The saddest show on television is not a drama but rather a half-hour animated comedy.
“BoJack Horseman,” which is ramping up for its second season on Netflix, has gained a loyal following, but it still remains television’s best kept secret.
“BoJack Horseman” was the best show of 2014. I stand by that claim, and believe that “BoJack” could even take that spot again in a very crowded field of contenders.
The animated series takes place in a version of Hollywood inhabited by both humans and anthropomorphic animals. BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) is a horse who was also the star of 1990s sitcom “Horsin’ Around.” Now, BoJack is a burned-out, boozing has-been who lives in a big empty mansion with no one but Todd (Aaron Paul) who calls BoJack’s couch home.
Season one saw BoJack hit some incredible lows.
After his memoir, ghost-written by Diane (Alison Brie) becomes a hit, BoJack is once again in the public spotlight and now up for his dream role as Secretariat. Thus, season two starts on a more optimistic note.
Animation and serialization often don’t go hand-in-hand. Some of the greatest animated shows of all time, from “The Simpsons” to “South Park,” typically start over every episode. Therefore, Homer can accidently destroy Springfield and Kenny can die in every episode and come back just fine. However, if BoJack says something heartless and terrible to Diane (which happened a lot during season one), she will still be mad at him in the next episode.
“BoJack” will take you by surprise. For anybody who has ever gotten a kick out of the idea of animals acting like humans, then “BoJack” is paradise. There is no science involved, but this show is very detailed about what it would be like if animals acted like humans.
And the human characters are equally ridiculous. In season one, BoJack’s agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) dates Vincent Adultman, who is clearly three small children stacked on top of each other in a trench coat. However, Princess Carolyn is so used to taking care of the immature BoJack that she has no idea what an actual adult male behaves like. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg has also stated that this character represents his worldview that nobody really knows what they are doing, and all adults might as well be tall children.
The show’s goofiness hides its dark, emotional heart. BoJack is one of the most honest portrayals of depression and loneliness that I can think of. In a season one episode, BoJack sincerely asks a crowd of people whether or not he is a bad person and it is chilling. Like any confident comedy, “BoJack Horseman” knows that you don’t need constant jokes in order to be great.
Season two continues to take some bold storytelling risks and because it doesn’t have to introduce an entire world, it gets off to an even stronger start than season one. BoJack has finally landed his dream role and he might have even found love, but given that this is “BoJack Horseman,” that doesn’t mean he is happy.
Just a few episodes into season two and the show has decided to slow down its main storyline in favour of character development. So far, this has been a fantastic success.
One standalone episode, which is a series of vignettes centered around the show’s three main romances, is unlike anything I’ve seen in an animated show. In another great example of how the show uses silly to bring out serious, Todd spends an entire episode trying to save a chicken from the slaughterhouse. What seems like another divergent Todd caper turns into a character study of Todd trying to find his purpose in life.
Like many sitcoms, “BoJack Horseman” isn’t immune to having one character who doesn’t quite fit in to the rest of the story. However, “BoJack” is also smart enough to comment on this.
Oh yes, “BoJack Horseman” is still a comedy, and one that is perfectly tailored for Netflix. Like “Arrested Development” (also starring Will Arnett), it is layered with jokes.
It is the kind of show that is meant to be paused, rewound, and rewatched over and over again. It is fun enough trying to figure out which celebrity voiced who when the names pop up in the opening credits (there is a brief one this season that has to be seen to be believed). Let’s just say that “BoJack Horseman” is the only show I’ve ever watched with a talking horse that I have built a serious emotional bond with.
All 12 episodes of season two of “BoJack Horseman” will be on Netflix on July 17.
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