BoJack Horseman: The Dark Animated Comedy that Reminds Us We’re Human

“I don’t know why it is so hard for you to believe that I could be happy”

During the past couple of years, there have been a few sitcoms that have begun to introduce storylines revolving around mental health issues and the effect they have on their characters. Rick and Morty surprised us with a near suicide during its second season, brutally showing us that, yes, Rick is still human. You’re the Worst introduced Gretchen’s battle with depression subtly throughout the season until it could not be bottled in anymore and became the focus of the back half of season 2. Hell, even Adventure Time has Finn looking for intimacy and facing the fact he is scared about growing up. These are but a few examples of depression being handled delicately and smartly in programs that, on the surface at least, do not seem like the right place to introduce this discussion. But, surrounding the conversation of the impact of depression with humour allows the topic to be dealt with on a more human level. People like to make others laugh, to try and cheer them up and make the world a better place, and amongst the jokes and zany adventures of life in a sitcom world, dealing with depression contrasts everything else so you can clearly understand and reflect on its impact.

BoJack Horseman reaches new heights in its third season exploring its titular characters mental health in a world full of outrageous occurrences. While the show’s first season was funny, its second season pushed the show into a whole new echelon, by exploring BoJack’s depression in a deft and caring way. The show has the ability to shift its tone from being gut-busting hilarious to gut-wrenching poignancy and tell each story in genius ways. Season three is centred on BoJacks’s Oscar campaign as his starring role in the movie Secretariat gains critical and commercial momentum. His mental state is in tatters after his huge mistakes last year (which I won’t spoil here) and so he has pinned all his hopes that winning an Academy Award will provide legitimacy to his life, and fill the void that is eating him away from the inside. Will Arnett has grown into the character of BoJack and he is sublime during season three, his voice-over work filled with the emotional subtleties of a man dealing with more than he can handle. Self-hatred mixed with self-pity is infused within the performance and grounds the emotional arc in a universe free of any sort of logic.

The rest of the cast is superb as well, leading their own adventures injecting with real drama and poignancy as they are surrounded by animal puns and absurd situations. Princess Carolyn is attempting to keep her head above the growing tide of work as she tries to lead her own firm, Diane is trying to keep her marriage afloat while also fumbling through her job as the social media manager for famous people, and both Amy Sedaris and Alison Brie respectively deliver great performances. On the more wacky side of the show are Aaron Paul as Todd and the always amazing Paul F. Tompkins as Mr. Peanutbutter. Todd’s storylines are more off to the side this season (except for a crucial speech later on in the season) as he tries to leave BoJack’s shadow and create something for himself. Mr. Peanutbutter is looking for work after the cancellation of Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out!, and his ever cheerful attitude towards life is mixed with his desire to save his and Diane’s marriage.

While I have taken great pains to highlight the serious side of the show, BoJack Horseman is still so goddamn hilarious. I watch a lot of television and it takes a lot to make me actually laugh out loud, and this show delivers in spades. Whether it’s the smart background details, the constant animal puns, the niche pop culture references or the witty dialogue, this show balances its heavy emotional moments with insanely funny ones.

If you have not watched the show before and want to see how fantastic it can be, BoJack Horseman reaches new heights in this season’s fourth episode “Fish Out of Water”, poignancy and beautiful visuals are mixed together in an episode nearly void of any dialogue. Another high mark (although this one filled with spoilers for new viewers) is the penultimate episode “That’s Too Much, Man”.

BoJack Horseman is a shining example of this new “golden age of TV”, leading the way for great comedies dealing with real world problems without making them a joke. If you have not seen the show before, I highly recommend going back and watching it grow from its first season to now. The journey is spectacular, and season three is the must-watch culmination of that evolution.

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