There is such a thing as being too clever for your own good. The particular brand of high IQ comedy can come across as try-hard or smug, and the very best you can probably expect from your audience is to go all Mandy Moore in Scrubs by repeating “That’s so funny…” without actually laughing or even cracking a smile.
That is very much the case with Season One of BoJack Horseman for the first half of the twelve episode arc, and then suddenly the second half is rollercoaster of proper LOLs and some dark, deeply dramatic plotlines. This is probably the last thing we should have come to expect from an animated series about a horse who used to be an 90’s sit-com star and is now dealing with the daily drudgery of being a has-been.
Kicking off, we’re introduced to BoJack (voiced by Arrested Development’s Will Arnett) as he’s breaking up with his kitty-kat girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), who it turns out is also his agent. She lines him up with ghost writer Diane (Community and Mad Men’s Alison Brie) to oversee his memoirs, but she also happens to be dating BoJack’s arch-nemesis Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), who had an identikit show to his, but has handled the downslope of his career much better.
Also in the mix is BoJack’s unwanted but very much needed housemate Todd (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, turning adorability up to 11), while the celebrity voice cast lining up to take part – Stanley Tucci, Patton Oswalt, Naomi Watts, J.K. Simmons, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Melissa Leo and loads more – is not to be sniffed at.
While the natural inclination of an animated show with talking animals is to draw comparisons to the works of Seth McFarlane, BoJack is far closer in spirit to the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with long breaks between the laughs as the show tries to make you feel as uncomfortable and awkward as possible. It would be easy to watch the first episode or two and wave it off as a failed experiment, but much like the rest of Netflix homegrown content of late, it really does require the entire season to be watched before judgement can be passed.
There are some hilarious highlights throughout – when someone steals the D from the Hollywood sign everyone just starts calling the town “Hollywoo”, or Princess Carolyn’s new boyfriend blatantly being three young boys standing on each other’s shoulders inside a trenchcoat, something that apparently on BoJack is aware of – and some scathing, scalpel sharp insights into the idea of celebrity and how destroying it can really be for those who want it for all the wrong reasons.
Funny at times, heartwrenching at others, and far too smart for its own good. This is not passive TV, something just to be watched to help pass the time… this truly is the first animated show you’ll find yourself discussing afterwards. Here’s hoping for a season two.
Rating: 4 / 5