Arts & Life, Movies

Navigating Netflix: BoJack Horseman

It’s like Netflix took Entourage, Californication, and Episodes, rolled them into a giant ball, handed that ball to someone, and told that person to create a show that defies logic. And make it about an anthropomorphic horse that’s also a washed up 1980’s sitcom actor.

Yeah, that’s BoJack Horseman in a nutshell.

This Netflix original animated series is about BoJack Horseman. He starred in TV series called Horsin’ Around about a bachelor horse who adopts and raises three human kids. Several decades later, he’s a washed up drunk hoping that his upcoming autobiography will resurrect his stalled career. His closest friends are his agent who is a cat, a freeloading human that lives on his couch, and a dog named Mr. Peanutbutter who starred in a ripoff version of his show. Since he isn’t producing any pages, his publisher puts him in touch with a ghost writer to speed the process along.

Calling this show absurd is an understatement. Humans and anthropomorphic animals live side by side in this world. The animals have relatively human bodies with animal heads and occasionally act in the way you’d expect that animal to. It’s hard to wrap your head around at first but once you settle in to the rules the show gets funny.

Beyond that, the crux of the story is fact that BoJack, voiced by  Will Arnett, is a complete piece of drunken crap that says awful things which are frequently hilarious and horrifying, a big part of the overall tone of the show. He trades off his former success like it still matters, drinking his life away and slowly driving all his friends off. He’s a sad caricature of his own former glory.

Hidden inside the absurdity and offensiveness is a brilliant satire on the nature of fame in modern Hollywood. BoJack is a star desperately clinging to the last vestiges of his fleeting fame, watching the embers of his career die out in front of him. He’s a joke and he knows it but he’s also stuck in an extreme state of denial. He grips every instance that might carry him back into the spotlight with an iron fist no matter how much it might humiliate him. And those around him are addicted to the ride he’s on, unable to leave it behind any more than he is. And it’s not just him. His TV daughter, voiced by Kristen Schaal, goes from child star to over sexualized teen pop star to unrepentant washed up addict. Sound familiar?

Many critics have been trashing this show but the reality is they’re just not getting it. BoJack Horseman is designed to appeal to the Adult Swim crowd, which is no surprise when you consider one of the production companies behind it is ShadowMachine (Robot Chicken, Moral Orel, Triptank). If you’re not into shows like The Venture Bros., Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, or Archer, you’re not going to like BoJack Horseman. It’s far funnier and far more clever than many critics are giving it credit for.

In all honesty, the best thing I can say about this show is that it got a big laugh out of me during the cold opening of the very first episode and I kept laughing through all twelve episodes. When you’ve got a series featuring the voicing talents of Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt, and Kristen Schaal, there’s a good chance you’ve got something cool on your hands. Each one of them delivers big in this series.

It’s been confirmed that BoJack Horseman is definitely coming back for season 2. The first adult oriented animated series from Netlfix is a win so hopefully critics who have panned it will give it another shot in round two.

If not, they’re missing out. Don’t make the same mistake they did.