Why You — Yes, You — Should Be Watching Netflix’s ‘BoJack Horseman’

First, a primer for those who might be unaware: BoJack Horseman is about a famous millionaire horse named BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett). BoJack starred in a cheesy Charles in Charge-esque ’90s sitcom titled Horsin’ Around, but by the time we meet him in season one, he’s washed-up and drugged-out, living alone in a gorgeous Hollywood Hills mansion with a perpetually unshaven 24-year-old perpetual screw-up human named Todd (Aaron Paul). BoJack’s friend/nemesis is a loyal dimwit yellow lab named Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), who starred in a blatant ripoff of Horsin’ Around and is dating Diane (Alison Brie), the Daria-like human ghostwriter brought in to help BoJack write his memoir. BoJack’s agent is a cat named Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris). This all becomes very normal, somehow.

The first season was a pleasant surprise that kind of dropped into many viewers’ laps. Even with all those notable names attached to it, and its singular comedic tone, it felt like it flew under the radar for a lot of people, which was a shame, because it was really good. The second season premiered on July 17. It is also really good. You should watch BoJack Horseman. Allow me to explain.

It’s somehow smart, funny, dumb, and sad all at once.

When season one was released, a lot of the coverage and reviews focused on how dark the show was for a comedy, and how it dealt with issues like depression and sadness. While all of this is true, the more important message I want to pass along is this: It is really, really funny. And funny in a few different ways, too. There’s razor sharp social commentary (one of season two’s episodes takes on the Cosby situation brilliantly), and a skewering of celebrity culture and the media (always really smart, and often from an angle instead of head on), and crude humor (one recurring theme is characters shouting “Suck a dick, dumb sh*ts!” as they leave a room), and delightfully dumb humor (at one point Mr. Peanutbutter gets surgery and needs a cone).

So when people say the show is sad, yeah, sometimes it is. But sad in the way life is sometimes sad, you know? Not, like, in a sappy way. It feels weird to say, but a goofy comedy about a millionaire horse with a cat ex-girlfriend might have the best take on loneliness of any show on television. But don’t read that and expect the show to be a downer. It is very much a comedy first, just one with complicated issues.

There are sight gags galore.

The show is littered with animal-related jokes and sight gags that reward close viewing, or even re-watching. There are so many great animal puns — Manatee Fair magazine, the Chateau Marmoset hotel, my personal favorite Lowes (But Like An Animal Version), etc. — that I’m sure I missed a ton. (And keep an eye out for the news ticker on the show’s 24-hour news network, MSNBSea, too.) The Simpsons is and probably always will be the greatest at this kind of thing, but like, look at that one up there. Famished Famished Hippos Catering. That’s just a good piece of business.

The cast. Dear God, the cast.

In addition to the regular cast listed above, which ain’t too shabby, the show also has a pretty staggering collection of famous people doing cameos and small arcs on the show. Lisa Kudrow, Patton Oswalt, Ben Schwartz, Amy Schumer, Ilana Glazer, Olivia Wilde, Keegan-Michael Key, Stephen Colbert, Aisha Tyler, and on and on and on. Margo Martindale appears as a version of herself called “Character Actress Margo Martindale” who takes roles like “being an accomplice to an actual crime.” This, to be clear, is wonderful.

Now, admittedly, “it has a lot of famous people in it” is a pretty weak justification for watching something, by itself. Movie 43 had a bunch of famous people in it and that thing was a trash bag filled with dirty diapers. But there’s something fun about watching an episode of BoJack Horseman and being like, “Hey, that giant talking mouse in the fashionable blue and white blazer sounds familiar,” and then seeing the credits and realizing it was Tatiana Maslany.

On that subject…

Vincent Adultman

Vincent Adultman is Princess Carolyn’s boyfriend. He works at “the business factory” and greets people by saying “Hello, other grown-up.” He is also — very clearly, to everyone except Princess Carolyn — three children piled up inside a trench coat. He is my favorite character on the show.

Also, it took me one and a half seasons to realize he was voiced by Alison Brie, and once I realized that it blew my mind a little.

It takes the serialization of a prestige drama and applies it in incredibly silly ways.

Unlike most other animated comedies, it is heavily serialized. While shows like The Simpsons and South Park feature episodes that are largely self-contained (save a few big developments, like Maude Flanders dying or whatever the hell Mr. Garrison is up to), plots on BoJack Horseman carry on from episode to episode, and season to season. It’s more like a Breaking Bad or prestige drama in that way, sometimes paying off a setup two or threes episodes down the line.

This last thing brings us back to the main point: BoJack Horseman is really smart and really funny, and unlike just about any other show out there. Definitely worth a shot.