Pop Culture

Satire God Armando Iannucci Will Take on Superhero Movies in New HBO Comedy

The Franchise will focus on a film crew “trapped inside the dysfunctional hellscape of franchise superhero movie-making.”

Armando Ianucci and JuliaLouis Dreyfus attends the after party for the Veep screening at Porter House on April 10 2012...

Armando Ianucci and Julia-Louis Dreyfus attends the after party for the Veep screening at Porter House on April 10, 2012 in New York City.Courtesy of Michael Loccisano via Getty Images

Armando Iannucci, one of our foremost purveyors of comedic dysfunction, is shifting his focus from politics to something even more consequential and omnipotent: superhero movies. Per Variety, the creator of The Thick of It and Veep will be producing and overseeing The Franchise for HBO, with Sam Mendes (Skyfall, 1917) in the director’s chair for the pilot.

According to the Variety synopsis, The Franchise focuses on a film crew “trapped inside the dysfunctional, nonsensical, joyous hellscape of franchise superhero movie-making.” Iannucci has always been able to make inside-baseball humor translate to a wider audience through razor sharp writing and pitch perfect casting (as with politics in Veep), so he seems like a logical choice to satirize the Marvel and DC universes. The new show, which will join Ianucci’s sci-fi comedy Avenue 5 at HBO, will be co-written by Jon Brown (Succession, Loaded), as well as Keith Akushie, who created the BBC sitcom Siblings.

The Mendes choice feels surprising: An Oscar and Tony winner, he has little to no comedy on his directorial resume. (It depends on how funny you found American Beauty.) He leans towards heavy drama, though he has been through the franchise-action mill with the Bond films Spectre and Skyfall, so perhaps he has a lot of insight (and axes to grind) on this type of moviemaking.

Having dominated the zeitgeist for more than a decade, the superhero genre seems ripe for Iannucci’s brand of dark, cutting humor. From the rabidity of online fans, to micro-managing studio executives, to overworked CGI artists, the multi-billion dollar superhero movie industry is a perfect playground for Iannucci and his writers. The question is whether The Franchise will be as fascinating to a non-Hollywood crowd as it is to those who work in the business. Judd Apatow’s The Bubble, released this March on Netflix, told the story of a film crew shooting an action movie sequel in the depths of Covid-19 lockdown, and it received some of the worst reviews of his career. The Coen Brothers’ 2016 film Hail, Caesar! earned praise, but is considered a relatively minor entry in the duo’s storied filmography. That said, older films like The Player and Bowfinger are beloved, and Ricky Gervais’ post-Office series Extras was embraced by HBO’s audience. So, just like in a superhero movie, it’s all about the final cut.

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