Written by: Alejandro Rodriguez, Special to CC2K
Over the past few years Netflix has been trying to change it’s image from providing content to producing it. Just recently shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards have been bringing more attention to the service and allowing people to experience shows in a totally different way than they were used to.
As Netflix continues to create new content for its service, they’re beginning to give different genres a try. Their first shot at animated project, BoJack Horseman, follows the titular character, an anthropomorphic horse, as he tries to get his life and career back on track after his 90s sitcom, Horsing Around, ends. In order to get back into the mainstream BoJack (Will Arnett) attempts to get his autobiography off the ground, but when he ends up not having any material his publishing house contacts ghost writer, Diane, (Alison Brie) to help finish his book.
BoJack Horseman is a show that may not have lasted more than a few episodes on regular network television. If this show had ended up on MTV or Comedy Central chances are that it would have been cancelled by the fourth or fifth episode. Even with star power behind it there doesn’t seem to be anything too interesting about the show. In fact, the first few episodes aren’t by any means that memorable, there’s nothing that makes it stand out from the humor you would find on Family Guy, South Park, or any other adult oriented cartoon out there. The humor of the early episodes treads through material we’ve seen before and while it is funny, it’s not too original.Then out of nowhere the writing and characters evolve and the show, while still silly, becomes far more dramatic. Calling BoJack Horseman a drama would overstate it, but calling it a comedy would understate it.
Netflix’ method of allowing you to binge watch episodes comes in handy, the series sets up the world and characters early on in the series then starts dropping bombs left and right. Not only that, but there are a lot of background jokes that many won’t notice until the second or third viewing of the show.
Will Arnett is the perfect choice to voice BoJack; Arnett’s voice is somehow able to encapsulate just what an alcoholic scumbag would sound like. Near the end of the run you get to hear the sadness and guilt in Arnett’s voice, sometimes I forget that Arnett is capable of doing serious roles. Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) is a character that I wouldn’t think I’d have any interest in. However, Sedaris is able to bring the character of a stressed out middle-aged feline who is married to her work to life flawlessly. There is an entire episode dedicated to her and it’s one of the most interesting in the series. It’s one of the episodes that mark the transition to a more serious show. The voice talent on BoJack Horseman is excellent, there is no telling if the cast recorded together or not, but it does sound like they do have a lot of chemistry together.
Setting BoJack Horseman in Hollywood gives the show a lot of material to work with, but it’s understandable for people to get tired of humor that uses pop culture as a crutch to be funny. While the setting of the show means there is no escaping this, BoJack Horseman does a great job of satirizing the entertainment industry and some of the jokes are smart enough to reference movies that are over a century old.
The animation is bright and colorful and character models fit their voices perfectly, but this is probably the least interesting facet of the show. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just doesn’t stick out from any other cartoon you’ve seen in the last decade. That said, there is an episode in the series that makes use of a lot of experimental animation. It’s all over the place and at the same time appropriate for the what’s going on in the story.
While BoJack Horseman takes some time to find its stride, there’s no denying that the outcome is well worth it. What could have been just another run of the mill cartoon ended up being something distinctly different from any other animated show on network television. We’ll just have to wait and see what another season will bring us.