BoJack Horseman, Netflix’s secret sleeper star

BoJack Horse­man.

Sea­son 4 of BoJack Horse­man aired on Net­flix this past autumn, and if you’ve yet to be point­ed in its very par­tic­u­lar direc­tion you’re in for a treat. It’s the lat­est in the long line of ani­mat­ed, adult drame­dies that stretch­es back to South Park (reviewed ear­li­er here), King of the Hill, Beav­is and Butthead and of course the Simp­sons.

Ensconced in his hill­top, pent­house apart­ment in the myth­i­cal LA sub­urb of Hol­ly­woo, BoJack is a washed-up has­been who used to the star of the squeaky-clean sit­com Horsin’ Around, who spends his days in a drug-fuelled, alco­holic haze of priv­i­leged self-pity.

Diane, Todd and BoJack.

The show’s stilet­to humour stems from two sources. On the one hand, it’s a glo­ri­ous­ly acer­bic pick­ing apart of the media land­scape as the worlds of film, tele­vi­sion and pub­lish­ing are glee­ful­ly trashed. Bril­liant­ly barbed one lin­ers are fired back and forth with sar­cas­tic brio, in the way that was sup­posed to have been done in the, whis­per it, dis­ap­point­ing­ly over­rat­ed His Girl Fri­day.

And on the oth­er, half of the char­ac­ters are, by the bye, ani­mals. So Bojack is in fact an actu­al horse. But his ston­er house­guest Todd is a 20 some­thing guy, and Diane, his soul­mate and ghost writer is a 20 some­thing girl. She though is mar­ried to BoJack’s best fren­e­my Mr. Peanut­but­ter, who’s a gold­en Labrador. And his agent Princess Car­o­line is a cat, who lat­er hooks up with a wealthy mouse, heir to the Stil­ton Hotel for­tune. What all this allows for is some fan­tas­ti­cal­ly laboured puns and slap­stick, togeth­er with a pletho­ra of ridicu­lous­ly elab­o­rate setups that even­tu­al­ly pro­duce won­der­ful­ly sil­ly pay-offs.

The main man, Raphael Bob-Waksberg.

All of which would be enjoy­able enough. But what real­ly ele­vates the series is the emo­tion­al depth and com­plex­i­ty that they man­age to reap from the soapy sto­ry­lines that they hang all this on. They do this, as Emi­ly Nuss­baum writes in her piece in the New York­er here, by expand­ing the show’s hori­zons from sea­son 2 on, by giv­ing each of the pro­tag­o­nists their own sto­ry­lines, instead of just focus­ing on BoJack, as they do in sea­son 1. So you end up being as invest­ed in Todd, Diane, Princess Car­o­line and even Mr Peanut­tbut­ter, as you do in BoJack.

The result is both the fun­ni­est, and the most engag­ing show cur­rent­ly being aired any­where on tele­vi­sion. And it’s hard not to con­clude that its showrun­ner and chief writer Raphael Bob Waks­berg is some sort of a lat­ter day Dorothy Park­er. If you’ve yet to sam­ple its delights, then by all means begin at the begin­ning, with sea­son 1. But be warned, it gets sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter from sea­son 2 on.

You can see the trail­er for sea­son 4 of BoJack Horse­man here. And here’s a 10 minute com­pi­la­tion of some of the fun­ni­est bits from sea­son 2 here.

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