BoJack Horseman is a weird little show. It’s a cartoon about humans and anthropomorphic animals living side by side. Its mane – er, main – character is a washed-up 90s sitcom star who is half man, half horse. It makes jokes, often animal puns, at lightning speed and most of them go unnoticed the first/second/third time you watch it. But for all the laughs and outrageousness, there is a darkness behind BoJack that makes the show so relatable.
In the middle of series 1, a drunken BoJack steals the D of the famous Hollywood sign to impress a woman. For the remainder of the series, the D is never returned and “Hollywoo” becomes the new setting. The D is even removed in the opening credits.
Series one begins with BoJack attempting to thrust himself back into the spotlight and return to social relevancy. So he signs a book deal with the penguins of Penguin Books, who are facing financial hardships – to quote Pinky the penguin, “When was the last time you saw a book?”
One of the most absurd episodes of series 2 is when BoJack’s friend Todd, searching for a life purpose, rescues a genetically modified chicken from being a “food chicken”. He disguises her as Becca, the booking agent for Kings of Leon. But she’d rather “Book Beck! Book Beck!” (Say it out loud.)
MSNBSea’s whale anchor is enough to make you laugh on its own, but of course the show’s creators don’t just stop there. The segments of news broadcasts are packed with journalism jokes, spoofing Beyonce lyrics and hilarious headlines.
Sarah Lynn is one of BoJack’s former TV children, a former pop star and current druggie. When she and BoJack get together, it’s never normal. Whether it’s days-long house parties, treasure hunting at a funeral or stabbing yourself with a rusty bayonet to cause a scene in a furniture store when Andrew Garfield breaks up with you, this duo knows how to party. She also serves as commentary on what Hollywood does to child stars.
BoJack is not for the faint of heart. His anger and frustration often comes through as cruelty. There are jokes about the Holocaust, the 9/11 attacks and Afghanistan. In one episode, BoJack tells someone to “get cancer,” and – spoiler alert – the guy eventually does.
In an attempt to make BoJack jealous, his agent and on-and-off-again girlfriend Princess Carolyn finds a new romantic conquest: Vincent Adultman. She starts flirting with him at a bar despite BoJack’s objections that Vincent is “very obviously three kids stacked on top of each other under a trench coat.”
In the time between BoJack seasons, what’s a fan to do? Luckily for us, BoJack Horseman is quite active on the interwebs, and his presence can’t go unnoticed. Whether it’s responding to current events or mocking celebrities, BoJack is the horse man to follow.
Insulted by Diane’s work ghostwriting his memoir, BoJack, Todd and Sarah Lynn go into a drug-induced frenzy to rewrite the book in one night. It goes just about as well as you’d think.
No matter how funny the show can be, BoJack isn’t all fun and games. BoJack is sad, self-loathing, self-sabotaging, angry and lonely. It’s been praised by critics for being the realest, funniest look at depression on TV. It’s heartbreaking to watch BoJack try to feel good about himself through his blunders. If you can make it through 9-year-old BoJack’s letter to his idol Secretariat in the series 1 finale without tearing up, you have a heart of stone.
The endearing thing about BoJack is he always tries to better himself despite his many, many setbacks. He tries to make amends with an old friend he betrayed. He tries to rekindle a relationship with a past love. He tries to have a more positive outlook by reciting mantras and listening to self-help audiobooks. In the series 2 finale, after a particularly rough couple of events, BoJack gets some beautiful advice from an unexpected place: “It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”
BoJack Horseman series 3 premieres on Netflix on 22 July
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news