Picture Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) from Full House, but instead of the all american dorky dad, he’s a horse-human hybrid, and instead of having a halfway middling career post 90s, he descends into the worst kind of drug addicted bum lifestyle imaginable. This is how we begin Bojack Horseman. Despite the absurd premise, this show is an introspective look into how to be an artist and find meaning in your life.
Here’s the show in a nutshell. Main character Bojack Horseman (Will Arnett) lives in an alternate Hollywood full of humans and animal-people. It covers events in Bojack’s life like breaking into “real” acting, his inability to commit to a relationship, his alcohol and drug addiction, and his depression. He bitches about his life to the bum (Aaron Paul) that lives in his house and rival actor Mr. Peanut Butter (Paul F. Thompkins).
While Bojack Horseman initially received average reviews, seasons 2 and 3 drastically raised the overall quality. The fact that the show-within-a-show Horsin’ Around is a parody of programs like Full House is a perfect comparison to this crude, depressing, and actually insightful series. In the first episode of the show, an interviewer attacks Bojack’s starring role from Horsin’ Around for being too sappy and simplistic. These complaints have no bearing on Bojack Horseman. This show almost never ends on a happy note, the characters are unexpectedly complex, and the target demographic is completely different. It’s for people who enjoy watching hilariously miserable characters and who appreciate clever writing.
A constant hallmark of good writing is good character development. The first episode shows the start of a developmental journey from a character who has clearly been wrapped up in a bubble for nearly decades. When a character makes Bojack realize that he’s a has-been actor, he literally has a panic attack, goes to the hospital, and almost DIES from the shock. He’s spent 18 years thinking he’s hot stuff, and now Bojack Horseman is going to show you how he’s trying to get out of a serious slump.
But of course it’s the failures along that journey that make the show a delight for those who enjoy watching other’s pain and suffering. Bojack is an endless train wreck, but with a wit that keeps things sharp no matter how melancholy. There’s a particular moment in the first episode where Bojack notices some kids hitting a horse-piñata, and he points out how “racist” it is to hit horses. The show just rolls along with the absurd premise without missing a beat. It also excels at allowing the comedy to flow from one joke to the next and to have excellent call-backs. Each joke inevitably refers to a joke or moment from earlier in the episode or show, resulting in amazing twists that left me doubled over. If you can hold out until the final episode of season 3, there’s a joke that pulls moments from the ENTIRE SEASON into a moment of true glory.
Everyone who has Netflix needs to see this show. It’s a favorite of mine, and I hope it becomes a favorite of yours.