Veep creator Armando Iannucci wanted to tap into the “madness of crowds” and populism for his latest project. But instead of setting up another political comedy, he decided to set it in space.
Iannucci, who also created BBC comedy The Thick of It, was at the Winter TCA press tour alongside the cast of the HBO show including Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Zach Woods, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rebecca Front, Lenora Crichlow, Suzy Nakamura and Ethan Phillips.
“I knew after doing ten years of Veep and The Thick of It, I knew I didn’t want to do another political show,” he said. “There’s an air of uncertainty [in the world]… and a sense of foreboding doom and no one is doing anything about it. The madness of crowds and populism, I wanted to tap into that. But I also love sci-fi, so I thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to put this pressure cooker into space’.”
Created and co-written by Iannucci, Avenue 5 is a space tourism comedy set 40 years in the future when the solar system is everyone’s oyster. With Hugh Laurie as the Captain, nothing can go wrong.
Laurie is Ryan Clark, the confident and suave captain of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship with luxury amenities including gourmet buffets, a spa, an observation deck and yoga classes. As the series begins, Avenue 5’s eight-week journey around Saturn is underway, and its systems are optimal. But when the ship suddenly encounters technical difficulties, it’s up to Ryan and his crew to calm the disgruntled passengers and find a way to deal with unexpected events onboard – though they might or might not be equipped for the task.
“In shows like The Thick of It and Veep, it was people just trying to get through the day. With this it’s people trying to get through the next three days and possibly the rest of their lives,” added Iannucci.
When asked about the large bodycount in the comedy, Josh Gad, who stars as Herman Judd, joked that he likes to think of Avenue 5 as the “Game of Thrones of comedy”. Gad’s Judd is inspired by the likes of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland with the hair of Richard Branson. “He admires people like Elon Musk and Branson,” he said. “I fear this is where we might be headed.”
Despite being set in space, Iannucci added that he deliberately didn’t want it to be “mega futuristic”. “Other shows do that well, I wanted to focus on the human element,” he said.
Avenue 5, which is co-written with Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche, exec produced by Iannucci, Blackwell, Roche, Kevin Loader and Will Smith with Peter Fellow as co-exec producer and Steve Clark-Hall as producer, premieres on January 19, 2020.