There was a time when animated shows were synonymous with kids shows, and even though we have come to accept grown-up themes in animation (with the likes of Pixar), there is a still a jolly impression left by the colours of animated content. Netflix’s BoJack Horseman stayed within the confines of that animated world, but the subject matter of the show was never ha-ha funny. In fact, BoJack Horseman dared to go dark with its themes – drug overdose, abortion, depression, alcoholism and more – and never looked back, and therein lies the show’s biggest strength.
Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the show started in 2014 and concluded after a run of six seasons.
What is BoJack Horseman all about?
BoJack Horseman is a show set in the glitzy town of Hollywoo (with the D missing) where animal-people and regular people co-exist. With the business of entertainment as the backdrop, BoJack explores the dark themes of existentialism and loneliness.
BoJack Horseman is a tragedy in the garb of a comedy show. We see funny things happen on screen and of course, we laugh at those, but more often than not, BoJack leaves us feeling hollow.
For those who haven’t seen the show, it might look weird that a cat-person (Princess Carolyn) and a horse-person (BoJack Horseman) are friends with a human person (Diane Nguyen), or a dog-person (Mr Peanutbutter) is married to a human-person. But such is the world of BoJack, and once you are over that initial hiccup, this is a story of flawed characters who are desperately trying to find their purpose in life.
BoJack Horseman was one of those early Netflix gems that retained its core for the six seasons that followed. Apart from telling stories about flawed characters, the show was quite caught up in terms of current affairs as well. While many shows and movies have tried to capture the essence of #MeToo, no one has done it as efficiently as BoJack Horseman.
What works for BoJack Horseman?
BoJack Horseman works brilliantly in terms of its characterisation. The lead character BoJack, voiced by the talented Will Arnett, is a has-been television star who spends all his time drinking. As the show progresses, we see BoJack trying to wrestle his way out of his life’s mess and regretting all the wrong decisions he continues to make. Be it the death of his friend Sarah Lynn (who dies because of a drug bender with BoJack) or the way his relationship with Herb soured, BoJack is struggling with every personal relationship in life.
Todd’s dilemma with his sexuality, Mr Peanutbutter’s annoyingly positive outlook, Diane’s need to find the meaning of life and Princess Carolyn’s struggle to strike a work-life balance – these characters are just as dark as they appear happy in the colours of animation. It’s because of this characterisation that the show is often described as cathartic by its viewers.
The voice actors here – Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Paul F Tompkins, Alison Brie and Amy Sedaris, make this show a wholesome experience.
Another factor that works brilliantly for this show is its ability to experiment. Over the years, BoJack has produced episodes where no one said a word, or the one which was wholly based on Will Arnett’s monologue and every time the makers took a bigger risk, it paid off handsomely.
BoJack Horseman is known for disarming its audience by making them laugh and then pulling the rug from under their feet when they least expect it.
The best bits of BoJack Horseman
Over its six seasons, BoJack Horseman presented some truly heartbreaking scenes that left the audience with tears in their eyes. The eventual breakdown of Diane and Mr Peanutbutter’s marriage was something that we all saw coming, but the way it happened was quite unexpected.
Even the fallout between Todd and BoJack after BoJack sleeps with Emily was foreseeable considering how badly BoJack had treated him in the previous seasons. Princess Carolyn’s way of coping with a bad way in the episode Ruthie was one of the most melancholic episodes for her character.
For BoJack (the character), there were plenty of great episodes. The time when he got to play Secretariat, his drug habit that leads him to choking Gina, the flashback episodes where we get to know why BoJack turned out the way he is, were so well done that despite knowing all his flaws, you never hate the character.
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BoJack Horseman’s finale was the perfect send-off to the series but what impressed, even more, was the second last episode where BoJack confronts the demons that have been haunting him for a few years now. The finality of death that he has to face is hard to accept, but then the entire journey of this character had prepared viewers for that ultimate moment.
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