In the era of peak TV, where there are almost endless good things to watch, one of the best shows out there is about a cartoon horse. Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman”, whose fourth season dropped in September, is distinguished by its ingenious blend of ludicrous comedy and an authentic look at the impacts of living with depression.
For those who haven’t heard of the show or gotten around to watching it yet, here’s a quick synopsis. “BoJack Horseman” is a cartoon comedy/drama that takes place in a fictional L.A. where anthropomorphic animals live amongst humans. BoJack (who is a horse) is a washed up 90’s sitcom star who struggles with . .
The show chronicles BoJack’s struggle to be remembered for more than his 90’s sitcom “Horsin’ Around,” and how he inevitably ends up hurting and alienating the people around him.
Speaking of which, the separate stories of BoJack’s friends and acquaintances (the supporting cast) are also essential to the show’s narrative.
Although each of “BoJack Horseman”’s four seasons have been unique in its own way, the throughline for the entire show has been its ability to balance fairly silly comedic moments with an honest look at the challenges of living with depression.
One of the most ridiculous and ingenious comedic elements of “BoJack Horseman” is the presence of the anthropomorphic characters, like BoJack, his agent Princess Carolyn (a cat), and his fellow TV star, Mr. Peanutbutter (a yellow Labrador Retriever).
Part of what makes these characters so enjoyable is the clash between their human personalities and the more primal instincts of their respective species’.
For instance, Princess Carolyn drinks catnip tea and has a scratching post on her office desk, and Penguin Publishing is exclusively run by penguins.
Another unique and effective element of “BoJack Horseman”’s humor is that many of the recurring jokes are derived from events that are unique to the universe of the show. For example, in season one, BoJack stole the “D” from the Hollywood Sign in an effort to impress his friend (and love interest at the time), Diane; and ever since then, everyone on the show refers to Hollywood as “Hollywoo”.
All of the hilarity aside, “BoJack Horseman” is, at its core, a story about BoJack’s chronic depression and its impact on those around him.
BoJack’s depression manifests in different ways; he constantly drinks, sits around his house watching reruns of “Horsin’ Around” and he is never impressed by his own accomplishments.
It’s become clear, mostly in flashbacks, throughout the seasons that BoJack’s neglectful parents bare most of the blame for his isolation, low self-esteem, and constant need to prove himself to others.
BoJack’s depression doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it has often made him selfish, cynical, and mean spirited. The first three seasons of the show displayed a pattern where BoJack’s issues would hurt those around him, he’d acknowledge his mistakes and make a commitment to change, and then go right back through the same cycle the next season.
“BoJack Horseman” is highly authentic in the way it deals with the topic of depression. The show doesn’t rely heavily on expository dialogue or long-winded speeches about the lessons learned from one’s mistakes.
Instead, BoJack’s depression is revealed in more creative ways, including shots of him slouching around his house, his casual consumption of alcohol in almost every scene, and his general bitterness towards life.
These more subtle hints towards the negative impact of BoJack’s depression, coupled with the occasional cliched self-reflective speech, make for a very fresh and effective handling of this issue.
The fact that “BoJack Horseman” has been able to maintain such a perfect balance between its very playful humor and more serious moments is what makes it such a fulfilling viewing experience. So, if you haven’t already, please go and binge watch “BoJack Horseman”. You won’t be disappointed!