Bojack is a Trojan horse – and that’s just his sex life. Ha! No but seriously, you have no idea what this show is.
Shown exclusively on Netflix, Will Arnett plays Bojack Horseman – a former sitcom star whose affable, jumper-wearing public image is a million miles from the bourbon-fuelled calamity that is his life. He’s also a horse, but that’s not a big deal in this anthropomorphic world, where blue whales are newsreaders and his agent is a pink cat.
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) is his (human) best friend – a waster permanently crashing on Bojack’s sofa – and generally it looks like the kind of raunchy cartoon you come across late at night. For the first few episodes, it acts like one too.
Open on: Bojack has some self-promoting scheme, but can’t help tripping on his own ego/getting hopelessly drunk. Things go badly, Bojack insults everyone. Roll credits and reset for the next episode.
It’s funny enough, but the genius of Bojack is when this sitcom set-up starts breaking down.
In something like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David will constantly act like a monster, yet nothing ever changes. Here, Bjoack’s disasters are cumulative. Every act of pettiness adds up and affects the people around him. We like Bojack and we understand why he acts the way he does, but that doesn’t justify it. Bojack isn’t a bad guy, Bojack would argue, he just does a lot of bad things. Which is different. Somehow.
For a silly horse cartoon, this is one of the most dead-on examinations of self-loathing you will ever see. From The Sopranos to Mad Men, there are endless drunk narcissists on television, but Bojack is braver.
You are not complicated, the show suggests, and even if you are, that isn’t an excuse. Maybe being unhappy doesn’t justify the harm you cause other people. Maybe you are a bad person and that’s not OK.
After a slow start, Bojack becomes unlike anything else you have seen on television. If anything, the second series is an even smarter turn around than the first. After hitting rock bottom and having his epiphany, Bojack is a new man – or at least he’s trying to be. But is that even possible? Are we capable of change, and what does that actually mean beyond taking up yoga and replacing our soft furnishings?
Most importantly, what’s the difference between wanting to be a new man and simply hating your old self?
There will still be people who watch this after the pub, giggling at the silly animal jokes, and that’s fine. After all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.
Bojack Horseman series two is released on Netflix on Friday 17th July