Living on Netflix: Bojack Horseman (First two episodes)

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A brand new series from Netflix about a horse man who used to be a star?  Not only that, but the horse man in question is voiced by Will Arnett?  How can you NOT watch something like that?  After all, Netflix has a damn good track record when it comes to original programming with shows such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.  Will this stab at adult animation be something special, or will it be Netflix’s first major stumble as show creators?  There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep on reading!

The episode begins with a parody of crappy 80’s sitcoms in the form of Horsin’ Around, the show our hero starred in back in 1987 which was about a single guy (or horse guy I guess) who adopted three orphans and are trying to raise them.  We then proceed to the Charlie Rose show where he informs us that it was a commercial hit that ran for eight seasons, but was always critically panned.  The star of the show, our hero Bojack, is a guest on Charlie Rose, and they proceed with a painfully unfunny interview.

“I parked in a handicapped spot.  I’m going to say urethra a bunch of times.  I’m also REALLY drunk.  This is all hilarious, right?”

“I parked in a handicapped spot. I’m going to say urethra a bunch of times. I’m also REALLY drunk. This is all hilarious, right?”

After the interview, we cut to the show’s opening which is a tracking shot of Bojack going through his daily routine.  The opening informs us that this is a world where other animal creatures exist, so this is more Ugly Americans than it is Ted.

A world full of furries?  Okay, that’s an interesting concept.

A world full of furries? Okay, that’s an interesting concept.

We get introduced to his house guest Todd, played by an embarrassingly type casted Arron Paul, who… might have been one of his costars on Horsin’ Around?  I don’t know, there’s a red headed boy on that show who they haven’t named yet, and this show hasn’t told us what the relationship is between Todd and Bojack, so I can only make assumptions.
After that, we cut to Bojack who has a meeting with Pinky Penguin from Penguin publishing who’s a penguin himself.  GET IT!?!?!?  It turns out that Bojack has been procrastinating on his memoirs and Pinky is desperate to get him on track because Penguin Publishing is dire straits and needs a best seller.  Oh I get it; it’s a joke about the current state of the publishing industry.  Ha ha… no.  Also, for some reason Pinky is eating a hamburger with a fork.

“I saw it on Seinfeld.  It seems like a good idea.”     “Seinfeld!?  How long ago was THAT!?”     “Oh look who’s talking mister ‘I haven’t had a hit since Kurt Cobain died’.”

“I saw it on Seinfeld. It seems like a good idea.” “Seinfeld!? How long ago was THAT!?” “Oh look who’s talking mister ‘I haven’t had a hit since Kurt Cobain died’.”

Bojack promises to get something done by next week, which could be the start of an interesting series of jokes, but instead we immediately cut to a week later which presumably was very boring or else they would have shown us some of it.

“What, are you expecting this to be funny?  It’s funny because it’s not funny you idiot.  Now shut up and watch me watch tv.”

“What, are you expecting this to be funny?  It’s funny because it’s not funny you idiot.  Now shut up and watch me watch tv.”

Jessie Pinkman (that’s clearly who Todd is supposed to be, so that’s what I’m calling him) helps the audience catch up by telling Bojack that his girlfriend broke up with him last night.  That’s something that HE would obviously be aware of, but writing good exposition must be really REALLY hard work, so give the writers some slack.  We cut to last night where we see how his girlfriend (Princess Carolyn who’s a cat) gave him the boot.  She’s tired of him being a slacker and doesn’t feel he’s ready to take the relationship any further.  This is cemented by a cutaway joke where Bojack freaks out at the slightest hint of her wanting to have a baby.

“Awww, isn't that baby cute?”     “BABY!? THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BABIES!!!!”

“Awww, isn’t that baby cute?”     “BABY!? THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BABIES!!!!”

We also meet Mr. Peanut Butter who is a more successful former sitcom star who MIGHT have been an interesting character if they didn’t feel he need to suck out every last ounce of subtly to this character and make him an unbelievably obnoxious jackass.

“Hey Bojack!  How’s it going?  Mind if I completely ignore what you’re saying and do things that are blatantly awkward, and then acknowledge how awkward I’m being without explaining why I’m acting this way?”     “Actually, I would mind.”    “AWKWARD!!!!!!”

