BoJack Horseman is a darkly hilarious, irreverent, serialised, animated comedy for adults featuring a great ensemble cast. Cathy Butler checked out the first three episodes ahead of its launch on Netflix on Friday, 22nd August.
On paper, the various elements of Bojack Horseman are fairly intriguing, if bordering on the absurd; the eponymous Bojack is a one-hit wonder, nineties sitcom actor, and also a horse, voiced by Will Arnett; unkempt layabout Todd, voiced by Aaron Paul, is sleeping on Bojack’s couch and hiding a bizarre past; Bojack can’t get started on his biography so he enlists the help of ghost writer Diane, voiced by Alison Brie; Bojack’s on-and-off girlfriend Princess Carolyn, voiced by Amy Sedaris, is also his agent, and is also a cat.
The outcome is as bizarre as it sounds, but surprising in its reach. Its opener is weak – not unusual for pilot episodes – but it gains in strength as it goes on – also not unusual. Walking and talking animals can be a bit of a stretch of the suspension of disbelief, particularly in a series aimed at adults. Once it hits its stride however, these humanised animals provide some of the better comic moments of the show.
A voice cast coming from some of the most lauded television series of recent times – Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, Community, Mad Men – is certainly a draw, and as screen actors they handle the transition to voice acting fairly adeptly. Paul in particular does well with the hapless Todd. It can be difficult to un-hear Jesse Pinkman, but soon you forget about Jesse and only hear Todd, which is impressive given his largely peripheral role. Similarly, Arnett’s distinctive tones work against him initially, but eventually become synonymous with Bojack’s self-absorbed cynicism.
What on the outset seems like a raucous, one-dimensional comedy, ultimately manages to address some weighty issues – toxic family situations, unstable relationships, celebrity worship – without coming across as mawkish or disingenuous. That a morally ambiguous character such as Bojack can elicit any sympathy at all is impressive in itself. Not just a talking horse, apparently.
Despite a shaky, unpromising beginning, Bojack Horseman is worth pursuing..
Season one of Bojack Horseman featuring Will Arnett & Aaron Paul premieres with 12 episodes exclusively on Netflix on Friday, 22 August at 8am.