I had a chance to binge watch Netflix’s latest original series BoJack Horseman because Will Arnett. That’s all I needed to know.
Arnett lends his signature voice to this adult comedy (think something on Adult Swim, but raunchier) about an alcoholic, troubled, has-been horse trying to find relevance after being the star of a popular 90s sitcom called Horsin’ Around. BoJack lives with his freeloading and moronic friend
Jesse Pinkman Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), and perpetually tortures his feline agent and ex-girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris). He also makes it his business to be mean, condescending, and generally unfriendly to his rival Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), an idiotic, but generally kind Hollywood type and anthropomorphic dog starring in a modern version of BoJack’s former sitcom. Matter of fact, BoJack makes life difficult for Diane (Alison Brie), his ghostwriter and crush who just so happens to be dating his canine rival; his poor literary agent Pinky Penguin (Patton Oswalt), and most everyone he comes into contact with. BoJack is abrasive and self-centered, yet he genuinely thinks of himself as a good person. As BoJack Horseman progresses, he discovers that he needs to do a lot of self-evaluation before he winds up completely alone.
BoJack is extremely intelligent, and there are quite a few times where he is the voice of reason. When you want to hate BoJack, or write him off as a piece of shit, he breaks down feminism, or makes a valid point about calling all troops heroes just by virtue of their service. You don’t have to agree with that. He does make an interesting point worth examining, and that’s why you can’t just turn your back on him. He’s pretty aware and thoughtful when he wants to be (or when he’s sober). Unfortunately, he will lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants, with total disregard for the people he hurts until he feels what they must have felt.
BoJack Horseman is actually a pretty intelligent comedy, but it has an identity crisis. When the characters get really serious–for example, there’s a plot twist involving cancer–they take it to the next level, and become absolutely morose. It’s a bit of a downer because it doesn’t really mesh well with the show. At the end of the day, we are watching an animated series that involves a world that has fully integrated talking horses, insects, seals, orcas, etc. There is a mixed species relationship for crying out loud. I get the witty social commentary lampooning popular culture, politics, and Hollywood itself. I get that, and I love BoJack Horseman for that alone. However, I do not want to watch a cartoon that broaches some pretty heavy personal subjects.
What makes BoJack funny is his obliviousness to the fact that he’s an asshole, and the fact that he’s just one sort of fucked up in Hollywood. He’s not the only one. He’s one of the most damaged, but he’s not alone. When the series stops to focus on what makes him such a troubled creature, it stops being light-hearted and amusing, and becomes way too dismal.
We all know BoJack Horseman was renewed for a second season, so here’s hoping that showrunners pick a lane and stay in it. Once again, we’re watching a cartoon for adults, not The Constant Gardner. If they keep that in mind, the next season should be much lighter. With that said, I definitely recommend you watch it, just feel free to fast forward when things take a turn for the somber.