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A Brief Introduction to Bojack Horseman

Updated on June 6, 2017
"Cast" Shot - Raphael Bob-Waksberg
"Cast" Shot - Raphael Bob-Waksberg

What's So Special About BoJack Horseman?

On July 22nd, 2016, Netflix officially released the 3rd season of its groundbreaking animated series BoJack Horseman. Pre-release reviews were excellent, and mere hours after the release, Netflix announced that it would be renewing the show for a 4th season. Obviously BoJack is becoming a big deal. But why all the fuss over another animated sitcom? Since the Simpsons took off in the late 1980s, adult cartoons have become increasingly common; today, they're a dime a dozen. It’s almost impossible to turn on a television without some seeing animated people engaging in cartoonish buffoonery. So what makes this BoJack Show so special? In a world where Seth McFarlane has literally written 4 different animated sitcoms with the same premise (See Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and Bordertown), why did IGN give the most recent season a 9.1 and call it “amazing”? Why should anyone give a crap about Bojack Horseman? That’s what titular character is trying to figure out, and that’s what makes this incredibly dark comedy work so well.

"Ewe Haul" - Credit to Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Creator of BoJack Horseman
"Ewe Haul" - Credit to Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Creator of BoJack Horseman

More Than Just Another Comedy?

On paper, the premise of the show doesn’t sound the stuff of a typical comedy. The show examines the life of Bojack Horseman, a wealthy but deeply unhappy actor who struggles to find meaning in his existence. With themes of denial, substance abuse, and mental illness, it seems difficult to believe that the show could possibly make someone laugh. However, there are a number of facets to the programme which contribute to the humor of the show while not ever making fun of the main character’s mental illness.

One of the funniest things about BoJack is the show’s unique universe in which humans and anthropomorphic animals live side by side. As such, Horseman, who is as his name suggests, a horse, regularly dates (and copulates with) human women. His best friend, Todd, is a human who sleeps on his couch, and his fast-talking agent (and former lover) is a pink feline named Princess Carolyn. This strange and fascinating world allows the writers to set up a seemingly endless array of visual puns which can often go completely under the radar, such putting “Ewe Haul” on the shirt of a sheep working for a moving company.

Another striking feature of the show is the mixing of pun-filled, frequently alliterative dialogue with deep exploration of serious themes. Bojack’s struggle with depression is not something that’s just thrown into the script, it’s a driving force behind the narrative. Additionally, Bojack’s mental illness isn’t portrayed as some problem that the show magically solves given enough time. Most programmes that deal with depression essentially divide the affected character in two, usually by contrasting the “normal version” of a character with the “depressed version”. Rather, the show treats BoJack’s depression as a part of him inseparable from his actual self.


BoJack and Diane discuss life...credit to Raphael Bob-Waksberg
BoJack and Diane discuss life...credit to Raphael Bob-Waksberg

HollyWoo Stars And Celebrities...

The show also uses its faux-Hollywood setting (known later in the show as “Hollywoo”) to give a bitingly satirical take on modern real world events. In one of the most poignant archs of the second season, the show takes direct aim at Bill Cosby when sitcom star “Hank Hippopopolous” is accused of taking advantage of his assistants. One episode in this most recent season discussed the stigmatization of abortions extensively as BoJack and company wind up associated with a comically uninformed pop star who insists on aborting her pregnancy on live television. (All of this despite the fact she's not really pregnant)

Finally, BoJack Horseman works because of the incredible talent of the cast. Will Arnett, who portrayed the morally-challenged GOB Bluth on Arrested Development keeps the laughs coming with truly brilliant comic timing and utter commitment to the concept of the show. He also manages to put more human emotion into a talking horse than nearly any other actor on television. Comedy Central favorite Amy Sedaris is hilarious as BoJack’s fast-talking and literally catty agent, and Community alumni Alison Brie makes a character that could have come off as irritating incredibly likeable. Rounding out the main cast are Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, and standup comedian Paul F. Tompkins, both of whom shine as the two wackiest yet oddly well adjusted character on the show.

Who Is Your Favorite BoJack Horseman Character?

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In a world where adult cartoons are frequently centered around cheap sex jokes and nonsenseical plots, BoJack Horseman stands out for its commitment to striking a balance between fun humor and genuinely intriguing drama. You’ll laugh. You’ll probably cry. And if you like television that means something, you’ll love BoJack Horseman.

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