“Hey Bojack!  How’s it going?  Mind if I completely ignore what you’re saying and do things that are blatantly awkward, and then acknowledge how awkward I’m being without explaining why I’m acting this way?”     “Actually, I would mind.”    “AWKWARD!!!!!!”

Characters who are supposed to be a better version of our hero can only work if we can see that behind the jerky/obnoxious/tool exterior that they have something that the hero wants.  We can still like Bojack more than Mr. Peanut Butter, but by taking his character THIS far, it just gives us a lousy reason to give Bojack a pass for his shitty behavior.  After all, being successful can’t be all THAT good if people like this are doing well, right?

Ugh… we eventually get back to Bojack on his couch with Jessie Pinkman trying to get him to throw a party.  Bojack doesn’t want to because the last time Todd had a party, he just stood in the corner eating cotton candy until he puked.  Hilarious.  No wait, it’s not.  The writer’s seem to think so though, because we get a cutaway joke where we SEE the joke that was just told.

Puking is funny.  Especially when you tell us ahead of time that it’s going to happen.

Puking is funny.  Especially when you tell us ahead of time that it’s going to happen.

We find out that Princess Carolyn is ALSO his girlfriend, so she calls him to inform him that Penguin Publishing is looking for him and wants a status update on the book.  Bojack eventually goes to the publisher’s office which is staffed ENITRELY by penguins that are doing penguin things.

Wouldn't you think there’d be some affirmative action laws to prevent this? That might have been a funny joke!

Wouldn’t you think there’d be some affirmative action laws to prevent this? That might have been a funny joke!

Pinky is losing his shit about Bojack having jack squat, and decides to hire a ghost writer for him, but he’s against it for some reason.  Back at his pad, Bojack is lamenting his life choices and says that he only does what he does (which is nothing) in order to get people to like him.  Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on that, and so doe Jessie.  Bojack asks him “wait, doesn’t everybody like me?” to which Jessie replies “Uhh…..” which goes on for ten minutes (We get a cue card informing us of that) before he finishes with “Uhh….. what were we talking about?”

In that entire time, neither of them had fucking moved, which begs the question WHO THE FUCK WOULD JUST STAND THERE LISTING TO SOMEONE STAMMER FOR TEN MINUTES, AND WHO WOULD JUST SIT THERE STAMMERING FOR TEN MINUTES!?!?!?  The joke falls so god damn flat because the it’s just too fucking unrealistic.  This isn’t how anyone would act in this situation, so why the fuck would we find this funny!?  There has to be a certain level of realism that each joke has to be grounded in for any absurdity or abnormal actions to have any effect.  WHY AM I EXPLAINING THIS!?  If you’re getting paid to write this stuff, you should know that!!

Oh, we also find out that Bojack slept with Princess Carolyn again, so I guess that whole breakup scene meant nothing.  We ALSO find out that Jessie wants to have another party, because apparently he’s in deep with the cartel and owes the local boss a favor, which is a party for his fifteen year old daughter.

It’s funny because Arron Paul did a show once about a similar character getting in deep with drug dealers.

It’s funny because Arron Paul did a show once about a similar character getting in deep with drug dealers.

Carolyn keeps badgering Bojack until he has a panic attack and ends up in the hospital.  The doctor tells him to take it easy from now on, so now the writers have an excuse to have him do nothing funny.  Carolyn tells him to hire the ghost writer so that the book deal won’t stress him out as much, but Bojack is still against the idea.  Jessie tells Bojack to throw a party and invite her so they can have a casual conversation before making anything official.  Bojack agrees (saving Jessie’s ass in the process) and he ends up meeting Diane.  They talk awkwardly for a bit (Diane isn’t partially funny), and then Bojack starts kvetching about Mr. Peanut Butter who’s also at the part for some reason.  We find out that the sitcom that Mr. Peanut Butter starred in was about a dog adopting three orphans and trying to raise them.

Wait what?

“You can see why I consider him a rival considering we had the exact same god damn show.”

“You can see why I consider him a rival considering we had the exact same god damn show.”

