“You have to watch this new show!” I texted my friend Francesca.
“What’s it about?” she asked.
“Well…it’s a dark animated comedy about a horse.”
At first explanation like this, Bojack Horseman sounds a bit inane at best, but in reality, this offbeat Netflix original is one of the funniest comedies I’ve enjoyed in the past couple years.
Bojack Horseman, the show’s protagonist, is a washed-up actor who used to be the star of a popular 90’s sitcom but has done little with his life since. He’s a bit stupid, definitely an alcoholic, and in general, a barely-likeable asshole looking for love and acceptance from a cast of supporting misfits who are nearly as poorly-adjusted as he is.
Bojack’s friends and enemies are all caricatures to an extent, but with their own goals, perspectives, and contradictory personality traits. Bojack is cynical and largely friendless, but we see that’s from a harsh childhood and a string of broken relationships. Todd is basically an idiot, but despite that, we see him as forgiving, full of ideas, and oddly loyal to people he know are taking advantage of him. Diane could pass for any misunderstood high school wallflower but tries to not become the sad-girl stereotype we except her to be.
While the show somewhat follows a sitcom format, the narrative progresses and the characters develop throughout the season, even as most episodes end with a return to the status quo. The humor is increasingly dark throughout as the plot progresses, dealing with death, failure, disappointment and the apparent meaninglessness of many of the characters’ pursuits. Nevertheless, the show also features a slew of great puns, visual gags and character-driven conflict.
The final shining point of the show it its satire of current events and figures. Bojack’s former co-star follows a Miley-Cyrus-esque career trajectory. Bojack gets into a conflict with a Navy Seal and is tarred and feathered on TV for his assholeish but surprisingly nuanced take on the troops and modern American warfare. Reality TV, entertainment culture, the media and a variety of other topics are all up for mocking. The comedy manages to be satirical and a bit edgy without being patently offensive like many gross-out comedies, and the heart that it displays for its characters while simultaneously skewering them adds an unexpected emotional layer, particularly at the end of the season.
With a cast of voice actors including Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Allison Brie and guest stars like Stephen Colbert, Bojack Horseman is eccentric, quotable, gif-able, and definitely worth a watch. I’m quite sad that I’ve finished all the episodes already, but I’m looking forward to 2015, when the second season is set to begin production.