Recurring Cast: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins, Lisa Kudrow
Adult cartoons famously take a long while to get going. The Simpson built itself up before it could really deliver A List entertainment. Family Guy needed to establish itself before we got the humour. Futurama was characterised as a cheap Matt Groening second album syndrome until its golden days. By that trend, surely BoJack Horseman was, at the same time, building steam up. That much definitely seemed true. The first season was almost one of two halves – the first half a whimsical cartoon look at the life of Hollywood actors, with the use of humanised animal characters, but the second half took a swan dive into a deeper character piece. It seemed that was the show BoJack Horseman always wanted to be, but it needed to coax us into this alternative idea before it could pitch it. Therefore, Season Two opens as the show BoJack always wanted to be, and feels like a truer piece of television-making because of it.
Essentially BoJack Horseman grows into an intense character study of a washed-up sitcom actor with a borderline personality disorder. Unable to fulfil the empty gap in his life, BoJack is a tragic figure. On the outside he has everything he wants: his dream film role, a luxury villa and supposedly endless wads of cash. But BoJack is most definitely not happy, chasing fleeting flashes of happiness, much to the detriment of those around him and also himself. Season Two doesn’t even really have a plot. The first season revolved around the release of his memoirs, but Season Two goes for a drifting idea. There are milestones in the story. BoJack is filming Secretariat. He finds a relationship with Lisa Kudrow’s TV producer. But none of these moments seem to hold back the story, mainly offering context for each episode’s content. The show simply puts a microscope on BoJack and charts his course through life. It captures his ups, his downs, his whimsical grabs for a dream, his emotional breakdowns… The season actually starts with him happy, eager to turn his life around, as he listens to self-help tapes and dives into his performance as his childhood hero, Secretariat. But, it isn’t long before he starts backsliding and allowing his self-destructive tendencies to uproot his own life. The biggest antagonist of this story is BoJack, to the point where all of the usual sources of bad guys are actually likeable figures. Mr. Peanut Butter is the cocky guy who is married to BoJack’s dream girl, but rather than playing him as a tool, like most sitcoms, BoJack Horseman writes him as a loveable goof, who is impossible not to find endearing. It gets to the point where you fear BoJack searching for his own happiness, because it will likely cause trouble for one of your other favourite characters. The end result is a surprisingly shocking animation show that cuts deeper than many shows that have come before. By the end of the season, you are hooked onto the downfall of BoJack Horseman, the binge-style of Netflix making this show one that is easily digestible. How can you turn away from the show when BoJack finds himself hurtling towards yet another crisis?
The writers are beyond incredible. It is amazing that this is a show that can be so dark and so emotionally disturbing, yet still find to land the jokes. To point out a few tricks that the writers use would be drastically underselling them; the truth is that they are just good. The humour is aided by the fact that even when the show flirts with controversial and racy topics, it never points the fingers. When the show jokes about orphans, it is really joking about BoJack’s perception of orphans. It also makes a decision how to balance out the drama and the jokes. Some episodes are heavily weighed with the comedy. There is an excellent episode where BoJack is the celebrity guest on Mr. Peanut Butter’s new gameshow that grabs some great laughs (especially when Daniel Radcliffe comes in for a cameo where he is game for some self-depreciating gags). Those cracking sources of comedy can be followed by an episode that just wallows in sadness. BoJack runs away and begins destroying an old friend’s life. But while an episode may be comedy heavy or humour heavy, it still adds touches of each tone to every place. When BoJack has a funny episode, we find that Diane or Princess Caroline is having a rougher time of it. One episode marks the perfect blend of funny and tragic. Mr Peanut Butter, who is an excitable dog, explains his neediness to his wife by revealing when she is away from home, he waits by the door. It is hilarious, because that is what dogs do, but it also hits you right in the heart, at the prospect that the husband Diane is being unfair to, adores her to such an extent. This is but one example of how finely tuned the writing for this show is. This balance of fun and dark is a blend that will likely go downhill with every passing season, so it is important to relish these times as the golden moments of BoJack’s run. On the other hand, perhaps this is a show that will just keeping getting better.
Final Verdict: How can a show be so depressing, yet such a constant source of humour. This is the show BoJack has been planning on being since day one.