23/09/2020

This new series from the ‘Veep’ and ‘The Thick of It’ creator follows the misfortunes of guests aboard the luxury spaceliner Avenue 5 which gets lost in space

Now that Armando Iannucci is approaching the status of national treasure, anything he does is subject to massively inflated expectations. He hasnt let us down yet: On the Hour; The Day Today; Im Alan Partridge; The Thick of It; Time Trumpet; Veep; The Death of Stalin, and, shortly, a fresh adaption of David Copperfield. Iannuccis enjoyed a longer winning streak than Liverpool FC, but well, you do sometimes fret.
So I am delighted to report that his latest venture, the spacecom Avenue 5, shows him still at his pitch-perfect best. The wisecracking dialogue, the zinger lines, the characteristic attention to detail, the pacy action, the literary and visual flair and, above all, his otherworldly gift for satire all as finely blended as ever. At the risk of sounding like another of Iannuccis immortals, Alan Gordon Partridge, Avenue 5 is not just good its galactically good.
And so we gleefully clamber aboard the Avenue 5. As the opening Star Trek-style graphics reveal, this is the name of a vast space cruise ship in a near-future age of space tourism, a P&O Ferry in outer space. There are 5,000 bored, demanding passengers on board, and an indeterminate number of (incompetent) crew.
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There are many, many quotable lines. About the greedy Trumpesque boss of the space cruise line, a chap named Herman Judd (Josh Gad), for example, onboard for this trip. At one point his henchwoman remarks that hes been fracking some merchandise ideas, and he just hit gas. Judd is a figure with an absurdly lavish blonde barnet, an inability to grasp basic maths, and a tendency to adopt convenient delusion as truth when confronted with unpalatable facts. We all know who Iannucci has in mind, but it is done with a certain tangential lightness, rather than just dumping in some crude overdrawn Trump caricature.
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1/22 The Crown – series 3
The hit Netflix shows creator Peter Morgan takes plenty of artistic licence with this historical drama. But eagle-eyed royal fans spotted a mistake in the trailer for the third season. When Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II is shown celebrating her 1977 Silver Jubilee, the voiceover gets the date of the Queens coronation wrong by a year, saying the Silver jubilee was 25 years after the Coronation. It was actually 24 years, as her coronation took place on June 2, 1953.
2/22 Wild Bill
The ITV fish-out-of-water detective drama stars Rob Lowe as a US police chief who moves to the UK to take up the role of Chief Constable with East Lincolnshire police. He wears four medal ribbons Diamond Jubilee Medal, Golden Jubilee Medal, Queen’s Police Medal and Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. The trouble is not only are they in the wrong order, but he shouldnt be wearing any of them. Hes an American who hasnt previously served in the British police.
3/22 The X-Files
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) states that his sister Samantha was abducted by aliens but his recollections of it are contradictory. During hypnotherapy regression therapy, he says he was unable to move at the time, but during flashbacks, he is perfectly able to do so. Mulder is also seen wearing a wedding ring in the season five episode Travellers”. Why had he never mentioned being married? In reality, Duchovny had recently got married. But it added a big change to Mulders past.
4/22 Doctor Who
How old is the Doctor? In the classic-era he states hes anywhere between 500 to several thousand years old. But in the revived series, David Tennants Doctor claims he is 904 years old. Unless hes lying, somewhere along the line, the continuity has slipped up.
5/22 The Sopranos
During Ralphies death scene in his kitchen, Tony Soprano is almost blinded by a can of spray, but knocks Ralphie to the floor and kills him. The scene was meant to end with Tony putting his hands on the counter and gasping for air but James Gandolfini, who brilliantly plays Tony, accidentally put his hand down on the ovens lit burners. The cry of pain was real but this mistake worked perfectly for the scene.
6/22 Game of Thrones
The greatest oops moment in GoTs was in the final season when a stray Starbucks cup is sitting on a wooden table next to Emilia Clarkes character Daenerys Targaryen. Did nobody spot it? There were also plastic water bottles near Samwell Tarlys and Ser Davoss feet in the final episode.
7/22 The Simpsons
When Marge tells Homer she is pregnant with Maggie in the episode And Maggie Makes Three, which first aired in 1995, a picture of Maggie can be seen hanging on the wall of the living room a right clanger considering this is before she is even born.
8/22 Stranger Things
The second season of the TV drama is set in October 1984 a year after the first season. Considering the show trades in nostalgia, you would have thought they’d get the soundtrack right but they didnt. Mistakes include The Smith’s song “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” playing in the background during a flashback between Will and Jonathan. Trouble is, this particular Smiths song wasn’t released until 1986. There was also a motoring error: Barb’s Volkswagon Cabrio was actually made in 1988.
