TV Review: Netflix’s ‘BoJack Horseman’

Bojack Horseman TV Review

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)


Produced by the Tornante Co. and Shadow Machine.


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.


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

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  1. Haravikk says:

    Couldn’t disagree with the reviewer more; while the first episodes kind of start out slowly, the series really picks up into something really awesome.

    It’s kind of tiring how many reviewers of this show have just leapt onto the “tired premise” mantra without really giving it a chance. The show is designed to be watched as twelve consecutive episodes, so it doesn’t really hit its stride till the story properly gets underway, so giving up two episodes in really only highlights that reviewers can be as shallow as the hollywood this show depicts.

    Me, I loved it, can’t wait for season 2.

  2. James says:

    The reviewer either didn’t watch the show or is a little slow. Bojack is incredible, and nothing like it has been done before. The show is packed with jokes about and references to 90s and early 00s TV and culture which is all well and good. But it’s the contrast between deeply poignant moments punctuated by a stupid animal pun that kept me enraptured. It’s much much more than a Family Guy or American Dad ripoff where random and stupid non sequitur carry the day. Bojack’s style is a refreshing change from that tired garbage.

  3. Jeremy Quid says:

    Took me a while to discover this, but once I did it distinguished itself immediately (although it did take a few episodes to really hit its stride). It would be difficult to compare this to anything … maybe Duckman? The style, from animation to humor to narrative, is very much its own. Finished it in two days. Try it out.

  4. I did struggle with the first few episodes but then got hooked around the 4th or 5th episode. I think that first episodes was them introducing the cast and slowly easing you in to the heavy character drama of the show. The peak was the 11th episode which just hits you real hard, unlike any cartoon series I watched.

  5. SophieBird says:

    It got better as it went along, showing the inane banality of Hollywood strivings: “”the key to happiness isn’t a search for meaning, it’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense and eventually you will be dead.” Alison Brie was great.

  6. Juan says:

    I find it unfunny and hard to watch. Arnett’s affected voice is irritating. The way I see it, If people gave a shit, there would be a lot more comments, good and bad, especially here at variety…

  7. Travis says:

    I disagree with you on almost every single point you made. How is this story stale? What other specific show has story line? Also the difference between those Comedy Central or fox shows you are referring to is that Bojack has a narrative that last more than one episode and tells it through good writing over the course of 12 episodes. And even by the end everything isn’t wrapped up in a tidy bow like other cartoon shows you are referring. Your way off base on this show man! Is it breaking bad? No, is it a funny well written show in a time where most tv is watered down reality shows? Hell yes! And the audience agrees because netflix just renewed it for another season.

    • Bryan says:

      I agree with Travis, this is a much better show then you give it credit for. Really enjoying it so far, even if it could use a few more laughs. I particularly like the serialized nature of the show. I feel like I haven’t seen that in a cartoon before.

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