Plot: Bojack Horseman became an overnight sensation thanks to Horsin’ Around, a 90s sitcom that was a massive hit with audiences. He was able to cash in on the success of the show, but in the decades since Horsin’ Around, Bojack hasn’t been to continue his career trajectory on that same level. Instead, he has fallen into booze, drugs, and casual sex, to the point he has become unreliable and to most within the entertainment business, not a worthwhile talent. Although he tried to stay relevant, his star has lost of most of its shine, thanks to one controversy or terrible project after another. Now he needs a fresh start in desperate order, to rebuild his fame and bring in some cash, so he agrees to write his memoirs. Or more to the point, someone else is going to write his memoirs, the young and quirky Diane, an experienced ghost writer. Is this book Bojack’s big chance to reclaim his stardom or will this be another abysmal failure, leading to an even deeper spiral into the darkness?
Entertainment Value: The number of animated programs aimed adult audiences is legion, with The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park flanked by numerous others, making the field quite a crowded one. But not only does Bojack Horseman stand out in that overrun genre, the show crafts a unique vibe that is dark, hilarious, and brilliant, a masterwork of television. The series takes a couple of episodes to really build steam, but even those first few are well made and effective. As the foundation is put down and the show begins to crank us up a wild roller coaster hill, the rest of these first two seasons is pure genius, one superb episode after another. The tone is dark, which is likely to push some viewers off, but I think the writing is so sharp and incisive, the darkness isn’t just to shock or have edge. The dark humor is rooted in elements that despite Bojack being a horse living in this surreal world, are mostly universal and believable, which is why they hit so hard in the first place. Some elements are of course outlandish and absurd, but even the silliness and small, passing bursts of humor are well crafted, the writing is just fantastic across the board. As you’d expect from a Netflix show, Bojack is also quite an addictive series and these twenty-five episodes can be binged with ease, as the stories keep you hooked in.
The show’s animation sports some unusual, creative design elements, which should be no surprise, given the strange elements involved. The world has humans and animals living in the same spaces, but these aren’t the kind of talking animals Disney would give us and while the more fantastic side of the world is often looked at, so are the mundane, tedious aspects of those dynamics. I wouldn’t call Bojack one of the more visually dynamic shows, but the animation creates a unique vision and the designs are always interesting. I also like how often little visual touches are blended in, to provide laughs and help build the show’s world. One reason the series is so good is the voice cast, which is stacked with talent from the leads to the smallest roles, with a massive ensemble of gifted performers on deck. Will Arnett is pitch perfect as Bojack, an ideal mix of whimsy, obliviousness, depression, and blind optimism, not an easy task to pull off. I’ve read that Arnett considers Bojack one of the hardest roles he has taken on, but he is excellent and anchors the series so well. Amy Sedaris and Alison Bride also have superb performances, while Paul F. Tompkins is consistently hilarious as well. The voice cast in these first two seasons also includes Aaron Paul, Kristen Schaal, Margo Martindale, Patton Oswalt, and J.K. Simmons.
The Disc: Shout Factory delivers the first two seasons of Bojack Horseman on Blu-ray, in spectacular looking presentations. The show looks good on Netflix, but is so much richer and bolder in this release, thanks to less compression and that really allows the animation to shine. The detail level is improved, but the colors are what really benefit, with more vibrant hues and the show makes great use of those colors, so fans should really appreciate the visual boosts here. You can also wade through some informative extras, including cast & crew commentary tracks for all of the episodes, each chock full of behind the scenes stories, anecdotes, and more. A pair of episodes provide full animatics and you can watch a side-by-side animation walk-through, while the extras also include a Grouplove video and some image galleries.