Trying to explain BoJack Horseman to people who know very little about it is almost impossible to do without making it sound stupid. It is a very difficult show to explain to people without underselling it’s brilliance. To the Netflix viewer who is simply scrolling through titles deciding what to watch it might look nothing more than a cartoon laden with animal puns, cartoons doing adult things and shenanigans akin to what you might get from the typical cartoons for grownups on Adult Swim. But Bojack Horseman is in a league of it’s own. It stands on it’s on two hooves as one of the most complex, thought-provoking, diverse and honest shows about fame, how we view success and the struggles of mental illness. All whilst being rude, hilarious and indeed filled with animal puns.
BoJack Horseman is the best Netflix Original to date and easily one of the best television shows ever made. There, I said it. Sorry Stranger Things – you are wonderful. Apologies Glow, I love you but there is nothing wrong with 2nd place. Now before you tune out because I suggested something is better than Stranger Things, allow me to support my radical opinion with some justifications. (And please remember at all times that I too think that Stranger Things is absolutely exceptional).First and foremost BoJack Horseman balances the juggling act of comedy and drama in such a way that it is unrivalled. Many shows attempt this juggling act and all too often either the comedy suffers or the drama does.
BoJack succeeds with exceptional originality whilst simultaneously making it look effortless. You’ll find yourself laughing at issues that are usually avoided or treated with a shameful lack of respect and tact. In BoJack’s case however, although you find yourself reacting with a laugh on a topic that could be considered murky territory, the comical reaction you have to it isn’t ever distasteful for the sake of it. It manages to discuss situations mirroring the Weinstein abuse in Hollywood in a way that is not only entertaining but highly effective, thought-provoking and respectful to the victims of such abhorrent incidents. It doesn’t shy away from the controversial but due to its exceptional ability to cleverly deal with said topics you always find yourself being challenged to think, while never feeling like you are being preached at.
As a result – thematically – BoJack Horseman is an incredibly brave show in regards to the topics it chooses to discuss. For years television shows have tried and failed to present honest representations of characters who suffer from things like depression, PTSD, addiction, substance abuse and the like. Usually these are presented in fairly shallow ways or simply in order to add drama to the storyline or sadly a cheap gag. Thirteen Reasons Why certainly tried admirably to discuss depression and bullying but eventually folded under the weight of over-the-top teen drama and lost sight of the integrity behind the story it was trying to tell (although the show is absolutely not without merit).
BoJack Horseman has managed to do something that very few shows prior have successfully done and this is to actually present, discuss, promote and respect the varying states of what it is to be human without ever reducing the struggles to a gimmick or a trope. It does this while making you laugh and think at the same time. Its portrayal of mental illness and addiction is so incredibly honest and believable and is done with the complexity and depth that the subject deserves. The range of emotional depth that each character obtains is so grounded and realistic (due to the fantastic writing and voice performances) means that the fact they are a cat, a horse, a turtle or a mouse takes the back seat to the fact that they are fully realised and written characters that we can all relate to.
Mental health aside, BoJack Horseman also presents characters from a range of ethnic backgrounds, societal status and also with varied and diverse sexual identities and reflects on the way they often struggle to fit into what is it at times a very narrow-minded society. These character types are not presented merely to be plot devices or cliches but are instead presented with nuance, depth and a sense of realness that is so refreshing to see in television.
BoJack Horseman is the best Netflix Original to date and in my opinion one of the best shows of all time. All 5 seasons are unbelievably unique, challenging, honest, emotional and completely hilarious and ridiculous. I think it is a crime that it hasn’t won or, at the very least, been nominated for several Emmys. Watch it.
– Ashton Brown