9/22 Supernatural
In the first seasons episode “Provenance”, it seems that the actors got a bit lazy, referring to characters by their real names, not their characters name. Dean appears to call his brother Jared, when the characters name is Sam Winchester and an extra calls the character Dean Winchester Jensen, which is again the name of the actor who plays him.
10/22 Lost
Its one of those shows in which fans searched for hidden clues and meanings. But they picked up on more than intended. In the plane crash scene in the first episode, right before the turbine explodes, a mysterious dark object sweeps upwards only visible to fans sifting through the scene frame by frame. Was it an early manifestation of the smoke monster? No, according to producers, it was just a CGI error.
11/22 The Big Bang Theory
More name mix-ups occur early on in the long-running US sitcom. The aspiring actress Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, refers to her dad as Bob, but once hes introduced on the show, he is called Wyatt. Also there is a plot mistake regarding the broken elevator in the apartment building. When they lug the time machine up the stairs in season one, Leonard explains to Howard that the elevator has been broken for two years. But Howard should know this considering he was there when Leonard blew it up. This is revealed during a flash back in a later episode, where it also states that the event took place five years ago, not two.
12/22 Doctor Foster
The BBC hit drama had a continuity error when its star Suranne Jones is seen drinking a glass of wine in her kitchen. As she gulps the wine and texts from her phone, the fridge door in the background is open, then closed, then open all by itself.
13/22 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season one establishes that vampires have no breath it’s confirmed when Angel is unable to perform CPR. But the vampires talk, pant and even smoke all which require breathing while Spike is even tortured by drowning.
14/22 Friends
During a scene in season nine, episode 15 (The One with the Mugging), Jennifer Aniston was replaced with a stand-in while her character Rachel was still in shot. She sits at the table at the edge of the frame and is even wearing a different top. In another scene, Phoebe, is chatting to her friend Monica, but its not Monica. Its Courteney Coxs body double who has been left carelessly in the shot.
15/22 Coronation Street
Fans laughed out loud when Anna Windass (Debbie Rush) finds Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni) injured on the pavement and picks up her mobile to call emergency services. She managed to do it without touching the screen, unlocking her phone or dialling any numbers.
16/22 Malcolm in the Middle
In the US sitcom about a dysfunctional family, when Lois walks out holding her ruined dress that is soaking wet to confront her kids, there is a crew member crouching in the hallway holding a bucket.
17/22 ER
The heartthrob paediatrician Doug Ross, played by George Clooney, had a son prior to his romance with Carol or did he? Although he mentions the son a few times in season one, he claims later in the series not to have any children.
18/22 Supernatural
In the first episode of this sci-fi series, the steering wheel has disappeared from the set of the spaceship. Serenitys pilot Wash, played by Alan Tudyk, can be seen improvising with his hands around an imaginary wheel. Its hard to believe this mistake wasnt caught.
19/22 Twin Peaks
The mistake actually ended up changing the plot of the series. Supposedly, David Lynch accidentally caught the crew member Frank Silva on camera when his reflection appeared in a mirror in a scene when Laura Palmer was shown screaming. Lynch liked it so much that he decided to keep it in and cast Silva as the character Killer Bob, a dark spirit who haunts Laura.
20/22 Two and a Half Men
Charlie Sheen is seen talking on an upside down iPhone while sitting in a flash red car with a sexily clad woman next to him.
21/22 Downton Abbey
The whopper of a mistake did not happen on screen, but in a promotional shot posted online. It was a surprise to see a plastic water bottle perched on the mantle piece behind the Earl of Grantham and Lady Edith considering the series is set in the 1920s. Other mistakes onscreen include a TV aerial on top of a house and double yellow lines on the road.
22/22 The Big Bang Theory
More name mix-ups occur early on in the long-running US sitcom. The aspiring actress Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, refers to her dad as Bob, but once hes introduced on the show, he is called Wyatt. Also there is a plot mistake regarding the broken elevator in the apartment building. When they lug the time machine up the stairs in season one, Leonard explains to Howard that the elevator has been broken for two years. But Howard should have known this considering he was there when Leonard blew it up. This is revealed during a flash back in a later episode, where it states the event took place five years ago, not two.
1/22 The Crown – series 3
The hit Netflix shows creator Peter Morgan takes plenty of artistic licence with this historical drama. But eagle-eyed royal fans spotted a mistake in the trailer for the third season. When Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II is shown celebrating her 1977 Silver Jubilee, the voiceover gets the date of the Queens coronation wrong by a year, saying the Silver jubilee was 25 years after the Coronation. It was actually 24 years, as her coronation took place on June 2, 1953.
