BoJack Horseman: A Review of Current Television

‘So it doesn’t matter what we did in the past, or how we’ll be remembered. The only thing that matters is right now, this moment, this one spectacular moment we are sharing together. Right Sarah Lynn?’ – BoJack Horseman, S3 E11.

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Now in the third season, Netflix’s animated program BoJack Horseman has established itself as television’s once a year hit of nihilism within a world where anthropomorphic animals and humans coexist side by side, with this season reaching new emotional and critical heights. The show follows BoJack, a horse and a former sitcom star, attempting to revive his non-existent career, with this season focusing on his Oscar campaign for his dream role in a biopic of his favourite sports star, Secretariat.

BoJack Horseman’s strength lies not only in a well developed and diverse cast and supporting characters, but in its unflinching honesty towards its characters and its audience. While the show is cynical towards much of modern life filtered through the Hollywood world, its unique combination of cynicism and honesty creates truly challenging television. Through embracing this perspective, BoJack Horseman is able to transform from a traditional style sitcom episode, to a murder mystery episode, to an underwater episode, and in doing so explore and demonstrate the impact of this attitude in the lives of its characters. The underwater episode demonstrates the artistic range the series is capable of, where dialogue is forgone as the action shifts location, forcing the audience to a new form of emotional engagement based on images alone – and what a beautiful, foreign underwater universe these images create.

Although it is undoubtedly a comedy, BoJack Horseman takes advantage of the growing trend within the ‘Peak TV’ era to blur the lines between comedy and drama. Recurring gags are back, but while no-one is able to create a backdrop with hilarious visual gags on contemporary society in the manner of The Simpsons, the show does establish a hilarious new gag throughout the season culminating in a genius comedic payoff in the finale.

So maybe BoJack Horseman is the show we need right now: one that demands its characters confront big questions, subverts convention by denying its audience an answer and simultaneously embracing an absurd subplot about getting lost in a hotel and a city that manages to tackle big social questions while delivering joke after joke. For all its nihilism and for the opening quote of this piece, it forces its characters and audience to feel. I don’t think there is any other show right now that is as profound, demanding and questioning of its characters and audience as BoJack Horseman. This feeling goes beyond embracing the good and the bad, but embracing what makes us human. BoJack Horseman shows us the best and worst of ourselves in humans, cats, dogs and other species. We, and the characters from the show, may be trapped in a repetitive and crushing cycle of events, or we may not be. The only thing that matters here is what’s happening now, whether it be soul crushing or complete elation. BoJack Horseman argues that we must allow ourselves to feel, as we owe ourselves and each other, this spectacular moment we are sharing.