If there’s one thing millennials can relate to, it’s an alcoholic anthropomorphic horse, who is suffering from depression after becoming a washed-up, middle-aged former celebrity. Everyone, it’s time to meet Bojack Horseman.
Though this is an animal-filled cartoon, it really isn’t suitable for children. Unless, of course you want to instil a profound sense of dread and despair at the world in your young ones. But most millennials have already go that, and so for them this is a superb, if devastating, watch. But it’s also hilarious, poignant, culturally profound and razor sharp, and sets a new bar for what adult animation can be.
In season one we’re introduced to Bojack (Will Arnett), who we learn from a flashback was once a famous sitcom star in the hottest show around. That is, until it got cancelled. Now, almost twenty years of misery later, he’s decided he wants a comeback. So, he enlists the help of his girl-boss ex-girlfriend and agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) – who is a cat, because why not? – and a journalist-cum-ghost writer called Diane (Alison Brie), who is human, to repair his reputation and land him new roles which will have him back in the spotlight.
The characters are all caricatures of Hollywood types, some beat down and drug fuelled, others – namely Bojack’s rival/friend, Mr Peanutbutter – are perennially positive to an extent where its as infuriating as it is comical. There are storylines involving past incidents of abuse on set, mass shootings, eating disorders, family trauma and abortion – no topic is too taboo. And remarkably, all of these are handled sensitively, critiquing celebrity culture and its toxicity.
But what’s more remarkable is the fact that, even with all these grim subjects, the show is still consistently hilarious with perfectly delivered gags peppering every episode. And the cultural references are absolutely everywhere, with all the artworks in the series being remakes of real-life paintings – our favourite is the David Hockney in Bojack’s office – and Princess Carolyn’s bookshelves being filled with A Tale of Two Kitties, Purrity and The Great Catsby.
Bojack Horseman’s success is also thanks to an all-star cast including Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Bojack’s bum lodger, with Todd Chavez, and RuPaul, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Lisa Kudrow and Paul McCartney all making guest appearances. The fact that these celebs were willing to contribute is alone testament to the show’s quality.
Such quality that The Financial Times’s Tom Faber reckons that “BoJack deserves a spot alongside Tony Soprano and Don Draper,” saying “once it hits its stride, BoJack Horseman is unstoppable.” He’s not alone in his opinion – in The Guardian Stuart Heritage says “Season five of BoJack Horseman wasn’t just a show that had found its feet, it was a show that seemed unstoppable,” whilst The Telegraph’s Ed Cumming gives it five stars, and says the show “reveals itself slowly and rewards the invested viewer with abundant running gags and subtle call-backs.” And Ed Cumming came back for the Independent to review the show’s five-star finale, saying “For all its virtuosic experimentation, in its final moments BoJack Horseman reveals a conservative, even Christian, heart in which the world’s hardships are best met with old virtues: kindness, moderation, hope.”
First shown August 2014. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.