This is just fucking awful.  This show thinks its audience is so stupid that it has to be THAT god damn explicit about the parallels between Bojack and Mr. Peanut Butter.  Not only that, but by doing so they’ve potentially skipped out on an insanely obvious yet funny joke they could have done.  Come on, a golden retriever who was famous in the early 90’s?  WHY DIDN’T YOU GO WITH SOME AIR BUD JOKES!?!?!?  He was the star of a series of kids movies about a dog trying to play sports.  That’s fucking gold right there!!  It would even be a funny visual with a dog man playing sports with kids!  Instead, they go with hammering home the parallels between him and Bojack.  I don’t know, maybe they’ll get to the Air Bud jokes later but it’s really disappointing that they don’t use it in the first episode.

The episode ends with Bojack hiring Diane, and finding out that Mr. Peanut Butter is dating her.

“I’m going to ask you a bunch of inappropriate questions.  Is that ok?”    “Sure, it’s not like we’ll react in a way that people will relate to.”

“I’m going to ask you a bunch of inappropriate questions.  Is that ok?”    “Sure, it’s not like we’ll react in a way that people will relate to.”

Oh, and then Bojack throws up cotton candy because that’s how running gags work.

I pretty much wanted to do this when I finished the episode.

I pretty much wanted to do this when I finished the episode.

Holy fucking shit this was bad.  I haven’t hated an animated pilot since Chozen and it’s got a lot of the same problems.  It’s just plain lazy.  I get the impression that no one gives a shit about the world this takes place in, and only uses the horse concept as a gimmick to get people interested in the first place.  Hey, it was enough to get me to watch it, so I guess I can’t blame them too much.  What ends up working are some of the visual gags with the animals, and I like Princess Carolyn who tends to not put up with Bojack’s shit but is still messed up in her own right (sort of like Lana on Archer).  Almost everything else however falls flat.  Bojack is lazy, boring, and honestly not mean enough to be a funny antihero.  There is nothing that makes him stand out as someone worth watching, and the show seems to have the mistaken impression that that’s what makes it funny.  It’s not funny.  It’s not even interesting.  It’s just about a dull character who lives in a world that MIGHT be interesting if we were following almost ANYONE else.

All that said, I’ll admit that I might be a bit harsh right now.  After all, I’m pretty sure I once said that pilots are the hardest episodes to do which is why they tend to be less enjoyable then the rest of the show.  Maybe episode two will turn it around and give us something to grasp onto (and some jokes that are actually funny).

The next episode beings with Bojack in a bar, drinking his sorrows away.  The bartender is pouring him a drink, and tells Bojack to say ‘when’.  Like any fucking bartender would, he keeps pouring long after the cup is full, and then stops once Bojack says when.  Why is this funny?  Is it funny because the bartender wasted liquor?  Is it funny because Bojack wanted to waste liquor? Is it funny because despite pouring more out, he’d only get a glass worth because the rest is dripping on the god damn floor?  Didn’t I just rant about jokes not being funny if the characters aren’t acting in any way realistic?  Anyways, he gets a call from Carolyn, reminding him that his first meeting with Diane is tomorrow.  They bicker for a bit, but Bojack is really bad at it which makes it not funny.  He decides to leave the bar, but on his way out there’s a bunch of women who start laughing at him and taking pictures, and he turns around and tries to shame them about it.

“Seriously!  What the fuck is so interesting about me in a bar?  You’re really going to judge me for drinking when you’re doing the same fucking thing!?”

“Seriously!  What the fuck is so interesting about me in a bar?  You’re really going to judge me for drinking when you’re doing the same fucking thing!?”

This ends up with him taking one of them home and immediately regretting sleeping with her.  After the opening, we cut to the next morning where he throws out the lady and finds Diane waiting for him.  He’s surprised that she’s there so early, but it turns out that he sent a very long and unfunny email telling her to be there.  Not only that, but she brought Mr. Peanut Butter around who tells Bojack that he just scored a pilot for a celebrity reality show.  This scene is actually pretty decent because Mr. Peanut Butter is clueless about how behind the curve he is considering that he’s doing a reality show, yet it’s also funny that despite Bojack’s pretty justifiable snarkiness about the stupid idea, he’s still doing nothing with his life other than complain and look down on people.  This is how the relationship between Bojack and Mr. Peanut Butter should play out, and I’m glad they pulled back on Mr. Peanut Butter’s overly obnoxious behavior.

“Reality shows are where it’s at right?”     “Yeah… no.”     “Really?  There seem to be a lot right now and they ARE making money.”     “…. Shut up.”

