Bojack Horseman is another one of those shows that I was very aware of, but just never got around to watching. I only caught five second glimpses of it from those YouTube ads that I (and everyone else in the world) cannot skip fast enough. It wasn’t until I saw an ad for it on twitter titled “Five ways to know you’re dating three nine-year olds in a trench coat” that my interest was piqued. Based on what little I knew about the show, I was expecting a sort of “Two and a Half Men” type show about a Charlie Sheen-esque horseman celebrity who lives his life like a rock star and doesn’t care about who he hurts in the process. I loved the “Ugly Americans” style of animation, and the drier style of writing that I gleaned from the trailer certainly promised an avenue for comedy. But what I got was a lot more real than that. Honestly, it’s the intro sequence that sealed it for me.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the nineties myself, but I do have a soft spot for shows where the intro can give you more than enough subtext about what the shows about. And there was just something about Bojack’s expressionless stare past the viewers as life progressed around him, the way he just stumbles through the motions, unfazed by anything that made me think “Wow, this guy is empty inside.”
So how have you not watched Bojack Horseman?
Bojack Horseman stars Will Arnet as Bojack Horseman, a washed-up celebrity from the hit nineties TV show “Horsin’ Around.” In an attempt to become relevant again, Bojack decides to release an autobiography, but since he can’t write his catwoman agent/ex-girlfriend/sort-of friend/occasional lover Princess Caroline (played by Amy Sedaris) gets him renowned ghost writer Diane Nyguen (played by Alison Brie) to help him write the book. Bojack agrees when he learns that Diane literally wrote the book on Bojack’s childhood hero Secretariat. Through Diane’s friendship, light starts being shined into the dark corners of Bojack’s soul…and that’s where he starts learning and growing as a character, right?
Part of what makes Bojack Horseman such an interesting show is its treatment of its main character. Generally, shows that feature a main character like Charlie Harper with ambiguous moral guidelines, who are assholes and only care about themselves, typically always do the right thing when it comes down to it. The difference with Bojack is, even though he wants happiness, when he tries to do the right thing, he inevitably ends up hurting people and alienating anyone who tries to get close to him. All he’s ever known is dysfunction. And amidst all the humor and the wacky situations there’s always a tone of deep sadness. Sadness that comes from watching someone desperately try to convince themselves and others that they’re a good person, and the dramatic irony of knowing they’re not.
Plus, Bojack was nowhere near the playboy celebrity I thought he’d be. Rather, what we’re given is the hollow husk of a horse…man; a washed up celebrity from a hit TV show, living off the money he made back then and hiding from his fears at the bottom of a bottle and DVD reruns of the show that made him famous: “Horsin’ Around.”
But don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of humor in Bojack Horseman, it’s just a lot darker than most newcomers might expect. Will Arnet does a fine job as Bojack, and I loved Amy Sedaris with her kind of 40’s style voice acting and punchy delivery of all her lines. She was well suited to play a cut-throat Hollywood agent.
Diane acts as Bojack’s “voice of reason,” always giving him the push to try and do the right thing. There’s even an interesting dynamic where it seems like they’re setting up a love plot between her and Bojack, but it’s quickly shot down when he finds out she’s dating, and quite happy, with Bojack’s long-hated rival “Mr. Peanut butter,”(played by Paul F. Tompkins a dogman who stole the idea to Bojack’s show to make his own successful sitcom (which was the style at the time).
But Diane is not your one-dimensional “voice-of-reason” character, and as the show goes on, you learn she has a darker side and is more like Bojack than she, or the viewer, initially thought.
The real breakout star for me was defiantly Aaron Paul. To see him coming off a role like Jessie Pinkman in Breaking Bad, to playing the absentminded, bizarre, lovable buffoon that lives with Bojack is really something great. The show gives him some of the silliest lines, and the way he delivers all of them with such sincerity, makes them genuinely funny. He’s definitely the shows main source of comic relief.
Bojack Horseman is pretty funny, and there’s definitely a great story being told, but I won’t lie, things get pretty heavy into the second season. I won’t give anything away, but suffice to say I came out the second season in a deep pit of depression. I can’t remember the last time a show left me faced with an existential crisis. If you want a show that not only has a dark sense of humor, but some really deep and powerfully sad moments, all I can say is: how have you not watched Bojack Horseman.