'Avenue 5' review: No one can hear you not laugh in outer space

HBO's new series from "Veep" creator Armando Iannucci could use an earthbound anchor

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

The inhabitants of a vessel orbiting through space are led by bumbling phonies who work for narcissistic power-hungry fools.

So, true, life on “Avenue 5” looks a lot like life on Earth.

Hugh Laurie, center, stars in "Avenue 5."

But this sci-fi satire is more silly than scathing. An absurd tale of a space pleasure cruise ship that’s lost its bearings, it literally isn’t grounded and doesn’t touch down in the real world enough to matter. As metaphors go, mark it both too obvious and, er, alien. Yeah, everybody’s incompetent and self-serving but who cares?

HBO, assumedly. This half-hour sitcom is producer Armando Iannucci’s follow-up to the network’s “Veep.” “Veep” earned a whopping 17 Emmys during its seven-year run as one of the best comedies on TV. “Avenue 5” seems more likely to just drift off into the void.

There are, of course, good people at work here. Hugh Laurie stars as the spaceship’s clueless commander, Josh Gad is the clueless zillionaire funding the spaceship, Suzy Nakamura plays the tycoon’s clueless assistant. You get the drift. A hands-on engineer played by Lenora Crichlow (“Being Human”) is the closest we get to a sensible person because, you know, the common man is where common sense resides.

Iannucci’s lauded career, which includes the fine films “The Death of Stalin” and “In the Loop,” has been built on tracking dolts in high places and the soul-draining effects of politics and bureaucracy. But such examinations require a realistic backdrop to have bite.

Watch a show about idiots in government and it fits right in with the day’s news. Watch a show about idiots in outer space and, again, who cares? We have idiots aplenty here on Earth to worry about.

'Avenue 5'


10 p.m. Sunday