I was not very interested in watching ‘Bojack Horseman’, originally. Honestly, it was the horse thing that put me off. I am not adverse to watching animated series (‘Bob’s Burgers’ and ‘Adventure Time’ being personal favourites) but it was something about the weird horse character that creeped me out a bit when flicking through Netflix. It was only when ‘Bojack’ got into it’s second series, and everyone started comparing it to ‘Mad Men’, that I begun to take it seriously. Oh boy, I should have got on that ride sooner (get it!). Anyway. Let’s get straight into it.
Reasons Why ‘Bojack Horseman’ is amazing
1. The Main Character is a Horse
He isn’t even really a horse. Bojack has a horses head and we can only assume (by the way he walks, and ahem, makes love) that he has a human body. This isn’t a big deal though. Bojack’s agent (Princess Caroline) has a cat head and Bojack’s semi-serious girlfriend (Wanda) has an owl head. Don’t get me wrong, it is weird but at some point you accept the fact that this is the way the world is now. It’s never explained and it probably doesn’t need to be. The most important thing about the whole ‘horse head’ is that it means Bojack isn’t another insufferable, self-centred, male protagonist. We all know that, underneath the animation, Bojack is voice by the very white and very male Will Arnett (who is incredible) but the show deviates away from visually giving us the white male anti-hero and gives us a horse instead. In my book, that can only be good thing. Goodbye Don Draper, hello Boxer.
2. Bojack Horseman Suffers from Depression
This is unconfirmed, and for good reason. I read a wonderful article about Bojack’s depression that you can read here, which basically sums up some of the issues with portraying characters suffering from depression. As Bob-Waksberg says, to diagnose Bojack would mean writing in a character to do just that – and that isn’t always as interesting as watching a character trying to work through being sad. “To center a show on a sad character felt really interesting to me. I don’t think he has to always be sad or that we’re saying he’s doomed to be this way forever, but that’s certainly a big part of the show”. Bojack isn’t ‘sad’ or ‘depressed’ all the time, too many shows try and portray depression as simply moping around, or crying a lot. Bojack’s isolation and sadness is more than that, and it also allows for some really interesting interactions with the people in his life. I think we can all see a bit of ourselves in Bojack, even when he is being a complete dick.
3. It Brings the Truth So Hard
This show does not hold back, and it’s not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking. Sometimes it’s making pointed comments about how exactly white people, or white television personalities, do to help when they go overseas to give aid (the answer: a sense of selflessness and no help at all). Sometimes it spills the truth tea on how women are treated in Hollywood and in the real world, if you were wondering – it’s not well. Not well at all. The most memorable ‘bring it’ moment of Bojack so far though was undoubtedly ‘Hank After Dark’. Bearing in mind this episode was written way before the Cosby saga even began to go public, ‘Hank after Dark’ focuses on a famous entertainer (who happens to be a rhino) who is accused of heinous child sexual abuse. Diane, Bojack’s ghost-writer-turned-friend attempts to rally with his victims and ensure that the world knows what Hank is. Madness ensues. I say again, this was written before the Bill Cosby ‘allegations’* came out.
Also, my favourite joke of Season 2 has got to be the irony of Pinky the Penguin believing broadcast media is on the rise. Very clever, Netflix. Very clever.
4. The Characters Are Insanely Well Developed
In all honesty, I’d say it’s because a lot of the characters are animals. Which sounds odd, I know, but instead of relying on old cliches about a character’s likes/dislikes/background/interests by simply looking at them, we are forced to engage with them in terms of how they come across in terms of dialogue and interactions. Which basically means that we have to work a bit harder to understand them. Particularly Bojack himself. There are a handful of characters who are actually human (Diane, Todd, Sarah Lynn) but these tend to be the characters who go through a huge transition in the series.
5. Opting For Story Over Punchlines Paid Off
Animated comedies tend to stick to the traditional ‘series’ structure. Each episode is an end within itself, and whilst small aspects of the show may change (someone dies, someone gets married etc) very little changes from the start of the season to the end of the season. In ‘Bojack’, we get a lot of different narratives and a lot actually changes for the characters and their situations. It manages to be incredibly funny without sacrificing the story, meaning it never gets stale. The humour comes directly out of how inept the characters are at handling their own lives, but never from cheap laughs.
6. The Casting is Sublime
Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Paul F Tompkins, Lisa Kudrow and Amy Sedaris are just a few in the list of incredible actors that have lent their voices to the show. Alison Brie, incidentally, voices three separate character – one of whom is three boys, standing on top of one-another wearing a trenchcoat. There are also hilarious guest stars; Daniel Radcliffe, Naomi Watts, Joe McHale and George Takei being among the top billed. The majority of the storylines portray these guest stars as, generally, a bit washed up and out of touch with the ‘new Hollywood’ era. It’s refreshing to see actors provide an opportunity to laugh with them at the state of the film industry.
Above all, though, ‘Bojack Horseman’ is a really funny, original television show. It’s got a underlying ‘meta’ tone (although, I feel like saying that it’s meta means that it probably isn’t now?) and isn’t afraid to take punches at topics that most television shows steer clear of. None of the characters are perfect and everyone has pretty huge flaws – but that’s why it works. It represents humanity, through talking animals. It’s also flawlessly crafted, take a look at these GIFs on Indiewire to get a sense of how carefully each frame constructed.
Also, did I mention it’s really funny?
Bojack Horseman (Seasons 1 & 2) are on Netflix now