Bojack Horseman is the most important show you’ll watch this year and here’s why –
It may sound like just another animated comedy – a Family Guy, an Archer, or a South Park – but Bojack Horseman is so much more than just entertaining (and it has that in droves)–it’s meaningful. Bojack Horseman somehow manages to be more honest and real in short episodes with artful animations than some series ever muster. For a show about an animated horse this is a huge undertaking.
The universe Bojack Horseman occupies – aside from being filled with humanoid animals – is very much like our own. Bojack Horseman starred in a TV sitcom in the 90’s called “Horsin’ Around” and hasn’t really done anything with his life since. He has wealth, a quick wit and a host of girls willing to sleep with him, but his life lacks purpose and direction. Cue Diane, a ghost writer hired by his agent Princess Caroline (a purple cat if you’re wondering) and Bojack is forced to face some of his demons. There’s also Diane’s boyfriend and similarly 90’s star, Mister Peanut Butter, an overly enthusiastic golden retriever and infinite drain on Bojack’s patience, as well as party guest who never left, Todd. Diane’s book is brutally honest about Bojack’s failings and mistakes, but by the end of the first season it propels Bojack back into the public eye and gives him a chance to redeem himself and become what he wants to be.
The first season of Bojack Horseman is great, it’s funny and a bit dark, there’s a love triangle, alcoholism and unlikely scenarios, but it’s season two when it really comes into its own. Bojack for all his horse-ness, is a lot like Donald Draper of Mad Men; he seems to have every success, but he’s not happy. Bojack drinks, makes bad decisions and drifts through life feeling at once inadequate and entitled. The sense of crippling hopelessness and inability to overcome his personal issues despite outward success is the same for both Don and Bojack. Wherever he goes he makes the wrong decisions, Bojack means well, but whenever he gets it together it inevitably begins to fall apart again. He scores the movie role of his dreams but it’s not what he envisaged and ultimately doesn’t make him happy either. Meanwhile, Diane and Mister Peanut Butter have their own issues, both with each other and themselves. Diane is smart, funny and overachieving but can’t seem to be the person she thinks she could. It culminates in crippling depression, Diane and Bojack descend together and it’s so real. If you’ve ever felt paralysed and trapped in this horrible illness you will see it in all its honest and painful glory in Bojack Horseman.
We’ve come a long way if we can honestly portray depression in all its ugly reality and still have a laugh about it. Maybe the fact that Bojack Horseman is an animated show gives it the ability to tackle difficult topics, alcoholism, depression and the realities of relationships in a way that we can both appreciate and see the humour in those same situations. A great example is Diane and Mister Peanut Butter, their ups and downs, ambitions and dreams are very human, but seamlessly intwined is the fact that Mister Peanut Butter is a dog. He collects tennis balls, is overjoyed to see his favourite people and when he’s not with Diane finds himself sitting at home just waiting for her to come back. Their issues are real, portrayed intelligently and with a bit of humour and wit. They could have just made episode after episode with story lines where nothing changes and everything is happy and light (just like the sitcom that made Bojack famous), but they didn’t, they took the hard route and made something gritty and dark and utterly wonderful.
The gorgeous animation in Bojack Horseman is backed up by brilliant voice work by stars like Alison Brie and Aaron Paul as Diane and Todd and of course, Will Arnett as Bojack. Notable in the second season is Lisa Kudrow as Wanda the Owl, a television executive who was in a coma through the entirety of the 90’s. Plot lines are always amusing and they make the most of the fact that loads of their characters are animals. Like Princess Caroline is a bit catty, because she’s a cat, and frankly I love that Bojack Horseman goes for those jokes, because they’re funny and they’re there. If you’re going to have a world inhabited by human-esque animals, why wouldn’t you make those jokes?
For all I’ve said about its dark and real themes and it’s honesty in the telling, Bojack Horseman is an absolute joy to watch. It’s witty, it’s smart and you cannot stop watching once you’ve started. Give us horses, cats, owls and geckos and you can show us humanity in all its truth, hangovers, failures and mishaps. Bojack Horseman isn’t just a great show, it’s an important one and if you’re not watching then now is the time you tune in.