‘BoJack Horseman’: Netflix original comedy reining in the fun

bojack-horseman

He looks like a horse, but acts more like an ass (who can also be a pig and a snake). He’s BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett), the surprisingly sympathetic star of the Netflix original adult cartoon about a wash-up ’90s sitcom actor.

BoJack’s claim-to-fame was as the parental figure of “Horsin’ Around,” a ’90s family sitcom about an anthropomorphic young stallion who adopts three adorable human orphans. The show’s about “good likable people who love each other, where, no matter what happens, at the end of 30 minutes, everything’s going to turn out OK,” BoJack drunkenly tells Charlie Rose in a TV interview.

In contrast, “BoJack Horseman’s” the antithesis of the traditional family sitcom. His life since the show’s cancellation takes place in his bachelor pad in his secluded Los Angeles mansion (you can see the Hollywood sign from his window). His three kids are replaced with Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), his lazy freeloading roommate; and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), his cheerful frenemy who starred in a spin-off sitcom with a similar premise.

While being a celebrity certainly has its own benefits, we don’t know if everything’s going to turn out OK at the end of these 30-minute episodes. His “Horsin’ Around” co-star Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) just checked into rehab. The show’s creator, Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci), is dying of cancer. And when first we meet BoJack, he’s no longer a stud.

BoJack’s approaching 40 and suffering through an existential crisis. This means watching reruns of himself on TV, getting drunk on his couch, sleeping with his agent/on-again-off-again girlfriend Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), eating a lot of carbs and trying to write a tell-all memoir to make people like him again.

“This book is my one shot in preserving my legacy,” says BoJack. “I’m a joke and if this book isn’t good, I’m going to be a joke forever. Everyone thinks I’m just this washed up hack, but actually… Oh God, what if they’re right?”

Banking on a success, Penguin (comedian Patton Oswalt) helps BoJack enlist successful ghostwriter Diane Nyugen (Allison Brie) to follow him around for the next 9 episodes. Like Diane, we’re there to witness BoJack steal muffins from a Navy SEAL (who’s literally a seal) on leave from Afghanistan; and we watch BoJack sabotage Todd’s attempts at a rock opera.

Sure, the hay’s a little stale. Like “30 Rock,” “BoJack Horseman” pokes fun at the industry. The Golden Globes are a “totally necessary awards show.” And character designer Cody Walzel creates anthropomorphic caricatures of Hollywood counterparts. Director Quentin Tarantino is a tarantula; Cameron Crow, known for his rock movies (“Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire”), is a raven who looks like a crow.

While “BoJack Horseman” is witty at times, the animated show spends a lot of time beating a dead horse. There’s some pretty bleak conclusions.

BoJack Horseman Meme“The universe is a cruel uncaring void,” Mr. Peanutbutter tells his girlfriend, Diane. “The key to being happy isn’t the search for meaning. It’s just to keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you’ll be dead.”

While binge-watching distractions like “BoJack Horseman” won’t ultimately make you happy, writer and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s writing achieves what BoJack wants from story: to connect with people.

And as Netflix renews the show for a second season, it looks like it did.

“BoJack Horseman” was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg. 

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World’s Greatest Actor

There’s a scene in Albert Camus’ “The Plague” where an actor is performing the story of “Orpheus” in the quarantined, plague-infested town of Oran. During the third act, the actor kneels over and dies. That’s when the audience realizes that the actor’s trembling wasn’t just talent. He was really, genuinely sick.

That’s what it’s like to re-watch Robin Williams in Bobcat Goldthwait’s 2009 dark comedy “World’s Greatest Dad.” You can help but wonder if you’re seeing incredible acting or the hidden signs of depression.

Williams stars as melancholy, mousy and subdued poetry teacher Lance Clayton (perhaps an older and sadder reprise of his role as the lively John Keating from Peter Weir’s 1989 cult hit, “Dead Poet Society”). After his teenage son, Kyle (played by “Spy Kids'” Daryl Sabara), dies from a rather unfortunate masturbating accident, Lance covers it up, staging the death to look like a suicide.

Like “Heathers,” the death has unintended effects. Kyle (and Lance’s) fame skyrockets when “Kyle’s suicide note” is published in the school’s paper. Lance also ghostwrites Kyle’s book, “You Don’t Know Me,” and it becomes the greatest posthumous teen novel since “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

While Williams is known for his brilliant quickfire wit and incredible charisma, he also possesses the ability to appear almost invisible and unassuming (like Bryan Cranston in the beginning of “Breaking Bad” and Kevin Spacey in “The Usual Suspect’s”). Sure, his smile is friendly enough, but Williams’ character looks like a sad sack of potatoes and his smile never quite reaches his eyes.

They always say that hindsight is 20/20. “World’s Greatest Dad” would be a lot funnier if Williams death wasn’t (literally) hanging over us. Williams suicide seems like some sick sort of joke. Unlike many of Williams’ other jokes, this one has us crying from sadness.

“World’s Greatest Dad” was written by and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.