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The Best Show This Side of Pluto

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

In the era of "bingable" content that we find ourselves in, any series (web, TV, streaming or otherwise) has an unbelievably strong gravitational pull to overcome in order to escape the crushing atmosphere that is modern media malaise. Space metaphors aside, one HBO show has done that and more to differentiate itself from the pack: Avenue 5.

Frank (Andy Buckley), Karen (Rebecca Front) & Captain Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie)

Simultaneously set millions of miles from Earth AND right here on our little, spinning marble, Avenue 5 is a masterfully written dystopian, ensemble comedy that guts everything from corporate America to the papacy, if only in excrement form (I promise that makes sense). The show stars Hugh Laurie, of pill-popping doctoral fame, as Captain Ryan Clark, head of the titular Avenue 5 as it embarks on its voyage through our solar system. The vessel, owned by Herman Judd (Josh Gad), Avenue 5's equivalent of an Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos love-child with a much, much lower IQ, has chartered an 8-week trip around Jupiter and back. A trip that obviously goes off without a hitch.

Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura) & Herman Judd (Josh Gad)

From the jump, every moment of this auspicious odyssey (sarcasm very much implied) is plagued by any number of cataclysmic events, sometimes all at once. Avenue 5 is a true who's who of farcical f**k-ups from beginning to end, that will have you relating to and then hating every character who stumbles on screen, a lot of the time in the same episode. Sporting one of the best comedy casts I've ever seen, this show will grip your attention from beginning to end as the comedy isn't even the greatest attraction. Every plot point is near-perfectly paced and spoon fed to us, the hungry baby birds starved of polished narrative as we wander the sprawling tree comprised of a legion of consistently disappointing streaming platforms. Looking at you, Netflix.

Apart from the stellar cast, this series presents itself in typical HBO grandeur with sprawling, detailed sets, every single frame of which contains at least one large golden "J" for Judd Enterprises. Somehow Avenue 5 is able to hold its own on the same network that produced industry-defining stories like Game of Thrones, West World, and most recently, Succession, which admittedly I have not seen... yet. Put away the pitchforks.

The one half-negative/half-positive that drifted into my attention was the fact that this show is DENSE. It's not necessarily casual viewing. That being said, you'll get the same enjoyment out of it, and arguably more, upon repeat viewings. So if you miss a minor joke here and there, come back to it in 6 months and find yourself laughing at things you can't believe you missed the first time around. The Home Box Office clearly had someone in production who has a seriously squishy soft spot for this one, and that loving attention shines through in almost every moment. The cast propels the action, the writing propels the cast, and the set design is the gorgeous gaudy bow that neatly wraps it all up.

I've gushed about this thing long enough. Maybe just go watch it.

"Fly Safe, Fly True."

Avenue 5 is streaming on HBO Max.
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