On Friday, Netflix continues its expansion into every corner of the entertainment and television universe with the original animated series BoJack Horseman. While it sounds like a terrible WWE gimmick created for a guy who looks like he could play Arn Anderson’s son, BoJack is actually an adult-themed comedy – described by the online streaming giant as “Witty, Irreverent, Deadpan, Cynical” – that presumably aspires to be mentioned in the same breaths as South Park and Archer, while appearing to have the same offensive and fearless edginess of a cult favorite like Duckman, an under-appreciated series like Ugly Americans, or even a completely forgotten gem like the short-lived God, The Devil, And Bob.
Then again, there’s also the possibility that this new series simply intends to be the first of its kind, and according to its synopsis, it’s going to scratch a lot of people who love watching celebrities crash and burn in all the right places.
Meet the most beloved sitcom horse of the ’90s … 20 years later. Set in an L.A. where humans and anthropomorphic animal-people coexist, “BoJack Horseman” is about one man (well, horse-man) who peaked too early and must figure out what to do next.
More specifically, actor and bipedal talking horse BoJack Horseman was the star of the show Horsin’ Around, but like a lot of our favorite TV stars from the 80s and 90s, things went south once the ratings died. Now, BoJack is trying to reinvent himself in a time when people are more obsessed with fame and F-list celebrities than they’ve ever been, and one of the first steps is a tell-all biography. Created and written by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who previously wrote an episode of the cancelled NBC series Save Me and The Exquisite Corpse Project, the series stars five beloved actors that should at least convince most of us to give BoJack Horseman a whirl come Friday.
1) Will Arnett – The voice of BoJack Horseman himself, the down but not out star of Horsin’ Around. Of this troubled animated character, Arnett told USA Today:
How does Arnett describe BoJack? “I try not to — lest I should freak people out. I see people’s eyes widening when I say, ‘It’s about a guy who’s a horse who used to be a ’90s sitcom star,’ ” he says. “Honestly, it’s just a study of these characters and BoJack happens to be a very extreme narcissist who is having a tough time re-entering the world.”
2) Alison Brie – Diane, the human woman tasked with ghost-writing BoJack’s book.
3) Aaron Paul – Todd, BoJack’s best bro. Paul is also handling the role of another character that sounds absolutely delightful.
“On BoJack’s side, it’s more of a frustrating love-hate relationship,” says Paul, who also plays a rooster in a jogging suit that runs around the neighborhood at dawn yelling for everyone to wake up. “At the beginning, he’s just annoyed by Todd and doesn’t feel like he even wants Todd around. Throughout the season, BoJack realizes that he does, deep down, care for Todd quite a bit.” (Via USA Today)
4) Amy Sedaris – Princess Carolyn, a cat and BoJack’s agent.
5) Paul F. Tompkins – Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane’s boyfriend and a TV star. Oh, and he’s a dog.
As we learn from this teaser trailer for BoJack Horseman, nothing is off limits in this anthropomorphic version of Los Angeles. Seriously, nothing.
In addition to the core cast’s star power, we can expect to hear some other favorite celebrity voices in each episode, as Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, Melissa Leo, Wendie Malick and Keith Olbermann are all on board for the disgusting fun. But words are nothing but letters shoved together, so let’s see something more than just a teaser trailer.
Television critics are already weighing in on Netflix’s latest original work, and the quotes you’re about to read aren’t exactly going to inspire you to set a reminder. In fact, if I had to sum them all up with one BoJack Horseman GIF, I’d say that this one does the trick:
Part of the series’ problem right out the starting gate is that Arnett’s boorish, self-absorbed former sitcom star feels like little more than an equine version of a character he’s played a dozen times, most effectively in “Arrested Development.” – Brian Lowry, Variety
BoJack hits funny bones hardest when it loads up on background gags–for example, the fact every character has a terrible ringtone provides surprisingly rich humor as the six episodes advance. – Kyle Anderson, Entertainment Weekly (via Metacritic)
All of the setups are promising, and there’s nothing really wrong with the idea of repurposing the has-been-sitcom-star template by making the lead character a horse. What’s wrong is that it’s not well written. You get the sense that Bob-Waksberg figured just taking a well-worn premise and populating it with animated animals is somehow funny enough to sustain us for 12 episodes. – David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle
Arnett plays a washed-up ‘90s TV star — a man with a horse’s head — in this bizarre, Seth MacFarlane-like show that seems to have stemmed from a trippy night on ‘shrooms. In the words of Nancy Reagan, just say no. – Lori Racki, Chicago Sun-Times
In defense of a show that I have not watched and am excited for based on the cast and premise alone, judging any series on its first season has become a futile exercise. Think back to the first seasons of the two greatest animated series ever created – The Simpsons and South Park – and they’re both trash in comparison to the show’s best years and episodes. Not all animated series can be as explosive and awesome as Archer from Day One, but even that show didn’t have universal praise in the beginning.
Meanwhile, Netflix users, apparently oblivious to the definition of “review” having to do with actually watching something, are already weighing in with their own ratings, and it seems to be a mix of positive…
… downright paranoid and just plain pissy.
Again, BoJack Horseman debuts on Friday, August 22 and, like all Netflix original series, will be available in its entirety. It’s certainly not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but when your trailer starts out with Air Bud International Airport, you’ve earned a three-episode grace period from this guy.