There’s something about animation that gives TV shows (and some movies) a freedom of tone which is not accessible to live action movies and TV. Something about animated characters lets us humans be more accepting of tonal shifts and sight gags. At least I think so. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered another show more deft at handling both comedy and pathos in the same scene – let alone the same episode – as BoJack Horseman, and I’m certain I’ve never seen another live action show pull this off so successfully for so long. (It’s possible I’ve seen a movie at some point, but nothing is coming to me right now.)
There are so many things I admire about this show, a show I consider one of the top couple TV shows of the 2010s. I want to focus on one or, really, two aspects: it’s ability to be ridiculously dumb and to be heartbreaking or moving, often nearly at the same time.
There are so many good gags in this show. Thinking back over the six seasons, I have a few favourites – more than a few actually – but none more than Vincent Adultman. For me, the Adultman character embodies everything I love about the show – the character is both inherently ridiculous and weirdly sincere, and is part of a story arc which highlights the nuanced personal issues of one of the show’s main characters, with a depth and understanding rarely found in live-action TV or animation.
There have been many TV show and many movies about people with problems but I’m not sure there has ever been a show that is this nuanced about adult mental health issues – particularly but not exclusively depression – while remaining this consistently entertaining, not to mention laugh-out-loud funny. There are shows that do a good job of trying to present mental health issues but usually they are not so entertaining. (I think, for example, of In Treatment, a show I wanted to like but got so tired of so quickly.) Most of the main arcs in the show do an excellent job of portraying adults with adult problems, in a way that comes across and nuanced, empathetic and realistic, despite the fact that the show is set in a world full of anthropomorphic animals. And, of course, these arcs are surrounded by and full of slapstick gags, puns, and other lowbrow humour – and some much more highbrow humour – which both makes the show entertaining but also gives it additional levels of depth and, I suspect, the ability to be re-watched (or, at the very, least, paused so you can catch all the jokes).
Oh and I must also also give the show credit for being one of the only Hollywood shows to directly deal with #MeToo. And they do so with their customary mix of empathy, satire and lowbrow humour.
This is one of the best shows of the 2010s. It’s probably one of the best shows of the century so far, frankly, and it’s very close to my favourite (of the 2010s).