“Can everyone stop talking about people that aren’t me?”
What do you get when a talking horse adopts three kids? 9 seasons of popular ’90s sitcom Horsin’ Around. What do you get when you follow the life of the show’s lead star turned has-been celebrity? BoJack Horseman.
BoJack Horseman is slowly but surely becoming Netflix’s sleeper hit. A television show about a talking horse displaying near-unparalleled amounts of depth ? Yeah right. Then came the surprise. Instead of being just another mindless show, it made me face my depression head-on. I couldn’t hide. I realized it wasn’t the dumb, funny show I thought it was. Compared to some of the thoughts and sentiments expressed by Bojack, Brian from Family Guy looks deep for about a quarter of a second. With BoJack, I felt understood in ways I never thought would be possible with TV.
The show is one of the latest animated series targeted toward adults. Make no mistake, despite it’s animation and cutesy sound effects, it deals almost strictly with adult themes and content. The Netflix brainchild is rewarding if you can get past the fact that anthropomorphic animals interact with humans and no one ever bats an eyelash. Don’t take it from me, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said BoJack Horseman is his favourite original series on the streaming platform.
Rest assured, it’s not all depth and doom in BoJack’s world. There’s also comedic relief in the form of BoJack’s best friend, the couch-crashing Todd Chavez, and Princess Carolyn’s beau Vincent Adultman.
Part of the genius of BoJack Horseman is in its various background gags, with some of the visual jokes being quite obvious, others a tad subtler. With repeated viewings you pick up on things that you’ve never observed before. There already exist lists that point out these gags such as this one.
BoJack Horseman received its fair share of criticism early on yet quickly became a darling among major publications and critics using words such as complex and melancholic — and accurately so — to describe the series.
Some of the criticism is valid. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much significance to a show about a has-been celebrity who also happens to be a horse. As such, I believe some viewers have given up on the show too early. It’s only as the show’s first season progresses that its viewers take the plunge, drenching themselves in this anthropomorphic existential comedy ( hold the comedy and replace it with melancholy). It’s comedy but it’s dark comedy.
If it doesn’t get you right away, that’s perfectly normal. BoJack Horseman is a grower, not a shower. It was around season one’s seventh episode when I decided that I was madly in love with this show. I never turned back and devoured season 2 and 3.
BoJack Horseman is funny, self-deprecating and satirical when it needs to be; it’s sad, aware and real when unexpected. It made me feel things in a way a cartoon should never make you feel. BoJack made me feel sad. It forced me to acknowledge depression. It made me examine the roots and cause of feelings. Darnit, TV! I got more than I bargained for when I hit play on that first episode. Damn you Netflix and damn you Will Arnett.
This existential comedy is a rare phenomenon in that it’s a critical darling and the people’s show without alienating one or the other.The viewer wants BoJack to find serenity perhaps with selfish hopes of finding possible comfort for oneself. At every turn the show takes the unexpected route. Bojack is miserable in season 1, gets what he wants in season 2 and deals with the repercussion of obtaining everything he dreamed of in season 3.
“Great story Bojack you should put that in a podcast so l can unsubscribe.”
The show messes with the viewers psyche by making them wonder if they’re Zoes or Zeldas (watch season one then come back, you’ll understand), if they’re really good deep down or just emotional wreck. BoJack Horseman may be clever and funny, but its audience is smart enough that to know he is probably not meant to have a happy ending. In BoJack’s mind he is smarter than the people he encounters (sounds familiar?) but unlike them, he can’t figure out how to be happy and that’s part of what makes him so appealing and relatable.
“He’s so stupid he doesn’t realize how sad he should be,” says BoJack of the happy-go-lucky yellow Lab Mr. Peanutbutter.
The cherry on top of the Sunday is the soundtrack that accompanies and complements the cocktail of melancholy and depression served to us by Netflix. It is also the perfect backdrop to the show’s pop-culture references. Add a few catchphrases and choice celebrity guest spots such as Sir Paul McCartney and Daniel Radcliffe and you have a hit animated sitcom for adults.
I realize that on the surface the show sounds like a roller coaster ride. You should you take the bait and go fishing? Absolutely. Did my analogy make any sense? Nay way José (Get it? Because it’s a thing horses say and… I’m not going to finish or live down this quote).
The show’s third season just dropped on us and season four was just announced by Netflix, yet there simply aren’t enough episodes of the show to binge-watch, just like there aren’t enough articles yet written about BoJack Horseman on the internet. In a culture where people want to feel good about themselves while doing nothing hoping it’s “not too late” — or insert other cliché — BoJack is a slap of much-needed reality.
Bojack Horseman season 3 is now out Netflix.