You Don’t Know BoJack (Horseman)

I perused my “Watch List” on Netflix on a random Sunday morning, and this led to a week-long binge-watching session of my new favorite cartoon horse, BoJack Horseman. This animated sitcom is unlike anything else I’ve seen. It’s quickly become my favorite show, and I’m even re-watching it before it airs in syndication on Comedy Central this September. I encourage everyone to stop “horsin’ around” and watch it for themselves.

BoJack Horseman was a huge television star in the 1990s, on a sitcom called “Horsin’ Around,” and is looking for his next big project. He’s joined by his ex-girlfriend — and agent — a cat named Princess Carolyn, and best friend, a human named Todd Chavez. In the BoJack universe, animals are anthropomorphic and walk and talk amongst the humans. In fact, a human can even have a child with an animal, as species intermingle.

They are joined by couple Diane Nguyen, a human, and her lover, Mr. Peanutbutter. He’s a golden retriever, with ions of charisma and star power. He and BoJack were on similar family sitcoms in the 1990s. The characters all are dynamic and evolve throughout the series. BoJack suffers from depression, so he smokes, drinks, and overeats as a way to deal with his internal struggles. Over the series, the audience is encouraged to root for him as he stars as the lead in “Secretariat.” He’s the epitome of an antihero in every way; He is promiscuous, has numerous vices, and routinely does drugs. He says whatever is on his mind, which can lead to trouble, as he can come off harshly. He routinely acknowledges this and is fully aware of how broken he is. He has everything, as Mr. Peanutbutter once pointed out, but everything is not always enough for him. BoJack shows the audience the dark underbelly of fame and that depression can affect anyone, even if they were the star of a sitcom. Will Arnett is perfectly cast as his voice.

Things get complicated when he catches feelings for Nguyen, who is also the ghostwriter of his memoir. To make matters even more precarious, Nguyen acknowledges she may share those feelings. These shared feelings rupture Mr. Peanutbutter’s friendship with BoJack. Can these three ever work it out?

Mr. Peanutbutter endured success in his career, but not in his personal life, as Nguyen is his third wife. On the series, he hosts a game show called “Hollywood Stars and Celebrities: What do they Know? Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out.” He also runs for governor of California. Mr. Peanutbutter has the personality of a prom king and an actual dog. He enjoys being the life of the party, runs to the door if the bell rings, and doesn’t like mailmen. His character goes even deeper than just a fuzzy yellow lab with abs. He wants everything to be broadcast to the world and thrives on-camera. However, Nguyen wants to be behind the scenes and keep things private. She feels betrayed when she finds a film crew at her proposal. Can Nguyen learn to embrace the cameras?

Todd Chavez aspires to develop his own rock opera and accepts an audition to present it live. He lives in BoJack’s house, so when BoJack finds out about Chavez’s upcoming audition, he sabotages it. BoJack becomes possessive of Todd and doesn’t want him to become famous and move out. He fears losing his closest friend. Though BoJack frequently yells “shut up Todd,” he needs Chavez more than Chavez needs him.

At first, Chavez comes across as a freeloader who lives on BoJack’s sofa and doesn’t pay rent. Throughout the series, he creates his own version of Disneyland, takes part in improv comedy, and operates a booming cab service with Mr. Peanutbutter. He is innovative and takes initiative as he grows tired of the couch. He even uses Princess Carolyn as an agent and transforms BoJack’s house into David Boreanaz’s house as a quick scheme to make money. Eventually, Chavez finds his own success and discovers that he no longer has any use for BoJack. He’s furious when he learns what BoJack did to his audition. Can he ever forgive him?

Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn starts her own talent agency, dates a man who is really three boys in a trench coat, and pursues motherhood. Can she juggle all of her responsibilities at once? Princess Carolyn’s catchphrase is that “she always lands on her feet,” but has she bit off more than she can chew? In an act of frustration, she forges BoJack’s signature on a contract for a new show. Will BoJack agree to the terms or will he walk away from the deal? There is tension because they dated at one point, but there is a mutual understanding between them. Scenes that include only BoJack and Princess Carolyn can be awkward to watch. It’s hard not to see them as a couple, as they seem good together. The issue is that Princess Carolyn can be controlling, while BoJack is lazy and doesn’t have as much ambition.

Though the animals are able to walk upright and talk, they still take on qualities of their actual animal counterparts. There’s one scene where Mr. Peanutbutter uses a person’s scent to find a doll, and a dog valet plays fetch with keys. A maggot works as a mortician, and the worker bees are carpenters. These subtle details bring the BoJack universe to life and serve as small reminders that though they may walk on two legs like humans, they are still animals.

I’m ecstatic that I found this show, and I’m tuning in when season five premieres on Fri, Sept. 14.

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