January 19th sees the launch of Avenue 5 on HBO in the USA and on the 22nd on Sky One in the UK. A new sci-fi sitcom created by On The Hour, The Day Today, Friday Night Armastice, I'm Alan Partridge, The Thick Of It and Veep's Armando Iannucci, it stars Hugh Laurie as Ryan Clark, the captain of space station, Avenue 5. Other familiar names from previous Armando Iannucci projects include Rebecca Front as Karen Kelly, a passenger aboard Avenue 5. And there are some other names more familiar to Americans such as Suzy Nakamura as Iris Kimura, an associate owner of Avenue 5, Zach Woods as Matt Spencer, Head of Customer Relations, Josh Gad as Herman Judd, billionaire owner of Avenue 5, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Rav Mulcair, head of Mission Control, Lenora Crichlow as Billie McEvoy, second engineer, Ethan Phillips as Spike Williams, a former astronaut who is now a womanizing alcoholic and Himesh Patel as Jordan Hatwal, a stand up comedian who takes up an eight week residency on Avenue 5.
Writers other than Iannucci include The Thick Of It's Simon Blackwell & Tony Roche, Georgia Pritchett & Will Smith, Peter Fellows & Ian Martin. But there's one writer that hasn't been officially named but the whisper of a mention in an interview in a local newspaper, The Warrington Guardian, back in August made me sit up and take note, when it came across my Google searches.
John Finnemore. Writer of one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Cabin Pressure, (above, that's him on the left) set in a one-plane charter aircraft, over five years it played up the classic sitcom structure of trapping people from different backgrounds in a confined space where they can't get away from each other. The parallels should be clear.
"That's extremely exciting but at the moment I'm not allowed to say anything about it."
Fair enough. He has also written the sketch show John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, the longest-running British sketch show of all, right now. It also happens to be bloody brilliant as well.
It is possible that you may have heard me go on and on and on about these on Bleeding Cool as well. And have studiously ignored them all. But now John Finnemore is coming to HBO with Armando Iannucci – Iannucci is also co-writing a film with Finnemore, In Too Deep.
I think I am destined to be all over this. Here are the episode listings so far…
Avenue 5 is a space tourism comedy set 40 years in the future when the solar system is everyone's oyster. Hugh Laurie will star as the Captain, and with him in charge, nothing can go wrong.
Episode 1: "I Was Flying"
Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 19 (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT)
When a malfunction occurs aboard the luxury space cruise ship Avenue 5, it's up to engineer Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow) to warn Captain Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie), Avenue 5 owner Herman Judd (Josh Gad) and his right-hand-woman Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura) that the incident may have a cataclysmic knock-on effect. As Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird) manages the situation from mission control back on Earth, Matt Spencer (Zach Woods), the head of customer relations, tries his best to calm frayed nerves on board, and persistent passenger Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front) discovers the crew may know more than they're letting on.
Story by Armando Iannucci; teleplay by Armando Iannucci & Simon Blackwell & Tony Roche; directed by Armando Iannucci.
Episode 2: "And Then He's Gonna Shoot Off… "
Debut date: SUNDAY, JAN. 26 (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT)
As Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her team meet with a NASA representative to plot a potential rescue mission, Ryan (Hugh Laurie) learns that Cyrus (Neil Casey) an engineer working in a hidden part of the ship, has a surprisingly optimistic theory about the ship's future. Judd (Josh Gad) donates a lavish personal item to help commemorate a fallen crew member. Karen (Rebecca Front) becomes a vocal advocate for passengers. Mia (Jessica St. Clair) and Doug (Kyle Bornheimer) receive marital counseling from Matt (Zach Woods).
Story by Armando Iannucci & Georgia Pritchett & Will Smith; teleplay by Georgia Pritchett & Will Smith; directed by Natalie Bailey.
Episode 3: "I'm a Hand Model"
Debut date: SUNDAY, FEB. 2 (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT)
With Avenue 5 staff slacking in their customer service, Ryan (Hugh Laurie) offers Karen (Rebecca Front) the opportunity to channel her unique talent for speaking the passengers' language. Judd (Josh Gad) outlines the plan for a rescue mission and tasks Iris (Suzy Nakamura) with organizing a vigil on Earth to raise the money to fund it. Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird) endures a barrage of messages from the ship and handles an unruly press conference.
Story by Armando Iannucci & Peter Fellows & Ian Martin; teleplay by Peter Fellows & Ian Martin; directed by Natalie Bailey
Episode 4: "Wait A Minute, Then Who Was That On The Ladder?"
Debut date: SUNDAY, FEB. 9 (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT)
With Judd (Josh Gad) worried about his reputation, Iris arranges a meet-and-greet with several passengers in his luxury suite. Frustrated by a bridge crew with no answers, Ryan (Hugh Laurie) and Billie (Lenora Crichlow) bond with the engineers below deck. Matt (Zach Woods) encourages Frank (Andy Buckley) to become the man he always wanted to be.
Story by Armando Iannucci & Peter Fellows & Ian Martin; teleplay by Peter Fellows & Ian Martin; directed by Natalie Bailey.