Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Liam at https://othemts.wordpress.com/
BoJack Horseman (2014-2020) – Netflix
BoJack Horseman is a comedy series that satirizes the vapidity of Hollywood (or “Hollywoo” as it is known in one of the show’s running gags) and the Southern California lifestyle. But it also is a deeply human show that realistically deals with depression, substance abuse, generational trauma, and other human vulnerabilities. Oh, and it’s also an animated series about a talking horse.
Raphael Bob-Waksberg created the show and served as showrunner (as well as a writer and voice actor) while illustrator/cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt was the show’s production designer. BoJack Horseman ran for 6 seasons with 77 episodes on Netflix and was later syndicated on Comedy Central and MTV2. Every episode opens with a fantastic title sequence set to a groovy jazz funk tune.
Let’s meet the main characters!
BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) – an anthropomorphic horse, BoJack became famous and wealthy starring in a 1990s sitcom about a horse who raises three human orphan children called Horsin’ Around. As the series begins, BoJack is living on his past success while trying to revive his career. He suffers from depression and alcoholism and his deep bitterness has made him cantankerous. I’ll be perfectly clear here that BoJack does some despicable things and it’s a testament to the show that he still manages to be a sympathetic character.
Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) – a human writer of Vietnamese origin but raised by an adoptive Irish American family in Boston. As the show begins, Diane is hired to be a ghostwriter for BoJack’s memoir. Despite her introversion and repulsion at BoJack’s womanizing, they become close friends. They share a bond of suffering from depression and a neglectful upbringing. A running gag in the show is that Diane’s ringtone is the voice of various public radio personalities.
Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) – an optimistic and outgoing Labrador retriever who starred in a 90s sitcom that was a knockoff of Horsin’ Around. He believes this makes him BoJack’s peer and never understands why BoJack resents him. Mr. Peanutbutter is introduced as Diane’s fiancé and they eventually marry. His character began as kind of one-note joke of the type of person who would irritate BoJack but evolved over the course of the show into a more complex character.
Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) – a human young man who has been living as houseguest on BoJack’s couch for several years before the show begins. BoJack verbally berates Todd but secretly considers him a close friend. Todd has a quirky personality and frequently comes up with various wacky ideas (often working with Mr. Peanutbutter), and a penchant for “failing up” when these ideas succeed. He’s also something of the conscience of the show having a way of confronting BoJack in the most disarming way. In season 3 he comes out as asexual and over the rest of the series learns what asexuality means for him.
Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) – a Persian cat who is BoJack’s agent and a former girlfriend. Princess Carolyn represents the struggle for women to “have it all” working hard to eventually start her own agency and adopt a child. Sedaris’ voice work is particularly notable on the show especially when she’s frequently given tongue twisters in her dialogue.
Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) – a human actress who portrayed the youngest child on Horsin’ Around. Sarah Lynn falls into the former child actor trope of seeking pop music stardom and engaging self-destructive behavior. It’s revealed that she looked to BoJack as a father figure and was traumatized by his antisocial behavior. When they reunite when Sarah Lynn is an adult it unfortunately leads to a codependent relationship and a downward spiral to the worst thing that BoJack does in the entire show.
Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci) – a human who served as the initial producer for Horsin’ Around and a friend of BoJack’s. When Herb’s homosexuality becomes public, BoJack does not support him when the network removes Herb from his job. At the beginning of the series, Herb is dying of cancer and is reunited with BoJack and they have to deal with their troubled past.
Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) – a teenage horse who believes she is BoJack’s illegitimate child and comes to Hollywoo to have BoJack help find her mother. BoJack grows attached to Hollyhock as one of his few living relatives but as often happens in this show, there’s trouble in their relationship.
Beatrice Horseman (Wendie Malick) – a horse who is BoJack’s verbally abusive mother. A lot of the trauma that BoJack deals with is traced to the cruel parenting from Beatrice and his father Butterscotch (also voiced by Will Arnett). The show depicts BoJack and Beatrice’s hostile relationship in her final years with several flashbacks to BoJack’s childhood and even to Beatrice’s life before BoJack was born.
Character Actress Margo Martindale (Margo Martindale) – a real life human actor voices a criminally insane version of herself who gets involved in absurd schemes with the main characters.
Okay, I have a feeling that the description of the characters makes the show sound kind of like a bummer. But it is also wildly funny with clever dialogue and endless sight gags. And the characters who are animals frequently exhibit their animal characteristics in creative ways. The show also pushes the boundaries with what an animated show can do. Some of the standout episodes include:
- “Hank After Dark” (Series 2, episode 7) – a thinly-veiled take on Bill Cosby that involves the way that media and the entertainment industry collude to protect sexual predators.
- “Fish Out of Water” (series 3, episode 4) – a brilliant experimental episode where BoJack attends a film festival under the ocean that is done almost entirely in pantomime with fantastic visuals.
- “The Old Sugarman Place” (Series 4, episode 2) – BoJack visits his mother’s dilapidated family vacation home and flashbacks of Beatrice’s childhood trauma are shown.
- “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” (Series 4, episode 6) – We hear BoJack’s inner monologue as he goes about his daily activities offering insight into his depression and self-destructive behavior. This episode hit me hard.
- “Free Churro” (Series 5, episode 6) – the entire episode is BoJack delivering a rambling eulogy at his mother’s funeral, and it’s powerful.
- “A Quick One, While He’s Away” (Series 6, episode 8) – none of the main characters appear in this episode where an investigative reporter unearths BoJack’s hidden secrets by talking to various ancillary characters.
- “The View From Halfway Down” (Series 6, episode 15) – BoJack has a near-death experience which results in a surreal, nightmare vision of meeting with several deceased family members and friends.
One more thing I have to point out is that an incredible amount of talented people who lent their voices to this show. A selection of celebrities who provided voices to one-time or recurring characters:
Patton Oswalt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Broderick, Jane Krakowski, Olivia Wilde, Ilana Glazer, J.K. Simmons, Aisha Tyler, Maria Bamford, Adam Conover, Keith Olbermann, Wyatt Cenac, Kristin Chenoweth, Cedric Yarbrough, Ken Jeong, Keegan-Michael Key, Jason Beghe, Brandon T. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Abbi Jacobson, Ben Schwartz, Philip Baker Hall, Lake Bell, Andre Braugher, Angela Bassett, Stephanie Beatriz, LaKeith Stanfield, Hilary Swank, Stephen Colbert, Anjelica Huston, Chris Parnell, Fred Savage, Amy Schumer, Tatiana Maslany, Garry Marshall, Ali Wong, Liev Schreiber, Ricky Gervais, Jeffrey Wright, Mara Wilson, Lorraine Bracco, Candice Bergen, “Weird Al” Yankovic, RuPaul, Kristen Bell, Whoopi Goldberg, Randall Park, John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria, David Sedaris, Daveed Diggs, Issa Rae, Wanda Sykes, Audra McDonald, Gabe Kaplan, Richard Lewis, Stephen Root, Samantha Bee, and Alan Arkin.
Some celebrities who provided voices to animated versions of themselves:
Naomi Watts, Wallace Shawn, Henry Winkler, Paul McCartney, Scott Wolf, Daniel Radcliffe, Lance Bass, Jessica Biel, Leonard Maltin, Zach Braff, Felicity Huffman, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and Laura Linney.
If you’re interested in reading more about BoJack Horseman, I wrote a review of each season at the time they were released.