”Baaaaack in the nineties,
I was in a very famous TeeeeVeeeee showwwwww”
Those wistful lyrics, which drift towards you from your TV screen (or laptop/smartphone/tablet) at the end of each episode of Netflix original comedy BoJack Horseman, fully encapsulate the essence of the show, reminding you that this is more than a light hearted sitcom… it’s a come-tragedy, and it can bring you down just as easily as it can buck you up. ( A horse pun already? Mare-y mother of plod!)
Onto the concept. Here it is, without another gratuitous equine-related word in saddle hoof mane sugar lumps. BoJack Horseman, voiced by the devastating comedy presence known as Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory), is a man who looks like a horse – but he’s not a centaur, he stands on legs, like a man. Who is a horse. Just look at the pictures. Anyhow, Mr Horseman is a bit of a Charlie Sheen: he loves cocaine, prostitutes, large amounts of alcohol, plus anything else it is that rich people in the Hollywood hills can use to maintain their unreality just that little bit longer. Unlike most hedonists of his breed however, BoJack hasn’t worked in twenty years. He has essentially partied away the best part of two decades thanks to one hugely successful sitcom called Horsin’ Around – since BoJack regularly relives his glory days by watching his old recordings, we as the audience are treated to many cut scenes from said show, which often hint at BoJack’s past personal problems or hold a mirror to his current ones.
Much like Family Guy and the inferior Cleveland show*, BoJack Horseman has a tendency to go a bit tangential. Unlike Family Guy, these clever flashbacks – if they can be called that – tend to lighten the mood and blow away the shroud of dread that surrounds BoJack in his day to day life. Something else clouding him is the ganja smoke of long term roommate Todd (Aaron Paul, playing a pussified version of Jesse Pinkman) who ‘came to one of my parties five years ago and then didn’t leave’. Other key witnesses to BojJck’s perpetual mid-life crisis include a feline casting agent called Princess Carolyn (also BoJack’s on/off girlfriend, voiced by Amy Sedaris) and Vietnamese-Bostonian Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), who is hired as the memoirst for what was supposed to be BoJack’s triumphant autobiography. Apart from one wickedly twisted shrooms and/or barbituates episode, every chapter follows a similar trajectory of remorseful, apologetic ventures making up for BoJack’s transgressions last time which end in predictable failure and lead him to do something even more stupid this time.
*But I think we all know which show had the best intro song…
BoJack Horseman could be justly described as an acquired taste. It isn’t frequently nor hilariously funny, but it has its moments. Will Arnett – who co-produced the show – does some brilliant vocal work to ensure that his personality shines through his crudely animated comic avatar, and there a handful of Arrested Development-worthy callbacks too. My personal favourite comes from the episode ‘Live Fast, Diane Nguyen’: BoJack and Diane are going to see her family in Boston. She’s tells him she’s the only girl and something of a loner, to which BJ posits, ‘So what, you’re like the black sheep?’ ‘No, Gary’s the black sheep. He’s adopted’.Five minutes later and the attentive viewer may notice that Gary is a literal black sheep.
Is BoJack Horseman worth your time and money? Probably. It’s definitely not a frontrunner in the cartoon-comedy derby, but it does have some pretty brilliant writing. It also makes up for the sparsity of laughs with its emotional depth and trippy visuals. If you already have Netflix then check it out for free, it’s quite addictive – as are pretty much all shows – so you might just like it. Who knows, you might neighver look back. If you genuinely can’t look to your rear, you may want to try removing your horse blinkers.