Yes, this Netflix original is a cartoon that features animal characters alongside human ones. And, yes, the lead character is a horse-man named BoJack, voiced by Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame.
The show also relies, heavily, on sight gags and animal-centric puns. Here are a few:
“Ewe-Haul” instead of “U-Haul.” Guitars signed by “Woodchuck” Berry, Eddie Van “Whalen,” and B.B. King “Cobra.” “Mice Krispies” instead of “Rice Krispies” (which Todd eats with “Alpine Sweat” that looks a lot like “Mountain Dew,” even though that’s not an animal pun). The bear on the California state flag wearing clothes. A goat wearing a “Goatful Dead” T-shirt with the lightning bolt goat skull. “Shaquille O’Seal” instead of “Shaquille O’Neal.”
Are puns the lowest or highest form of wit? Discuss this amongst yourselves.
That’s just scratching the surface of the first three episodes of Season 2. With a watchful eye and a pause button, you could probably find a hundred more. This sort of inspired silliness may deceive you into believing this is a program safe to sit your children in front of while you do something else.
No, don’t do that. This is not a cartoon for children. There is foul language and adult situations, casual sex, and lots of booze. Occasional drug usage as well.
Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the program either. Give the kids some fidget spinners (are those still a thing?) and watch BoJack yourself. You may surprise yourself, the way I did, and actually like it.
The show attracts some top-notch vocal talent. In addition to Arnett, the regular cast includes Allison Brie (Diane Nguyen), Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Peanutbutter), Amy Sedaris (Princess Carolyn) and Aaron Paul (Todd Chavez). Keith Olbermann also has a recurring role as Tom Jumbo-Grumbo, a blue whale news anchor at MSNBSea (there’s another pun for you). Guest stars during this season include Lisa Kudrow (Wanda Pierce), Alan Arkin (J.D. Salinger), Angela Bassett (Ana Spanikopita), Aisha Tyler (Sextina Aquafina), Ricky Gervais (Hedgehog at Orphanage), and many others, including Henry Winkler, Daniel Radcliffe, and Paul McCartney as themselves. Some of the names I’ve omitted probably include most of the comedians you’ve heard of in the last ten years.
While the series is always funny and well-acted, it also works reasonably well as a serial drama. I wasn’t being sarcastic in that last sentence. BoJack, the anthropomorphic horse who was once a ’90s TV sitcom star (in a show called Horsin’ Around that looks like every sitcom from The Cosby Show to Full House), struggles with alcoholism and self-hate so much that a pervasive theme of this show might be a case study in clinical depression. As the season begins, BoJack has realized his lifelong dream of starring in a movie about his hero, the racehorse Secretariat. Of course, BoJack being BoJack, he has to self-sabotage, running out on the production before it is completed, forcing the moviemakers to use CGI to complete the film.
During this season-long arc about the Secretariat movie, we also have secondary story threads about Princess Carolyn striking out on her own to open a talent agency, Mr. Peanutbutter creating a game show along with the reclusive author J.D. Salinger (who is not dead, it turns out, but just very very reclusive). In addition, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s marriage hits a rough patch, and she crashes at BoJack’s place for months while her husband thinks she’s still working in war-torn Cordovia.
BoJack’s love life remains rocky, naturally. He seems happy for a while with the owl-woman Wanda, a 30-year coma survivor, but he still pines for his lost love, the dear-woman Charlotte (voiced by Olivia Wilde, who I didn’t mention before). He leaves his movie shoot and drives to New Mexico to see Charlotte, who has a husband and family. While in New Mexico, BoJack buys a large boat, which he names Escape from LA. In his inimitable way, BoJack permanently destroys his relationship with Charlotte and is forced to return to LA, with his boat.
Todd Chavez is the Forrest Gump of BoJack Horseman, stumbling through life from one misadventure to the next. The only thing resembling a story arc for Todd this season is his involvement with an improv group that is soon revealed to be a cult. The season culminates with BoJack having to save Todd from the cult and acknowledge him as his best friend.
Along the way, there’s plenty of episodic fare that does little to affect the season-long arcs. This is always funny stuff that doesn’t seem as funny when you write it down. So, watch it. You have to be there.
Two seasons in, I’m still a fan of BoJack Horseman. This is pretty good stuff.
Season 2 Netflix Original Report Card: A