I’m going to do something utterly unprecedented and write an entire post here about a television show. It’s going to be about BoJack Horseman, and I will absolutely, most definitely, make details of the plot explicit, so if you haven’t seen season four, care about the show and plan to watch it shortly, go away and watch that or something instead, because this may damage your enjoyment a little. Maybe not. I dunno.
A few days ago a journalist whose opinions I – ordinarily – completely agree with posted on Facebook (not Twitter so I can’t imbed, or I could but I don’t know how to) his disapproval of the Netflix show BoJack Horseman. He said he found it unfunny and pointless and many people responded both in agreement and in opposition. My own response was “It makes me cry deep, wet, tears, and for that I love it” (no likes), and thinking about BoJack Horseman, knowing there had been a fourth season released recently, I went away and caught up, watched all twelve 26-minute episodes over a few days and I wept and I wept and I wept.
I hadn’t accessed Netflix on either my computer or my massive phone for several months, terrified because I knew that as soon as I did I’d be greeted with the smaltzy, cutesy set of profiles on offer I had set up for me, my ex-partner and the cat who I lost to her in the break-up. I knew I would find this very sad, so I had held off watching new BoJack and new Narcos, instead listening to mediocre podcasts in moments when I required some kind of stimulation. It did make me sad when I saw the names of my lost family members, but I steeled myself with a cuddle with my dog (who didn’t even have a Netflix profile, lol) and deleted those names I didn’t want to have to read from within my unhappiness. I had meant to do this for a while, but hadn’t been able to. I had done it, and I was able to reward myself with BoJack Horseman, something which – to be honest – is so good, I’m not certain I deserve it.
BoJack Horseman is a beautiful, deeply moving piece of television. It is about sadness and loneliness and isolation, and contains richly wrought, complex characters who interact in a world that is, yes, not ours, but whose social codes are the same. Relationships in the world of the show are the same as those in our world, and by that I mean romantic relationships, as well as relationships with money, with intoxicants, with family, with sexuality, with fame, with greed, with ambition, with friendship, with food and with the digital world.
BoJack Horseman explores addiction and depression in great detail, and the denouement of its first season focuses on the attempts of BoJack to gain the forgiveness of a former friend for wrongs committed decades ago, while the friend is dying of cancer. The dying man is unwilling to give BoJack the closure that he – as the person who committed the wrong – desires, and then he dies with the bad blood between them never cleared. There are later deaths of characters from overdoses, there are reappearances of illegitimate children and there is unhappiness and there are miscarriages and there are marital problems and there is dementia and there is the first televisual exploration of asexuality that I have ever seen.
BoJack Horseman is not a funny show, it is not meant to be funny and – though it has jokes in, some of which are hilarious – its aim is far deeper, far more important, than the pursuit of laughter.
BoJack Horseman offers deeply nuanced portraits of richly alive fictional characters, and explores flawed people dealing with truly serious issues, and it dramatises these with compassion and humanity. It doesn’t matter that half of the characters are half-animal-half-human, because they are all written with warmth and a knowledge of individuality. Maybe it does make too many in-jokes about the entertainment industry and maybe it is too much focused on the affluent, but its depiction of psychological and physical problems occurring to these affluent entertainment types is far more moving, more intelligent and more mature than any other show I can think of about their world.
BoJack Horseman may have the format of an animated sitcom, but it is wiser, more emotionally astute and more human than many non-animated dramas. As a work of art, it is sublime. It is witty and charming, but mostly it is just deeply, emotionally, sad.
Highly, highly recommended. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest works of literary art currently being produced. Watch it.