TV Review: Netflix’s ‘BoJack Horseman’

Voices: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins

Joining the premium-TV ranks requires a certain commitment to doing what others aren’t. Hence, Netflix gets virtually no points for “BoJack Horseman,” a raunchy animated series that not-so-boldly goes where seemingly everyone — Fox, Comedy Central, Adult Swim — has gone before. Will Arnett and Aaron Paul lend their voices to the enterprise (as well as helping pad the roster of exec producers), but it’s such a stale premise that even when the series musters the occasional smirk, it feels deserving of a trip to the glue factory. Does “BoJack’s” Hollywood satire merit saddling up to watch? To quote the protagonist, “Neigh.”

Part of the series’ problem right out the starting gate is that Arnett’s boorish, self-absorbed former sitcom star feels like little more than an equine version of a character he’s played a dozen times, most effectively in “Arrested Development.” BoJack headlined a “Full House”-like show in the ’90s called “Horsin’ Around,” but the phone has stopped ringing, and his agent and occasional paramour (a cat voiced by Amy Sedaris, who features “Cats” on her hold music) can’t find him any work.

“You couldn’t even get me in the room for ‘War Horse,’ ” BoJack grouses.

In essence, think of BoJack as “Entourage’s” Johnny Drama, only with a horse’s head, with Paul voicing the shiftless squatter living in his home, where BoJack sits around watching his old reruns and fretting about a book advance he’s already spent for an autobiography he can’t get himself to write.

An ongoing plot thread involves an attempt to get the book project moving, with the agent enlisting a ghost writer (“Community’s” Alison Brie) to work with him. Yet while BoJack kind of likes her, she’s already dating another sitcom has-been, a relentlessly cheerful dog named Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), who has found a second act by starring in a celebreality show.

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and produced by Michael Eisner’s company, the series does amass a rather impressive assortment of celebrity voice cameos, among them MSNBC alum Keith Olbermann as a whale of an MSNBSea anchor (no, really).

Frankly, though, anthropomorphic animals (really just heads on human bodies) tend to yield diminishing returns comedy-wise, even if the head of Penguin Books is — what else? — a penguin. And while the episodes improve slightly as the show progresses, it’s hard to get past the first few, including a premiere that violates the unwritten vomiting-scene rule of depicting more than one per episode.

Perhaps foremost, shows that exhibit the “courage” to skewer Hollywood — poking fun at luminaries like Eric McCormack and David Boreanaz along the way — at this point feel more tired than edgy.

“Really? Not even a pity laugh?” BoJack asks when a joke falls flat.

It’s just one more reminder why this horse’s head is an offer you can refuse.

TV Review: Netflix's 'BoJack Horseman'

(Series; Netflix, Aug. 22)

Production: Produced by the Tornante Co. and Shadow Machine.

Crew: Executive producers, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Noel Bright, Steven A. Cohen, Blair Fetter, Jane Wiseman, Will Arnett, Aaron Paul; co-executive producer, Peter A. Knight; supervising producers, Joe Lawson, Laura Gutin Peterson; producers, Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico; supervising director, Mike Hollingsworth; director, Joel Moser; writer, Bob-Waksberg; production designer, Lisa Hanawalt; music, Jesse Novak; casting, Linda Lamontagne. 30 MIN.

Cast: Voices: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins

More TV

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

  • MIA-MARKET-2019_Europe-Producers-Club_4

    European Producers and Broadcasters Debate How to Weather Streaming Storm

    ROME – The impending rollout of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other new streaming services promises a new era of uncertainty—and opportunity—for broadcasters and producers in an industry already disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. At a panel hosted by the European Producers Club Friday afternoon during the MIA market in Rome, executives [...]

  • Kevin-Beggs

    Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs on Streamers and TV’s ‘Platinum Era’

    ROME – Over the course of two decades in the industry, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs has witnessed the ups and downs of a business that has frequently found itself confronting both dizzying new possibilities as well as existential threats. But these days the veteran exec, who oversees the development of all scripted and non-scripted content [...]

  • MAKING IT -- Season: 1 --

    TV News Roundup: NBC Announces 'Making It' Season 2 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, NBC announced the “Making It” Season 2 premiere date and HBO Max greenlit a new docuseries from Brad Goreski and Gary Janetti. DATES Hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman will return with the second season of “Making It” on NBC Dec. 2. After the show’s holiday season premiere, the show [...]

  • Luis Fonsi Erika Ender Latin Grammys

    The Second Latin Explosion: How 'Despacito' Ushered in a New Generation of Stars

    Music is an ever-evolving art, and for the Latin Recording Academy, that’s meant riding multiple waves of attention. The most recent arrived with the stratospheric success of “Despacito,” which kicked off a second Latin Explosion with full force in 2017. The Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee hit, later featuring verses by Justin Bieber, made Latin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content