We’d 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 series, which stars Hugh Laurie as the captain of a luxury cruise spaceship touring the solar system, was renewed for a second and final season. And now we have an official trailer to give us an idea what’s in store for the beleaguered passengers and crew.
(Spoilers for the first season below.)
As I’ve written previously, the series is the brainchild of Armando Iannucci, best known for creating the stellar HBO comedy series Veep, which won multiple Emmy awards over its seven-season run. Avenue 5 is set roughly 40 years in the future, when private spaceflight, aka space tourism, is totally a thing. The titular space cruise chip is modeled after today’s luxury ocean liners, complete with fine dining and regular exercise classes. But the ship experienced major technical difficulties, resulting in a course malfunction that meant it would take three years for the return trip, rather than the scheduled six months. The crew scrambled 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 smarmy billionaire Herman Judd, who owns the Avenue 5 and pretends to be a man of the people, when he’s frankly quite the snob. Making Captain Ryan’s job even more difficult is Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front), a bossy passenger who apparently is on board under false pretenses, having used her sister’s (nontransferable) 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, performing on the Avenue 5; and Ethan Phillips as former astronaut Spike Williams, whose boozy womanizing ways inevitably cause tensions.
The big reveal of the pilot episode: the main engineer was killed and Clark admitted 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 their bridge “controls” were merely props, because Judd wanted to achieve a certain look for the 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-person shuttle to Avenue 5, but only one person could head back with the pilot—which meant 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 jettison ballast (unnecessary objects) to correct course and shorten the return journey to six months instead of three years backfired spectacularly. The ballast was jettisoned from the portside rather than the rear, and now the journey home will take eight years.
I enjoyed the first season, although I felt it never quite found its comic footing, and the tone was a bit uneven. It can be tricky to find humor in an inherently dark situation. I guess it depends on how amusing you find a debris field that includes ejected coffins orbiting the ship—or seven passengers self-ejecting from the airlocks to their deaths because they’re convinced they’re on a prank reality show—darkly hilarious or disquieting. Filming for the second season was delayed due to the COVID pandemic but eventually concluded last November. Per HBO’s official description:
Picking up five months after failing to reroute the vessel, season two follows the crew—including fiery engineer Billie, unpredictable head of customer relations Matt, and faithful right-hand Iris—as they struggle to lead, calm, control, and, if need be, hide from increasingly unruly passengers. On Earth, they’re lauded as heroes, and in space, everyone can hear them scream.
In the trailer, we see Matt insisting that the passengers should be told about the new, longer timetable for returning home. Clark balks, mostly because the food is running out. If he tells the truth, “I’m going to become the next all-you-can-eat buffet.” He even insists everything is fine to 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 tilt the Sun—as Rav calls it, “The big yellow cancer factory made out of lava. That one.” But hey, at least they have options.
The second and final season of Avenue 5 comes to HBO and HBO Max on October 10, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max