BoJack Horseman: less horseplay, more sitcom dressage

Surprising amount of heart in cartoon starring a washed up show horse

BOJACK HORSEMAN LIVES a comfortable life choking down most of his day with alcohol and reminiscing on a successful past.

Just a little more than a month ago, Netflix expanded its collection of original series with a new animated show, BoJack Horseman. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly excited to check out this new show. Although Netflix has had a good history of original content, a cartoon about a horse just didn’t seem all that funny to me, and I was right in that regard. The show isn’t that funny because despite what it may appear, it’s not a comedy. Rather, it’s one of the best sitcoms I’ve ever seen.

The setup of the show seems to be that of a comedy. Our world is made up of humans and anthropomorphic animals, one of them being title character
BoJack Horseman, voiced by Will Arnett. BoJack was the star of a big sitcom in the ’90s called Horsin’ Around, in which he plays an adoptive father to three kids in a Full House style show. After years of obscurity, BoJack is washed up and procrastinating work on his autobiography. He lives in a reclusive home in
Beverly Hills with his free-loading and underachieving friend Todd Chavez, voiced by Aaron Paul. To help BoJack work on his book, his agent hires Diane Nguyen, voiced by Alison Brie, to ghost write for him. What BoJack soon learns is Diane is dating his past rival and current annoyance, Mr. Peanutbutter, a golden retriever who starred in a sitcom with him as father to twin girls during Horsin’ Around’s airing.

This dynamic between these characters is incredibly entertaining, especially the moments with Mr. Peanutbutter, who is basically a dog who can speak, as shown in every word and action he makes. In that same way, he’s incredibly naive and considers BoJack a friend, a feeling which is not reciprocated by BoJack. If it hasn’t been made clear by now, BoJack is not a very pleasant person, in fact, the case can be made that he is almost an unstable individual. But this is where the heart of the program is and what defines it as a sitcom, BoJack trying to show that he is a good person. He is someone who is obsessed with his former glory and pride, constantly rewatching episodes of his show and seeking approval of anyone around him. More than that, he wants people to like him. He wants them to think he is not some washed up hack, and this theme frames the animated sitcom. BoJack attempts to reclaim fame as a good person rather than the conniving and selfish person he appears and sometimes acts. Part of this theme is achieved through Todd, and how BoJack treats him as the series continues. And while I refuse to call this show a comedy, it has many humorous moments because BoJack still considers himself a comedian, and is voiced by one as well.

The world they inhabit is filled with animal puns, weird celebrity characters, and very real moments between the main personalities in this environment that seem to only exist as a joke. It’s a great sitcom, and I feverishly await the second season.