- He’s a horse, he’s a man—he’s BoJack Horseman.
I would say that I “accidentally” watched the entire first season of BoJack Horseman on Netflix this weekend, but each time I allowed the next episode to continue playing, it was no accident. It was, however, a surprise to find the show atop their list of new releases when I settled in for a hungover binge session over the weekend; the series didn’t receive nearly the same push enjoyed by other Netflix originals. Another surprise: being drawn in by a pretty ridiculous animated show about a washed-up actor who happens to be a person who is also a horse. Maybe the hangover helped.
Will Arnett voices BoJack, the titular horseman, who is, well, part horse and part man. He starred in the 90s Full House-esque sitcom Horsin’ Around and now lives with
his costar son friend Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul) who is fully man, no horse about it. We meet the duo 20 years after their sitcom went off the air and both are drug and alcohol dependent, unemployed, and living under the delusion that they’re still beloved stars. Some prodding from BoJack’s agent/sometimes girlfriend Princess Carolyn (a cat-woman voiced to perfection by Amy Sedaris) convinces him that a tell-all memoir will get him back on top. So he embarks on exposing his troubled past to the world via ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) who just happens to be dating his nemesis, the dog-man sitcom star Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins).
The cast is a dream; Tompkins and Patton Oswalt voice a number of secondary characters who round out this surreal version of Hollywood. Kristen Schaal plays a sitcom kid turned slutty pop star, and Margo Martindale and Naomi Watts play hilarious versions of themselves. Arnett’s dry delivery of darkly comic dialogue is gold, and so are throwaway jokes like using “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” as Princess Carolyn’s hold music.
A washed-up celebrity looking for redemption certainly isn’t the most original concept, but it does lend a relatable human quality to a story populated with drug-addled animal-people. The connection BoJack feels to those around him and the ways in which he lets his guard down to let them know how much he cares about them are straight out of an after-school special (in an endearing way). But none of that lasts too long before someone makes a Holocaust joke and we’re dragged back into the cartoon’s crass surrealism. Still, the way in which the story progresses and the characters grow and change is something that’s rarely exhibited in the first 12 episodes of any animated series. It’s a refreshing change of pace.
And I dare you to not fall in love with the catchy, Black Keys-penned theme song. Much like the show, once it starts it’s hard to press stop.