Bojack Horseman: Episodes 1-4

Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, Allison Brie

BoJack Horseman is a new adult cartoon from Netflix. It centers around Bojack, a washed-up actor who hit it big back in the nineties with a Full House-era family sitcom. He now spends his days languishing in his Hollywood mansion in the waning limelight of his past. He’s petulant, mean, and obsessed with himself. We catch up with him attempting to write his autobiography, the tell-all book he’s wasted a year and half trying to put something down for. His publisher demands a ghostwriter, and we’re introduced to Diane, the pretty girlfriend of BoJack’s sitcom rival, oblivious Mr. Peanutbutter, a golden retriever. He’s also housing a homeless succubus named Todd, and has an on-again, off-again relationship with girlfriend/agent Princess Carolyn, a pink cat person.

BoJack Horseman - BoJack at BarThe world of BoJack Horseman is a weird mix of anthropomorphic animals on human bodies and regular people. It’s a little off-putting and there’s almost no reason for it. The show barely draws attention to the animal factor and when it does, it makes offhand, very obvious jokes. BoJack makes “raspberries” when he sighs and claims to need gallons of beer to actually get himself drunk. The rest of the cast is just various animals. It’s hard to look at, in a way. It’s not funny. And if the show thinks it can coast off the novelty of a horse in everyday situations, it’s already outstayed its welcome playing it so flat.

I appreciate that the show is vaguely serialized. I’m sure Netflix is at the point now where they can trust creative teams to go and produce a show with little oversight. There’s at least the teasing of an arc. But I wonder who “proofread” this show before it aired. For one thing, it’s not very funny. I think it got one guffaw out of me for the entire first episode. Jokes fall really flat and their punchlines are obvious, lowest common denominator stuff. It’s not totally crass, but the scripts aren’t very intelligent. The voices are jarring as well, mostly because I know these actors are better than the material.

The main conceit isn’t even all that edgy, either. The show thinks it’s critiquing celebrity and reality TV culture, but its protagonist is the embodiment of that idea, completely sold on the lifestyle and un-redeemable. BoJack’s a former has-been, but he hasn’t learned anything in the interim. He’s done no soul-searching, no retribution for the jerk he’s always been. At one point he sets Todd up to debut his music passion project and then torpedoes it for his own selfish insecurites. I kind of hate him. The show even tries to sell him as a victim of a rough childhood, with no sense of perspective regarding people who never got so lucky in their jobs. I find it hard to get behind his desire to write an honest book when he’s just not that likable as a character. I wouldn’t even read a piece of junk like that anyway, so why do I care?

It’s not great. It’s not clever. It’s not even becoming familiar, making it palatable, like shows often do. I’ll stick with Bob’s Burgers.

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