Avenue 5 1.07: Are You A Spider, Matt?
Nice job schmoozing, Captain Schmooze.
We open this week’s Avenue 5 with Spike, Doug and Frank observing the turd cloud from the small observation deck. Frank, apparently now confident enough to leave his cabin, swears that he can see the face of Pope John Paul II within the floating poop (to be fair, it's quite convincing). Doug, on the chances of the late pontiff appearing in a constellation of human faeces: “Wouldn’t he pick, like, motor oil or pancakes?” But Frank is resolute, despite his wife Karen’s attempts to silence him. In her defence, Frank does seem a little crazy, and Andy Buckley really sells the new, fanatical Frank. If anyone onboard has the right look for shouting about “toilet miracles”, as Karen puts it, it’s him.
Judd, meanwhile, spends most of the episode cowering from the verbal attacks of fellow trillionaire Harrison, a passenger aboard Avenue 5 whose fortune back on Earth is eroding with every day he stays stranded in space. It’s immense fun to see Ryan needling Judd about this particular sore spot. Harrison is played by British sitcom legend Paterson Joseph, here reunited with his Peep Show director Becky Martin. Harrison is not a million miles away from Peep Show’s Johnson, a dynamo of entrepreneurial energy who alternately inspires fear and respect in those around him. He shuts down Judd with the immortal line “silence, Fudd, you quivering sack of fraud”. Iris decides that coaching Judd to devise better comebacks is a priority. As always, Judd’s vulnerabilities are more interesting and funny than his cruelty and bluster.
Back on Earth, Rav approaches the end of her blissful interval of Judd-free time, during the comms blackout, only to learn that the protestors outside the Judd Galaxy headquarters have started to target her - calling her the ‘queen of death’ and alleging that she wants 500 passengers killed. In her words,“goody goody gum disease”. It’s clear that the news of her negotiations with the President have leaked, and as the face of Judd Galaxy on Earth, Rav is in the firing line. The creators of Veep have clearly lost none of their bite when it comes to showing that women will always have to clean up after the men, then take the blame for it.
It’s a good week for gags about our bizarro future, as Rav considers the lunch options at the food court - including wasp tapenade and owls in blankets. (Juxtaposed with the “taste-free guano” which even the Captain has to endure on Avenue 5, it all sounds delicious). Meanwhile, Judd and Harrison’s game of VR Golf is represented with an animated interlude that seems highly futuristic - but the reveal that several green-suited actors are actually playing the scenery around them is delightful, and very on-brand for Judd.
It wouldn’t be an episode of Avenue 5 without a looming crisis, and here it arrives when Billie tells Ryan about the docking procedure which will allow the rescue shuttles to connect to the main ship as they approach Earth. Unfortunately, the controls are so complex that it takes 5 years to learn them, and even Billie isn’t qualified to do it: Ryan’s going to have to do some serious book-learning. By the standards of TV comedy, Avenue 5 often approaches panic-attack levels of anxiety, and anybody who has ever realised they forgot to study for a test will feel Ryan's pain acutely.
Billie and stand-up Jordan enjoy a ‘date’ in the bar that’s so chemistry-free it could serve as a PSA for abstinence, but it does give Billie a great idea - ejecting the equivalent weight of 500 passengers from the back of the ship could give them enough of a boost to accelerate the trip home. It leads to a rousing finale, cross-cutting between Ryan’s address to the passengers (giving them the happy news that the trip home may now be as short as 6 months) and Rav’s decision to come to Avenue 5 and pick up Judd herself in the supply pod - escaping the 360-degree firing squad of hate back on Earth and bringing it directly to her boss. The happy ending all comes crashing down (of course) when Ryan and Billie realise that they now have just 6 months for Ryan to learn to dock the ship. Some tough decisions will have to be made in the remaining two episodes of Avenue 5 in this season.