“Reality shows are where it’s at right?”     “Yeah… no.”     “Really?  There seem to be a lot right now and they ARE making money.”     “…. Shut up.”

Because of the excess company in the house, all the breakfast foods have already been consumed, and Bojack heads to the store to buy something to eat.  While at the store, he has a run in with an seal who claims to have dibs on a box of muffins that he found in the produce section.  Bojack doesn’t even want them, but buys them anyway to piss of this guy who’s pretty annoying about the whole situation.  Unfortunately for our horsey hero, the guy he was pissing off was a veteran, and it leads to a media shit storm.

“All I wanted were those fucking muffins, and Bojack wouldn't give me them to me!  FOR SHAME!!!”

“All I wanted were those fucking muffins, and Bojack wouldn’t give me them to me!  FOR SHAME!!!”

He digs himself into an even deeper hole when he tries to set the record straight and calls the news show.

“THIS BASTARD DIDN'T HAVE DIBS!!!  IF HE WANTED THE GOD DAMN MUFFINS SO BADLY THEN HE SHOULDN'T HAVE LEFT THEM ALONE!!”

“THIS BASTARD DIDN’T HAVE DIBS!!!  IF HE WANTED THE GOD DAMN MUFFINS SO BADLY THEN HE SHOULDN’T HAVE LEFT THEM ALONE!!”

And an even deeper hole when he does an interview.

“So what if he went to war?  How do you know this guy didn't shoot a reporter?”

“So what if he went to war?  How do you know this guy didn’t shoot a reporter?”

Princess Carolyn isn’t happy about any of this and tells Bojack fix it, but he doesn’t want to admit to being wrong.  We get a bit of satire about reactionary culture that isn’t all that smart or original, but at least the show is trying to say something this episode.

“We hate someone for hating someone.  That’s in no way hypocritical!”

“We hate someone for hating someone.  That’s in no way hypocritical!”

After some more hounding by the press, Bojack eventually decides to apologize on Mr. Peanut Butter’s reality show called Peanut Butter and Jelly, but there’s actually no Jelly.

“The title of your reality show is stupid!”    “So?  People will laugh at it ironically!”     “…. God damn it.”

“The title of your reality show is stupid!”    “So?  People will laugh at it ironically!”     “…. God damn it.”

The plan is for him to present the Navy Seal (get it?) with a new box of muffins and an apology.  Unfortunately they left Jessie in charge of getting the muffins (for some reason) and when he comes back with stale burger buns instead (what?), Bojack hands those over to the seal instead of politely explaining that something has gone wrong.  He tries to spin this into a good thing (somehow hamburger buns are like veterans) and it ends up going okay.  That is until Bojack starts going on another political rant.

“It’s not like this empty apology is endemic of the surface level insincere nature of modern politics!”

“It’s not like this empty apology is endemic of the surface level insincere nature of modern politics!”

He gets saved from another controversy however when the cameras go off of him to focus on Mr. Peanut Butter who got his head stuck on a bucket.  They don’t say it in the show, but I choose to believe that he did that on purpose to save Bojack from getting in trouble for running his mouth again.  The episode ends with Bojack and Diane talking about our meaningless, buzzword centric culture, and Diane convincing him that the book could be his chance to do something real and honest with his life.  He agrees and begins telling her about the crap his dad put him through that rivals the abuse of Clay Puffington.

“One time when I didn't clean up my room, he drove to a glue factory and just left me there for six hours.”

“One time when I didn’t clean up my room, he drove to a glue factory and just left me there for six hours.”

So the second episode was a definite improvement, but I still don’t think it’s a good show.  There’s a bit more effort put into this one, and it was actually about something, but the humor still doesn’t work for me.  Bojack is just not that funny, and the jokes don’t hit most of the time.  We’re watching a guy who doesn’t work, doesn’t have any real ambitions in his life, is narcissistic, and presumably rich enough to afford this lifestyle.  Aside from his memoir which he keeps putting off and barely focusing on, what does he care about besides booze and reruns of his old show?  Jessie Pinkman is a pointless foil that’s almost as bad as that stupid fucking bear on Brickleberry voiced by Daniel Tosh.  The only reason this celebrity walk on character is slightly more tolerable than the one on Brickleberry is due to the fact that he isn’t inherently mean spirited and is just trying mooch off of people.  Not a great quality, but he’s ultimately harmless.  Mr. Peanut Butter is okay in concept, but his jokes tend to fall flat, and Diane has barely anything to do in this besides reassure our hero that he’s not a complete loser.  I still like Carolyn who steals every scene she’s in, but she’s hardly in this episode.

