By Joseph Prescott
You may have had similar (or even these exact) thoughts at some point when scrolling past, abandoning early on, or otherwise dismissing this series as just another loud, transgressive “adult” (aka middle school audience-aiming) cartoon. But, with the trailer for the final season having just dropped, I am here to tell you that you have been mistaken in doing so.
Here’s the case for this beautiful, hilarious, and sometimes all too real show.
Is He More Than Man, or More Man Than Horse?
BoJack is insecure, heavily depressed, and, well, a horse. He’s a misanthropic anthropomorphic tour de force horse, of course. And he is surrounded (for a while, at least) by:
- Diane Nguyen, a writer who feels she is never quite living the life she is supposed to be
- Todd Chavez, a twenty-something stoner who sleeps on BoJack’s couch and gets into various hijinks (varying from comic relief to comical plot movement and then some)
- Princess Carolyn, a pink cat (stay with me here) who is BoJack’s agent and on-again-off-again lover in pursuit of starting a family
- And, lastly, Mr. Peanutbutter (“peanut butter” is one word), a labrador retriever who is overly optimistic, but not always as carefree as he may seem
Okay, so now you have the basis of the show and see how absurd it all sounds (if not already a tinge sad), but I’m telling you: shit gets real.
A Mirror to Society, Reading "You Are Secretariat"
“Hank After Dark” is an exceptional episode in juggling a number of these concepts as well as some culminating/ongoing character storylines. The main premise is that long beloved TV personality, Hank “Uncle Hanky” Hippopopalous faces late-in-life allegations of (what the show never actually goes so far as to say, is otherwise assumed to be) sexual offenses (See: Bill Cosby). We are shown how fans do not want to believe the accusations, how the women who stand up are perceived and are subsequently treated and portrayed by the media, and how when Todd interrupts all this drama to bring everyone’s attention to a currently ongoing foreign genocide (which he may be accidentally directly responsible for), no one wants to hear it and no news outlet is reporting it because that’s not the story that people want to hear. This is an outstanding use of Todd, because he is not purely comic relief as he tends to initially be seen as. And despite how much I just told you about this episode, there’s still so much more packed into it for you to see for yourself.
Quickly hitting some other notables:
“Thoughts and Prayers” which hammers home the titular platitude at every new mass public shooting that occurs during the course of the episode (yes, there are multiple, but how exaggerated is that even, America?)
“BoJack the Feminist” in which Hollywood forgives celebrities for their atrocious transgressions as long as they publicly apologize. Looking at you Mel Gibson. Hugh Grant. Christian Bale. Jeffrey Tambor (wait did he apologize?) List goes on.
And then you have episodes like “Escape from L.A.” in which an incident on a boat involving a couple characters leaves you shook. You need a breather after that moment.
There's a Good Amount of Comic Relief
This show necessitates it and addresses this on multiple levels of comedy. There are animal-based site gags (i.e. a homeless raccoon digging through a dumpster), party banners with mistyped messages, strings of fun dialogue (“I would love to take down Hippopopalous and finally topple the acropolis of monstrous hypocrisy that ensconces us.”), continual jabs at the TV/Film industry, and general lunacy that helps lighten the mood (I chuckle every time I see the Cartindale Cargoship because that’s just absurdity gold to me). But watch out for those final punchlines at the closing of episodes—they aim for the gut.
Of course, there are many familiar voices that bring life to numerous characters, comedic personas such as— Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alan Arkin, Stephen Colbert, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Wilde, both Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, list goes on for days; just about every character is someone. So, it’s got the support of some of your favorite comic celebrities.
The Show is Artistic AF
”Fish Out of Water” is a nearly dialogue free episode spent almost entirely under the ocean and pays homage to silent cartoons while telling a beautiful but somewhat tragic story. (“Fish Out of Water” deserves an award of some kind and it’s a travesty that it doesn’t have one)
The show continues to push its artistic story-telling boundaries in episodes like “Time’s Arrow” which portrays aspects of dementia while delving into a character’s past, or the setup of “Ruthie” and how that makes its final spoken line nothing short of heartbreaking in context.
“Yeah, well, it makes me feel better.” (I’m not crying, you’re… the one… who is also not crying…)
It Makes You Feel Better
I think, sometimes when you’re feeling sad, there’s nothing quite as comforting as knowing that you’re not the only one who feels like a failure, like a fuckup, like you can’t get your shit together. The exchange when Todd says he feels like his whole life is just a series of loosely-related wacky misadventures and Diane responds, “I think that’s just what being in your twenties is.” is a warm blanket on a cold night. After a date with someone who should probably just be a friend, BoJack asks, “What are we doing?” and a number of people watching at home are all too familiar with that question and how it feels to be unsure of the answer. Worse, maybe we also know the feeling of the answer given. Of course, who can’t relate to BoJack’s inner monologue, “These are cookies. This is not breakfast. You are eating cookies. Stop it. Stop eating cookies and go make yourself breakfast. Stop it. Don’t eat one more cookie. Put that cookie down. Do not eat that cookie. I can’t believe you ate that cookie.” These moments resonate with people and make them feel less alone in their own daily woes (and breakfast choices.)
I know people in my life who are BoJacks, Dianes, Mr. Peanutbutters, Princess Carolyns and Todds and I believe most fans of the show see themselves in at least one of the characters. Despite that maybe being sad, I think it’s also kind of a nice thing. We’re not alone when we relate to these characters (though that’s not to excuse any behavior we have in our real lives, as the show also had to address at some point.)
Some Things Take Time
Thank God I let Netflix autoplay run.
If you read reviews of this show from back in 2014, before it was released on Netflix, there were those who had viewed the first half of the season and they were not kind. It was basically dismissed by critics as loud and immature and not good.
And that’s not to say there’s not good content in those first few episodes, but the show hadn’t nailed the perfect balance it seems to achieve by the end of the first season. Let that autoplay do its thing.
So, what are you doing here? Go watch Bojack Horseman.
You can stream seasons 1-5 on Netflix now before the two-part season premiere on October 25th.
During the day it's a lot of the same. In between he “writes.”
In a recent interview about this article, he was asked, “don’t you think some of the space taken up was better served for those already familiar with the show?” to which he replied, “absolutely.”
When followed up with “do you think that means you’re missing your target audience?” he stated “no, I would not say I miss them.”