TV: BoJack Horseman (Seasons 1 & 2)

bojack_usenglishLife events prevented me from writing up a timely review of this, but allow me to belatedly recommend the brilliant Netflix comedy BoJack Horseman. This dark but surprisingly uplifting animated satire stars the voicework of Will Arnett as BoJack Horseman, an actor (plus, you know, a horse) who made his fortune in the 1990s on a long-lived cheeseball sitcom called Horsin’ Around. Since then, BoJack’s career has nosedived, even if his financial fortunes haven’t: he lives an aimless life in the Hollywood Hills, with only slacker Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) around to keep him company. But as the series begins, an opportunity opens up when BoJack’s agent (and, you know, cat) Princess Caroline (Amy Sedaris) hooks him up with ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), who plans to put BoJack back in the spotlight with an exposé memoir. The book may begin the path to BoJack’s career resurrection—and perhaps, also, his personal redemption.

Characterized by whip-smart dialogue, terrific visual gags, intelligent sociopolitical commentary, and surprising depth, BoJack Horseman transcends its sitcommy setup and edgy antihero surface to deliver addictive and emotionally engaging entertainment. Its ingredient list might include a pinch of The Simpsons, a dash of The Comeback, and a splash of Mad Men, but most interestingly, a smidge of the “animal noir” comic book Blacksad. The show’s manic worldbuilding mixes human and animal cartoon characters, giving the relatable, almost conventional trappings of its premise a surreal comic edge. The voice acting is terrific, with Arnett in perfect form at the center, and a great cast of supporting characters—including, among others, standouts Paul F. Tompkins (as the hilarious Mr. Peanutbutter) and Lisa Kudrow—lending colorful energy to his zany career problems and efforts to become a better horse.

At first glance, this might look like disposable animated fare, but its humor is infused with enough insight, wit, and heart to make it something more than expected. Memorable, bingeworthy stuff.

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