I don’t know if this show will get any better, but even if it did I doubt it’ll actually become anything special.  I can see Netflix thinking this was something worth making considering it’s ludicrous premise, but the writing is just not up to snuff when compared to what they’ve been associated with in the past.  I guess you might want to give it a shot if you like adult oriented cartoons, but it’s pretty pointless considering you could be watching Archer or any number of Adult Swim shows instead.  I guess if you’ve already burned through all of those (I certainly have), then it might be worth giving a shot.  Just don’t be too disappointed if you end up hating it.

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3 thoughts on “Living on Netflix: Bojack Horseman (First two episodes)

  1. Haravikk

    Not sure why you felt the need to list every single scene of the first two episodes of a series you don’t seem to get. Too many people have gone into the series expecting a laugh-a-minute comedy (like Horsin’ Around) but in reality the show is more of a gritty satire broken up by ridiculous elements.

    Bojacks actions aren’t supposed to be funny, even if sometimes they are, as most of them are actually kind of tragic expressions of his self-destructive, hurt everyone around him nature. Meanwhile the whole point of Todd is that he’s some partygoer who never left Bojack’s house, yet instead of kicking him out, Bojack would rather have a slovenly layabout living on his couch than be completely alone.

    There’s also a lot of criticism about stuff that isn’t answered right away, but the whole point of being a Netflix series is that you don’t have to worry about viewers that miss the first few episodes, so you can address stuff later whenever it makes most sense to do-so.

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  2. superdude1999 Post author

    I did end up watching the entire series and while it does indeed get better (“Say Anything” and “The Telescope” are definite highlights), it still never won me over. The parts where it is a gritty satire and Bojack has to face his demons are genuinely well done and are what kept me going long enough to see the season to its conclusion. The problem is that whenever they ARE trying to be funny, it almost never works. Was Quentin Tarantulino funny? Was Todd in jail funny? Was an entire episode of Lindsey Lohan riffs funny? I can only speak for myself, but the answer was almost always no.

    I thought the Christmas special kind of typified my problem. It knows it’s dumb. It spends a lot of time reinforcing that fact rather than right GOOD material, and then at the end it gives you something that’s actually decent because I guess they feel you’re worthy of it now that you sat through the bad stuff.

    The amount of effort they put into the dramatic moments should have carried over to the show’s humor and I never got that sense while watching this show. Maybe they’ll focus more on the drama and characters in season 2, but I can’t give the show (as it is now) much of a recommendation.

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    1. Haravikk

      I’m not sure that some of these things are /meant/ to be funny; Quentin Tarantulino for example seemed to me like he was meant simply to ape some of the directors, producers and networks in movies/television who don’t really care about telling the story they’re given, but instead want to make it into whatever /they/ want to do. He goes crazy for Todd’s ridiculous ideas and destroys what, for Bojack, should have just been a quick cash-grab movie to get him acting again. The funniest moment of that episode for me is when Bojack confronts Todd about sabotaging the movie, only to find that he hadn’t even considered revenge.

      I’m not so sure about Todd in jail; I mean, it was classic Bojack in that he was too self-absorbed to care that his friend was in real trouble in jail, but you’re right that the actual scenes in the jail did fall pretty flat.

      But my point really is that I’m not sure that a lot of the show is actually supposed to be all that funny; it’s mostly satirical and tongue in cheek, with a bit of ridiculous. A lot of the humour is distraction to keep the show from getting too dark.

      Part of the problem may be the advertising for the show; a big chunk tries to make the show out to be a traditional comedy, which may end up disappointing people expecting it to be one. In fact, I found some of the advertising badly done enough that I wasn’t even going to watch the show, and when I finally did I didn’t expect it to be very funny, so in a weird way I might actually have entered the series in the right mindset, as I wasn’t expecting lots of funny moments, and got hooked on the tragedy and drama of it.

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