2/22 Wild Bill
The ITV fish-out-of-water detective drama stars Rob Lowe as a US police chief who moves to the UK to take up the role of Chief Constable with East Lincolnshire police. He wears four medal ribbons Diamond Jubilee Medal, Golden Jubilee Medal, Queen’s Police Medal and Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. The trouble is not only are they in the wrong order, but he shouldnt be wearing any of them. Hes an American who hasnt previously served in the British police.
3/22 The X-Files
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) states that his sister Samantha was abducted by aliens but his recollections of it are contradictory. During hypnotherapy regression therapy, he says he was unable to move at the time, but during flashbacks, he is perfectly able to do so. Mulder is also seen wearing a wedding ring in the season five episode Travellers”. Why had he never mentioned being married? In reality, Duchovny had recently got married. But it added a big change to Mulders past.
4/22 Doctor Who
How old is the Doctor? In the classic-era he states hes anywhere between 500 to several thousand years old. But in the revived series, David Tennants Doctor claims he is 904 years old. Unless hes lying, somewhere along the line, the continuity has slipped up.
5/22 The Sopranos
During Ralphies death scene in his kitchen, Tony Soprano is almost blinded by a can of spray, but knocks Ralphie to the floor and kills him. The scene was meant to end with Tony putting his hands on the counter and gasping for air but James Gandolfini, who brilliantly plays Tony, accidentally put his hand down on the ovens lit burners. The cry of pain was real but this mistake worked perfectly for the scene.
6/22 Game of Thrones
The greatest oops moment in GoTs was in the final season when a stray Starbucks cup is sitting on a wooden table next to Emilia Clarkes character Daenerys Targaryen. Did nobody spot it? There were also plastic water bottles near Samwell Tarlys and Ser Davoss feet in the final episode.
7/22 The Simpsons
When Marge tells Homer she is pregnant with Maggie in the episode And Maggie Makes Three, which first aired in 1995, a picture of Maggie can be seen hanging on the wall of the living room a right clanger considering this is before she is even born.
8/22 Stranger Things
The second season of the TV drama is set in October 1984 a year after the first season. Considering the show trades in nostalgia, you would have thought they’d get the soundtrack right but they didnt. Mistakes include The Smith’s song “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” playing in the background during a flashback between Will and Jonathan. Trouble is, this particular Smiths song wasn’t released until 1986. There was also a motoring error: Barb’s Volkswagon Cabrio was actually made in 1988.
9/22 Supernatural
In the first seasons episode “Provenance”, it seems that the actors got a bit lazy, referring to characters by their real names, not their characters name. Dean appears to call his brother Jared, when the characters name is Sam Winchester and an extra calls the character Dean Winchester Jensen, which is again the name of the actor who plays him.
10/22 Lost
Its one of those shows in which fans searched for hidden clues and meanings. But they picked up on more than intended. In the plane crash scene in the first episode, right before the turbine explodes, a mysterious dark object sweeps upwards only visible to fans sifting through the scene frame by frame. Was it an early manifestation of the smoke monster? No, according to producers, it was just a CGI error.
11/22 The Big Bang Theory
More name mix-ups occur early on in the long-running US sitcom. The aspiring actress Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, refers to her dad as Bob, but once hes introduced on the show, he is called Wyatt. Also there is a plot mistake regarding the broken elevator in the apartment building. When they lug the time machine up the stairs in season one, Leonard explains to Howard that the elevator has been broken for two years. But Howard should know this considering he was there when Leonard blew it up. This is revealed during a flash back in a later episode, where it also states that the event took place five years ago, not two.
12/22 Doctor Foster
The BBC hit drama had a continuity error when its star Suranne Jones is seen drinking a glass of wine in her kitchen. As she gulps the wine and texts from her phone, the fridge door in the background is open, then closed, then open all by itself.
13/22 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season one establishes that vampires have no breath it’s confirmed when Angel is unable to perform CPR. But the vampires talk, pant and even smoke all which require breathing while Spike is even tortured by drowning.
14/22 Friends
During a scene in season nine, episode 15 (The One with the Mugging), Jennifer Aniston was replaced with a stand-in while her character Rachel was still in shot. She sits at the table at the edge of the frame and is even wearing a different top. In another scene, Phoebe, is chatting to her friend Monica, but its not Monica. Its Courteney Coxs body double who has been left carelessly in the shot.
