Twenty years ago, BoJack Horseman was TV’s hottest property, starring as “The Horse” on long-running sitcom Horsin’ Around. But those days are over, and now BoJack is a washed-up actor getting by on vast amounts of drink and horse tranquiliser. But when his agent arranges for a ghostwriter to help him write his autobiography, could it be just the thing he needs to kickstart his career?
For a while, there was a time when every visitor to our house was shown the first episode (or two) of BoJack Horseman. Not all of them liked it, or even understood it, but we felt it was our sworn duty to introduce them to the show that we loved so much.
First off, let’s talk about the setting. BoJack takes place in a world where humans live and work alongside anthropomorphic animals, and no one bats an eyelid about it. In case it wasn’t apparent from the title, BoJack himself is a horse. Not everyone who watched the show with us could get past this, but if you can accept it and go with the flow, then the setting is wonderful. There are visual gags aplenty, including Cameron Crow (really a raven), Penguin Books being run by an actual penguin, a literal ‘black sheep’ of the family and a Navy Seal who is an actual seal. Main characters include Princess Carolyn, a pink cat who has a scratching post in her office and who lives in Tabbywood Apartments, and Mr Peanutbutter, a yellow labrador (from Labrador) who barks “someone’s at the door” when the doorbell rings and hangs his head out the window on road trips.
As you can hopefully already tell, the show’s attention to detail is amazing. In one episode, BoJack steals the ‘D’ from the Hollywood sign, and from then on, the town is known as ‘Hollywoo’. The opening theme (which should never be skipped) has subtle variations in the animation for different episodes, echoing the people who come and go in BoJack’s life. One episode in season three takes place in an underwater city and has barely any dialogue, but is perhaps the most beautiful twenty-five minutes ever animated.
And all this is before we even get onto the actual story. BoJack is a show that doesn’t shy away from tackling difficult issues. In the four seasons that have been produced so far, the series has touched on depression, drug use, abortion, miscarriage, dementia and all the different ways in which your family can fuck you up. It’s dark, funny and insightful, and at least one episode per season will leave you curled up and weeping hopelessly into your sofa. The dialogue is sharp, witty and full of brilliantly delivered lines, but the deeper message will pierce right through your emotional defences.
It’s also worth noting that BoJack is the only show I can think of to feature an openly asexual character, who both acknowledges his orientation on screen in season three and then goes on to explore what that means for him in season four. It’s great to see such a popular series spend a fair chunk of time exploring a minority and often little understood sexual orientation.
BoJack Horseman is an excellent show. It’s not something to be watched in the background – it demands your full attention. In return, it will put you through the emotional wringer, but it’s worth every minute.