I truly did not think I would like BoJack Horseman. I have never been the biggest fan of animated sitcoms, and I thought the premise seemed ridiculous. I ultimately decided to check it out at the urging of many friends who constantly sang its praises, and I stand corrected. I really enjoy this wonderfully weird show. There is a lot more to it than initially meets the eye—it is so much more than your traditional animated comedy. It’s a shockingly bleak examination of character and society, with continuity rivaling Arrested Development and too many jokes-per-minute to count.
BoJack (perfectly voiced by Will Arnett), the titular character, is a half-man, half-horse washed-up 90s sitcom star (his claim to fame is a family comedy called Horsin’ Around, which is basically Full House if Danny Tanner was half equine). He is simply not a good horse/person. He’s depressed, self-pitying, he treats most of the people/animals in his life terribly, and he’s really not a lot of fun to be around, which he openly acknowledges and admits. His best friend, Todd (Aaron Paul), is a human freeloader who has been crashing on BoJack’s couch seemingly forever. He is full of big ideas, but lacks the follow-through to ever really make something of his life. Diane (Allison Brie), another human, develops a friendship and flirtation with BoJack when she is assigned to ghost write his memoir. She is dating Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), a goofy labrador retriever and BoJack’s arch nemesis from the 90s (he starred on Mr. Peanutbutter’s House, which was literally just Horsin’ Around but with a dog). Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) is a pink cat who is BoJack’s agent and sometimes girlfriend. She is fabulous, and my literal spirit animal. She prides herself on being able to compartmentalize her job (which she is very good at) and her personal life (which is consistently a disappointment). There are also a slew of guest and recurring characters voiced by such names as Patton Oswalt, Kristen Schaal, Olivia Wilde, Stanley Tucci, and Tatiana Maslany.
While it’s almost an afterthought on the show, the subtleties of this world where humans live alongside anthropomorphic animals are fascinating. There is one particularly disturbing season two episode (that could frankly be used to convert people to vegetarianism) where they delve into the dark story behind the non-anthropomorphic animals that still exist. There is also a lot of fantastic commentary on Hollywood (or, as its known in the show after an incident involving BoJack and the ‘D’ from the Hollywood Sign, Hollywoo), particularly when it comes to agencies and networks.
The show also has a truly impressive continuity, which is even reflected in the ever-changing opening credits. There are too many running jokes to count, frequent callbacks to past events, and hidden jokes everywhere. No opportunities are missed—pay special attention to scrolling headlines on any news broadcasts, which all take place on MSNBSea with a whale as the anchor—for some great laughs.
There are certainly many funny moments, but don’t get me wrong—this show is bleak. It does not take a particularly optimistic stance on life, largely because its main character sees everything through a lens of despair. For an animated series set in an entirely fictional, far-fetched universe, there are many moments where the show gets almost uncomfortably real. The second season has an episode that delves into the issue of sexual harassment in Hollywood (in a story clearly ripped from the Bill Cosby headlines) with a frankness and honesty I have not seen anywhere else. “It’s amazing to me that people wake up every morning and say ‘yeah! Another day! Let’s do it!'” BoJack says at one point. When was the last time the lead in a comedy series was so openly…sad?
The penultimate episode of season 2 was pretty shocking and, in my opinion, took the show to a darker place than ever before. I am referring to the episode where BoJack leaves Hollywoo to spend some time with his ex-flame Charlotte (Olivia Wilde) and her family in New Mexico. On the flip side, there are episodes and storylines that are downright hilarious. The episode that truly sold me on the show, episode 5 of season 1, features an excellent Todd and Princess Carolyn B-story in which they capitalize on a Hollywood Star Homes Tour’s mistaking BoJack’s home for David Boreanaz’s. Character Actress Margo Martindale is even a recurring character—voiced by herself and yes, she is only ever referred to as “Character Actress Margo Martindale.”
BoJack Horseman is yet another example of Netflix nailing it when it comes to fresh, original programming. Season two actually ended on a somewhat optimistic note, and I cannot wait to see what BoJack and company get up to in season three next year. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here embroidering “What Would Princess Carolyn Do?” on everything.