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HBO's Avenue 5 is a galactic good time, but can't quite hit cosmic comedic heights of Veep, say critics

By Josh Weiss
Avenue 5

Avenue 5 (debuting Sunday, Jan. 19) is a chance for HBO to go where many people have gone before: the untamed wilds of outer space. Instead of a cosmic drama-thriller in the vein of Star Trek, however, the upcoming series — created from the mind of Veep's Armando Iannucci — is a parody of the serious demeanor we've come to associate with galactic adventures.

Sure, the threat of dying a horrible death in the airless vacuum of an uncaring, unfeeling universe is still there, but it's being wildly subverted with comedy.

So do Avenue 5's science fiction-inspired laughs compare to the Emmy-winning political jokes of Veep? The first reviews have popped up online, five to be fittingly exact, and critics aren't totally in love with Iannucci's latest brainchild.

That's not to say that folks are hating the show, which stars Hugh Laurie (The Night Manager) as Ryan Clark, the irritable captain of the eponymous star/cruise-ship embarking on a three-year voyage around the solar system. They just feel that there's definite room for improvement when it comes to the overall humor and the precision of its satire.

Captain Clark is joined by such colorful characters as Herman Judd (Frozen II's Josh Gad), a somewhat clueless billionaire who owns the interstellar vessel. Zach Woods, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Himesh Patel, Rebecca Front, Lenora Crichlow, Suzy Nakamura, and Ethan Phillips all co-star.

Blast off and see what critics have been saying below ...

"It's ... a bit difficult to see what, exactly, Iannucci is satirizing here. The politics and commerce of the future are, if anything, underused as targets. Maybe it's simply the hospitality industry being mocked. Or maybe it's better to look at Avenue 5 as simply Iannucci having fun with a new and not very subtext-rich disaster scenario, resulting in something clever if not particularly smart." -Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter

"Coming right on the heels of Veep, one of the best shows of the past decade, Avenue 5 is almost inevitably a bit of a disappointment. The show feels like a funnier spiritual sibling of Other Space, Paul Feig’s cult sci-fi comedy ... Avenue 5 is still a sharply-written comedy with a strong cast and an enjoyable mix of highbrow punchlines, broad physical comedy, and silly sight gags, one involving a radiation shield of human excrement. And if there’s anyone who can navigate viewers through a s—storm, it’s Hugh Laurie." -Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly

"Based on the first four episodes, the Avenue 5 catastrophe could deteriorate into a classic comedy of errors which can easily run the three years promised, and beyond if the situation gets worse, or even better. Iannucci consistently finds failure in the falsest of hopes, especially when the final numbers are run, and the miscalculations don't add up." -Tony Sokol, Den of Geek

The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults ... Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great." -Jake Kleinman, Inverse

"Avenue 5 doesn't have the rapid fire delivery of jokes that made Veep so fun to watch ... Avenue 5 never hits the same stride ... There is enough space humor here to appease scifi fans and enough scatalogical jokes and off color humor to warrant this series airing on HBO, but it doesn't quite hit the potential that I would have expected from Armando Iannucci. That doesn't mean it isn't good, it just isn't good enough quite yet but it certainly has the potential to be a break out hit." Alex Maidy,