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Sunday, 13 December 2015

TV Review: BoJack Horseman

oJack Horseman is a washed-up has-been – a bitter, depressive alcoholic trying to get his life back on track – also, he’s a horse.  The former star of the ‘90s Sitcom Horsin’ Around, BoJack now lives in Hollywood with his slacker roommate Todd Chavez.

This is creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s first venture into television. His background is in sketch comedy, and he voices some of the show’s minor characters. He has created a cartoon with many facets – on the surface it seems like any other American animated sitcom. Set in a world populated with anthropomorphic animals, living side by side with humans – the show is packed with the crude humour you’d expect from Family Guy.

On a deeper level, BoJack offers astute satire on celebrity culture and the film industry, with plenty of self-referential shrewdness thrown in for good measure. Where it really succeeds is in its ability to carve a character so endearing, you almost forget he’s a talking horse.

Arrested Development’s Will Arnett provides the gruff voice of our humanoid equine, while Aaron Paul voices his roommate Todd.  These characters were written with this due in mind – Arnett is by this point well-versed in portraying cynical counter-characters. While Paul is most known for depicting the druggie dropout Jesse in Breaking Bad.

Writing a tell-all biography of BoJack’s life is his ghost-writer, Diane Nguyen (Community’s Alison Brie). She adds a shade of smart, misanthropic wit to the mix, more than a little reminiscent of MTV’s Daria. Providing BoJack with a voice of reason, she also has her own issues to contend with, most notably being married to BoJack’s polar opposite – an insistently upbeat dog, Mr. Peanutbutter. (Paul F. Tompkins)

The animation style follows the 2D computer-generated trend of other animated American sitcoms. However, rough textures on characters, together with the impressive attention to background detail – with every action having lasting consequence if you pay enough attention – are almost a pastiche in themselves, poking fun at the throw away conventions we’ve come to expect from this genre.

While BoJack is often just used as a mouthpiece for the writers to deliver irreverent jokes, as the series progresses to its second season we see him as more than a wisecracking horse. We feel for BoJack – alienated from a world of morons and struggling through self-hatred and relationship problems, there is real drama beneath this silly cartoon.

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