A lot of the coverage of BoJack Horseman centers on its depiction of depression and its willingness to go to very dark, very real places. This is fair, because BoJack Horseman does all of those things, in a way few dramas do better and few comedies do at all. (One notable exception being FX’s You’re the Worst.) But sometimes I fear that what’s lost in that discussion is the fact that the show is also profoundly funny, and at times profoundly silly. It features a character named “Vincent Adultman” who is very clearly two children inside a trench coat. It does the best work in the field of Jokes Contained In Signs And Background Images of any show since the heydey of The Simpsons. It never skips over a chance to make a dumb animal joke, even if it has nothing to do with anything going on in the rest of the episode. BoJack Horseman contains multitudes.
Those multitudes are on glittering display in the show’s third season, which picks up shortly after the end of season two. Everyone is in a surprisingly good place. BoJack (Will Arnett), the formerly washed-up star of a Charles in Charge-esque ’90s sitcom, is basking in the glow of Oscar buzz for his role in a film about Secretariat. Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his feline agent, is flying high running her talent agency. Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), his golden retriever friend/nemesis is… well, Mr. Peanutbutter is always in a good place, even if he and his human significant other, Diane (Alison Brie), are struggling a bit to settle into domestic bliss. Hell, even Todd (Aaron Paul), BoJack’s unshaven doofus roommate, has some decent things going on in his life.
But if the first two seasons were about people (and, uh, horses, and cats, and dogs) struggling to find their place in the world amid failure, season three shifts course to see them struggling to find their place in the world amid success. BoJack, especially. He had a self-destructive streak that caused him problems even when he had very little to actually destroy. And the result of it all is a deeply affecting journey that touches on everything from detachment to co-dependency to loneliness, and doesn’t pull many punches when doing so. The fourth episode of the season is an almost dialogue-free nod to Lost in Translation that is one of the best and most touching episodes of television I’ve seen all year, and it’s stuck with me for three days now.
But again! Really funny! I promise! I feel like I need to jump in every now and then to say that with exclamation points so you’ll believe me. In addition to all those borderline revolutionary things BoJack Horseman does to depict sadness, it is also probably the sharpest satire of Hollywood (er, “Hollywoo”) out there. Season three has storylines about failed sitcoms and Fuller House-style sequels and critics and the total stupidity of awards season, among many other things. There’s a point in one episode where a character is reading a Variety-inspired trade publication called Variation, and if you’re familiar with Variety‘s brand of insider-y nonsense jargon and you pause to read what’s written, you’ll enjoy it a great deal. And there’s another point in an otherwise serious scene where a table of donkeys prepares for a meal in a restaurant by saying “Let us bray” and then doing just that, loudly. This commitment to being both brilliant and moronic is to be lauded.
It’s almost enough to make you wonder if BoJack Horseman has become the best animated comedy on television. I think, thanks largely to season three, I feel comfortable saying that it has. After this season’s mostly lackluster run of Archer, its closest competition is either Rick & Morty or Bob’s Burgers. And while those shows, especially Rick & Morty, give it a run in the pure joke department, neither really gets anywhere near the level on depth BoJack has. Forget just best animated comedy. You could make the argument that it’s the best comedy on television, full stop, which a) is really saying something considering it’s a show about an alcoholic horse who occasionally has sex with a pink cat, and b) makes its omission from the Outstanding Animated Program nominees for this year’s Emmys even more upsetting.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, it still has a really great opening theme, which was made by Patrick Carney of the Black Keys. Even with the ability to zip ahead just by dragging the little streaming button half an inch forward, I still never skip it. The full-length version is below. I recommend playing it in your car while driving around the city at night, especially if you’re a hard-drinking private investigator who is struggling with a big case. Or, like, play it at your computer in your living room. Your call, really.
BoJack Horseman premieres on Netflix on Friday, July 22.