15/22 Coronation Street
Fans laughed out loud when Anna Windass (Debbie Rush) finds Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni) injured on the pavement and picks up her mobile to call emergency services. She managed to do it without touching the screen, unlocking her phone or dialling any numbers.
16/22 Malcolm in the Middle
In the US sitcom about a dysfunctional family, when Lois walks out holding her ruined dress that is soaking wet to confront her kids, there is a crew member crouching in the hallway holding a bucket.
17/22 ER
The heartthrob paediatrician Doug Ross, played by George Clooney, had a son prior to his romance with Carol or did he? Although he mentions the son a few times in season one, he claims later in the series not to have any children.
18/22 Supernatural
In the first episode of this sci-fi series, the steering wheel has disappeared from the set of the spaceship. Serenitys pilot Wash, played by Alan Tudyk, can be seen improvising with his hands around an imaginary wheel. Its hard to believe this mistake wasnt caught.
19/22 Twin Peaks
The mistake actually ended up changing the plot of the series. Supposedly, David Lynch accidentally caught the crew member Frank Silva on camera when his reflection appeared in a mirror in a scene when Laura Palmer was shown screaming. Lynch liked it so much that he decided to keep it in and cast Silva as the character Killer Bob, a dark spirit who haunts Laura.
20/22 Two and a Half Men
Charlie Sheen is seen talking on an upside down iPhone while sitting in a flash red car with a sexily clad woman next to him.
21/22 Downton Abbey
The whopper of a mistake did not happen on screen, but in a promotional shot posted online. It was a surprise to see a plastic water bottle perched on the mantle piece behind the Earl of Grantham and Lady Edith considering the series is set in the 1920s. Other mistakes onscreen include a TV aerial on top of a house and double yellow lines on the road.
22/22 The Big Bang Theory
More name mix-ups occur early on in the long-running US sitcom. The aspiring actress Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, refers to her dad as Bob, but once hes introduced on the show, he is called Wyatt. Also there is a plot mistake regarding the broken elevator in the apartment building. When they lug the time machine up the stairs in season one, Leonard explains to Howard that the elevator has been broken for two years. But Howard should have known this considering he was there when Leonard blew it up. This is revealed during a flash back in a later episode, where it states the event took place five years ago, not two.
Long-time Iannucci collaborator Rebecca Front also turns up, as a gloriously irate American tourist who bizarrely uses media euphemism in place of original profanities: What the F-bomb is going on? The dopey head of passenger service (Zach Woods) tells his charges after yet another mishap on board: This is fate and it is freestyling with us. Jazz-fate: Typical dazzling Iannucci inventiveness at work again.
The star of the show, if that is not too bad a pun, is space captain Ryan Clark, (inevitably, and superbly, played by Hugh Laurie), a jocular soul in an overblown naval uniform and a beard that makes him look like a cross between captains Jean-Luc Picard and Birds Eye. Capn Clark tells his passengers to set your phasors to fun, but in due course also has to advise them, after a particularly rough passage that leaves many injured, to pay attention to my words not my tone. He has confidence in his firms ability to get them out of trouble because they patented the liquid glove.
The trouble they find themselves in is a result of a brief gravity flip. This occurs when the ships engineers accidentally turn the gravity machine off, anti-gravity takes over, and everyone and everything goes flying. The impact of 5,000 mostly overweight passengers hitting the side of the spacecraft is sufficient to shove it slightly off course. When the new trajectory is calculated, it turns out that their planned leisurely two-month vacation is instead to become a three-year-long prison sentence. Cue panic.
Like much of Iannuccis work, Avenue 5 is garnished with clever touches and details. I liked one passengers description of his spouse as my current wife, the exact phrase used by Trump about Melania a couple of years ago. Theres also a charming joke-within-a-joke about Captain Clark. Referencing Lauries transatlantic persona in House, Captain Clark confesses that he is not a real American space cruise captain at all, but rather an English actor playing the role of a space captain. He puts on a remarkably fluent American accent, he explains, because people prefer it for some reason.
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In fact, the ship doesnt even need a captain because it pretty much controls itself, and he was hired simply to jolly the passengers along. The real guy in charge is the engineer, Joe, who, unfortunately, stabs himself to death with his own screwdriver during the gravity flip. Hence their predicament.
Adventure 5 is Red Dwarf meets Fawlty Towers meets Blakes 7 meets ferry operator Stena Line. Like any properly produced sci-fi show, you can see where theyve lavished the money to achieve superb special effects and build some imposing and actually very attractive sets (Avenue 5 genuinely would be a pleasant vessel to go to see other worlds). But that is not why Avenue 5 works so well: Thats the out of this world imagination of Captain Iannucci.