In the first few episodes, I wondered if BoJack Horseman was going to grow into something truly interesting, or if it was just another adult cartoon with prerequisite foul language, sexualisation, and sitcom humour. Here were my initial thoughts on the show:
So far it's made me chuckle a few times but not exactly the most intelligent show. Time will tell if it's a slow burner or just a boredom watch.
Well, considering I've blown through more than a single season this month, I think it's fair to say initial impressions did it a massive disservice. In fact, I'd go so far to say I was flat-out wrong.
Whilst the story felt like an overly-meta analysis of celebrity culture, with a lead protagonist who was funny because of his failings, BoJack Horseman somehow keeps managing to actually grow and develop. I mean, the plot of season one is ostensibly classic "horse meets girl, horse falls for girl, girl doesn't realise" love-triangle fare. It's a fun formula, provides plenty of scope for loosely relevant adventures and, combined with the Hollywoo(d) setting, is perfect for cultural jokes, pop analysis, and celebrity cameos. That's a setup which could have easily run for two seasons, three with a bit of fluff and some likeable characters. Yet BH just piles straight through and out the other side. I had to keep checking I hadn't accidentally just skipped on to season two because the story kept on progressing, the character's kept on developing, and the plot slowly pivoted from sitcom normalcy to a much deeper character analysis. Are there still pop-culture jokes, stupid background gags, and celebrity cameos? Of course, but they are the icing on the cake, not the fruit-filled centre. Which is to say, BoJack Horseman has a surprising amount of heart and a solid handle on the characters it has created. Hell, within a single season I actually gave a damn about Todd on more than just a comedy level; HIMYM took two seasons to flesh Barney into something more than a walking one-liner machine.
Which isn't to say that BH is revolutionary or worthy of high praise. At the end of the day, this is still a show about pop-culture references and body humour, but the episodes are cleverly written, it's surprisingly lacking in formula and the characters are well built. It helps that they've – without any reason – set up a world where animals and people just coexist as humanoid entities and they aren't afraid to embrace that absurdity. Sure, there are plenty of stupid gags, like making Matthew Fox a wolf, but they also poke fun at the world through the animals. It's not often that a show puts as much effort into the gags going on in the backdrop, most of which I'm certain I missed. BoJack can be midway through an important explanation and I'll notice one of the goats at the party has drunkenly started eating the topiary; the show is riddled with little one-shots and clever concepts that leave me giggling frequently.
It also doesn't rely too heavily on cringe humour or unbelievably bad luck to keep BoJack in a state of near-depression. Sure, he has moments of poor timing and he frequently digs himself into a hole just to ensure plot progression is possible, but the screenwriters make it feel natural enough that I haven't minded (yet). As mentioned, they also seem happy to let the plot progress logically. Whilst they had me rooting for BoJack and Diane, I like that they also developed Mr Peanutbutter into a likeable character and made their ultimate marriage feel right. There was no big "I love you Diane" scene, just a darker mistake that had some consequences but ultimately got moved through. I'm certain they'll loop back around to this plot point again but, for know, I'm enjoying getting to the "Ted and Robin are friends" phase within the first season. A damned fine start and I look forward to more!