BoJack Horseman is a new animated comedy series from Netflix and stars Will Arnett as the titular character, Community’s Alison Brie as Diane, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Todd, Amy Sedaris as Princess Carolyn and alternative comedian Paul F. Tompkins as Mr. Peanutbutter. The show has a very familiar premise; washed up TV star tries to get his career back on track and has some whacky and silly adventures along the way.
The biggest problem this show has (and there are quite a few) is that we’ve seen this premise done so many times that we needed to see something fresh from the show and it simply doesn’t deliver. It’s based in a world where anthropomorphic animals are the norm but really this doesn’t add anything but bad puns to the show and ends up being more frustrating and annoying than funny. Everything about the show, in fact, feels like it’s been done before. Even the main character, BoJack, is basically just Gob from Arrested Development with a horse head on. Arnett delivers lines exactly as Gob would, and rather than this familiarity equating to a nice sense of nostalgia for great comedic TV, it just makes me wish I were watching something better. Even the more original jokes at the beginning of episodes just keep playing out over and over again, sometimes six or seven times in a 25 minute episode. That, obviously, gets pretty boring pretty quickly.
On the more technical side, the animation is solid but feels like it’s a recycled mixture of Ugly Americans and Bob’s Burger, both of which are better shows. Everything looks quite good and the colour palette is fine, but all of this is a symptom of the mediocrity that litters the show. Again, voice acting is okay but not fantastic, although the frankly incredible cast do try their best to make some pretty poorly written material funny. All of these problems do start to improve towards the end of the 6 episodes that I saw, but not enough to get me interested in watching the full series.
One thing I must mention, and it was the most up and down part of the show, is the satire. The entire thing is clearly designed to be a satire of celebrity culture and on occasion you do get that. There are moments, particularly in the tail end of what I saw, where this satire is very effective but there are even more moments where the satire becomes weird and uncomfortable. At times it feels like they’re trying to create a satire for the sake of a satire and it just doesn’t work, you can tell they’re not sincere about what they’re writing.
I think that my big problem writing this review, and why it took me almost a week, was how “meh” it all is. The show isn’t bad, I know I’ve been hard on it but it’s genuinely not a terrible show. It’s just so utterly mediocre. I didn’t have anything to say because there really is nothing to say. It’s so inoffensive and just there, in the ether of television and I have a feeling that’s where it will stay. Bad TV makes me angry, good TV makes me feel happy or sad or any number of different emotions, this kind of TV just made me feel nothing. Maybe I’m missing something and I just don’t connect with any of the characters, but to me the entire show just feels like they’re beating a dead horse (excuse the pun but it was irresistable).
I’ll try to leave off on a more positive note. The last 2 episodes had some genuinely entertaining moments. And this cast wouldn’t have all picked the show unless they saw something in the scripts to convince them it has some potential, and there is! There are some funny jokes; maybe the writers are just finding their feet and maybe I’ll be proven wrong when the full series is released. I sure hope so.
BoJack Horseman will be released Netflix on Friday, 22nd of August.