unfunny and seemed like it tried to rip off the look and feel of The Orville, with more crude, crass, dick and fart joke humor combined with a Gilligan’s Island like overarching plot structure/device. I heard though, that the show is like the beginning of VEEP, and that you have to give the whole season a chance before you decide whether or not to give up on it. I gave Veep a chance, and ended up loving it to the point where I stuck with the whole show through the series finale. With Avenue 5, I’m glad I ended up going back and finishing all 9 really quick episodes, as I ended up really liking it (not loving though) and think it is ripe full of potential for us to receive a much, much better season 2, to the point where I could end up loving it. The reason I was interested in Avenue 5 to begin with was because creator Armando Iannucci had also created Veep, which I ended up loving mainly due to the excellent ensemble cast and that it played with both sides of the political coin and wasn’t as biased as I thought it was going to be. Avenue 5 is political in a different kind of way, and found it’s footing about halfway through the season, with some hilarious sight gags, plot threads, and incredibly funny and well written one liners. It does though has a way to go for me to say that it has an excellent ensemble cast (mainly due to my annoyance with one particular actor). I also wanted to watch it because I’m a big fan of Hugh Laurie, but I also didn’t want to watch it because of a previously mentioned actor who I will reveal and complain about more in detail a little later on in the review. Suffice to say in the end, I’m glad I went back and gave this quirky space comedy a chance.
IMDB.com’s synopsis nails the whole thing right on the head: “The troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, must try and keep everyone calm after their ship gets thrown off course into space and ends up needing three years to return to Earth.” Three years? Three hour tour? You can start to see where my Gilligan’s Island like structure/plot device I described above comes into play. But Gilligan’s Island was, to me anyway, more focused on character development while trying to find a way out of their plight. Finding a way out of their plight was plot B, with a focus on character being plot A. Avenue 5 is the exact reverse of that. Every episode deals with different ways that the crew can get home sooner, say 6 months, and they try to execute said plans only for giant fuck ups to happen where they end up might even extending their time in space to a full 8 years. With all this, there is a giant sacrifice to character development here, in which there essentially isn’t anyway. Almost every character is unlikable and only Hugh Laurie (as Captain Ryan Clark) & Lenora Crichlow (as Billie McEvoy) showing very small shimmers of maybe moving past their selfishness in a future season. This lack of character development helps yet hurts the series, as it is in very close proximity to the characters of Veep, and at the end of that series, *spoiler alert* NO ONE FUCKING CHANGES. But they are all so despicably hilarious that the lack of learning lessons is forgivable. Compare Avenue 5 and Veep to Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for a point of reference, where no character learns any lessons at the end of any of the episodes or seasons. It remains to be seen if Avenue 5 can successfully continue on that trend quite yet, but I really would like to see this show expand and have characters learn and be changed by lessons, even if it is only in a character or two. Doing this would separate itself a little bit from the pack of the others where NO ONE changes, and not end up being just another copycat full of despicable yet hilarious human beings.
Let’s get to the elephant in the room (not a pun, not referencing a body type, just a big problem with the series) and that is Josh Gad. There is no doubt that Josh Gad is talented. He was one of the main players when Book of Mormon first went to broad way, he is beloved as Olaf in Frozen, etc. etc. But EVERYTHING else I have seen him in, he just comes off as unlikable, loud, and annoying. To be fair, he is just being cast in these already annoyingly written roles, it’s not his writing at all, and if Mr. Gad were ever to read this, I would beg him to reconsider what scripts he chooses, don’t become a stereotype! In Avenue 5, he’s the one character who you don’t even love to hate, you just want to reach through the screen and choke that character to death so you don’t have to see him anymore. He plays the character named Judd, the character that made this space travel luxury thing happen. He is also a massive egotistical maniac, and also dumb as a sack of bricks. If the series wants to do any character development at all, I would suggest that Judd would be the way to go. But considering what happens in the first season, it just seems to me that Gad will get more annoying by the episode. And that is a shame. Everybody else though, while their characters you won’t like, they do a good job acting as them, and convincingly make you laugh at them as well. Zach Woods, who you know from Silicon Valley and Gabe on The Office, has some of the best faces and one liners you will see and hear on television all year. Basically, once you get past the first set up episode that doesn’t contain one real laugh, if you want to see a bunch of despicable characters bitch at each other for 9 episodes, HOWEVER that whole premise is combined with delightfully funny ways of all of them trying to get out of their awful predicament, I completely recommend Avenue 5 during our own kind of quarantine like hell we are going through. Very reminiscent of the times for sure. Will definitely make this a part of my television watching universe whenever season 2 set sails.