I have a confession: the past 6 hours were spent in bed, crushing the entire second season of the netflix original Bojack Horseman.
I’m not much of a TV junkie, but I do have a handful of shows which manage to coax a “season-crushing marathon” out of me. Actually, there are only a handful of shows that catch my attention long enough to get me to keep watching these days.
I used to watch TV all the time. I devoured episode after episode, found new shows, watched everything it had to offer, then moved onto the next. And this was only a couple years ago; I watched Archer, Bob’s Burgers, Breaking Bad, Big Bang Theory, Merlin, Doctor Who, Sherlock… all shows I got into late and had multiple seasons to watch to catch up.
Hell, Breaking Bad I never watched until the entire show had wrapped up, and I marathonned the entire thing from beginning to end in a single week, skipping school in the process. That week was simultaneously one of my proudest achievements and biggest regrets. I love that I did that, that I can say that, but I felt like utter shit by the end of the week.
Then I started to get disillusioned from TV shows. I finished Breaking Bad. I stopped watching Bob’s Burgers and Doctor Who, I hate the Big Bang Theory now, Archer got boring, and Merlin had too many filler episodes but I managed to finish it. It’s not that I hate TV shows, but my patience and taste for them has become more refined. As in only a current handful can hold my attention these days.
Orange is the New Black, Twin Peaks (I’m late to that party, but I love Lynch and am currently watching those at a rate of about two episodes per week), and Bojack Horseman. I haven’t really gotten invested in anything else for the last year and a bit more.
Anyways, enough of that unnecessarily protracted backstory Brief Aside, onto the meat of this post.
Bojack Horseman debuted last summer and quickly took the mantle of My Favourite TV Show (Netflix Original, but it’s episodic so it’s a TV Show to me), and there is an abundance of reasons for that.
If I were to give one of those one-line reviews you see flashing on trailers for new movies and shows, it would read “Gut-wrenching hilarity with startling moments of depth and sophisticated dark humour.” or something along those lines.
Bojack Horseman (Hereon referred to as BJ for BoJack and for fun) is a very well-written, solid show which does a lot of things right. For one, it has no “filler episodes.” If a show has “filler episodes” it probably means that show has terrible writing and the plot isn’t as concise as it should be. Every scene shown fulfills a purpose of advancing the plot, or else being entertaining, and those that have no relation to the plot are generally 2-3 second clips of the show playing with it’s world. Otherwise the entire thing is very driven, the characters rich and real, emotionally charged, and perfectly balances the adult themes of depression and commitment and whatnot with silly jokes.
The world it takes place in is a parody of our own where animals are anthropomorphic and live right alongside humans as, well, basically humans with fur and animal heads. People acknowledge each other for what they are – BJ is a horse, and people call him a horse – and the animals adopt a lot of characteristics of the animals they’re based off of, but they live as people with people and even date/breed with humans. The fact that animals are people is just an accepted fact in the show, and allows for a lot of small jokes. There will be a short clip of a bird woman leaning over her stroller, puking into the mouth of her bird baby here, or a short clip of pidgeon people flapping their arms and flying there. But the animal-people jokes aren’t just contained in short 3 second clips. Characteristics of the animal side permeate into the character. For example, BJ, at one point in season 1, explains that because he is a horse, he has to drink way more than any human male could drink just to get tipsy. And consistently throughout the show you see him drinking far more than a human could handle.
As the show goes on they play with that world they’ve built more and more, and in the second season an entire episode deals with the difference between “people animals” and “food animals,” but I won’t go into that.
The main theme of BJ is, in my opinion, happiness, and how to attain it. BJ struggles to be happy. Other characters – Diane, Princess Karoline – have similar struggles. Other people who have their dream job are happy. At th end of the first season, BJ just landed a movie role to play his role model growing up, Secretariat, a race horse, and yet he’s still not happy. But why not?
The show touches on many reasons, from his upbringing to choices he made in the past, but probably more importantly choices he still makes in the present that just exacerbate his situation and drive him deeper into his hole of wallowing in self-loathing.
The first episode of season 2 is particularly troubling. BJs mother tells him near the end, “You were born broken; it is your birthright,” and being broken becomes a theme that resurfaces throughout. He was born broken, so how can he become whole? And that’s the important struggle in the season, to become whole, to find that happiness despite what’s already in his past, despite what’s still in his present. It’s a very relatable struggle, I think, and if not than written well enough that the average watcher can pity BJ and root for him. And even if the more serious under-and-overtones of the show don’t attract certain watchers, the comedy of BJ still could. There’s a wide breadth of characters, all very defined in their personalities and actions, all fleshed out with their own struggles and they all bring a topic, be it serious or silly, something to talk about, to bring to the table.
I’m going to stop now because after six hours of watching a TV and another hour of staring at my laptop screen my eyes are getting pretty strained. It’s a great day to flee from my shackles of technology to the outdoors, maybe read a little, maybe ruminate further on BJ. Who knows, but I gotta get out of here.
Thanks again for reading, expect a book review from me in about two weeks tops 🙂