Why Some Do Sci-Fi Comedies Soar While Others Bomb?

Armando Iannucci’s new sci-fi comedy Avenue 5 debuted in the UK on Sky One 22nd January to merely meh reviews.


Avenue 5: Official Trailer | HBO


Despite a stellar (sic) cast which includes Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad, Avenue 5 has only received tepid reviews in the UK:


“Like the post-flip ship itself, Avenue 5 doesn’t seem to know quite where it is going or how long it might take to get there.”

Lucy Mangan, The Guardian


Avenue 5 has a great premise, an excellent cast and, in its creator, Armando Iannucci, a satirical comedy genius at its helm. So how come it wasn’t very funny? 

Carol Midgely, The Times


“It is an intriguing premise, but anyone expecting it to be up to Iannucci’s usual standards is going to be let down. In space no one can hear you scream, ‘but this isn’t as funny as The Thick of It!’”

Anita Singh, The Telegraph


Sci-fi comedies are traditionally a difficult sell to broad audiences, which accounts for the few crossover successes in the genre. Despite this, we are also have on the (Event) Horizon Steve Carrell’s workplace comedy Space Force, and the animated Star Trek spin-off Lower Decks, which to my eyes smacks of a Kevin Smith-style take (Death Star Contractors) on the unheralded workhorses who keep Star Fleet running.


Are CBS milking the Trek franchise too heavily for their All Access streaming service with ST: Discovery, Short Treks, Picard and now Lower Decks?


A touch of the Star Wars conveyor belt? – stack ’em high and sell ’em cheap(ish).


Other sci-fi comedies currently airing include TBS’s Final Space (Netflix in the UK) and  the low-budget Personal Space for Amazon Prime and of course Seth MacFarlane’s dramedy The Orville (Fox).


Amazon’s revived Galaxy Quest series is on hold, but could it really work without the late Alan Rickman’s baleful Dr Lazarus/Alexander Dane?


Galaxy Quest (1/9) Movie CLIP - How Did I Come to This? (1999) HD


Older similarly themed sci-fi spoofs include Hyperdrive (Nick Frost/Miranda Hart), the long-running Red Dwarf, Paul (Bridesmaids/Spy) Feig’s 2015 Yahoo series Other Space and the late Buck Henry’s goofy disco-tinged 70s series Quark


Asteroid negotiations - Hyperdrive - BBC comedy

Quark-1978 TV series Intro


Actually Quark doesn’t look too bad on the strength of the pilot. Well at least not as awful as it could have been.



Did I miss any?


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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'