BOJACK HORSEMAN SEASON ONE (HMV EXCLUSIVE) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOEL MOSER / SCREENPLAY: RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG / STARRING WILL ARNETT, AMY SEDARIS, ALISON BRIE, AARON PAUL / RELEASE DATE: 28TH OCTOBER
Watching the first season of BoJack Horseman is a treat whether it’s your first time or you’re revisiting the show you watched on Netflix all those years ago. For new viewers, the gradual (and then sudden) descent into the madness of BoJack’s world holds up as a sense-engorging trip, each new character and situation bringing fresh humour and despair. For returnees, early BoJack - when you know just how weird and bad things get for everyone - is just as funny and depressing, but in a different, time-weathered fashion.
From creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, BoJack Horseman is a washed-up former sitcom star who had one big hit in the 1990s, Horsin’ Around (think Diff’rent Strokes), and has been slowly self-destructing ever since. The characters in BoJack Horseman are a mix of straight-up humans and humanoid animals - BoJack is a literal horse - which lends a surreality to the show that can belie its serious content but which makes for some wonderfully exaggerated comic material.
Season one begins with BoJack being forced to hire a ghost writer for his memoirs, and settling on Diane Nguyen, who wrote an article he liked once and who also happens to be dating his 90s sitcom rival Mr Peanutbutter (an adorable Labrador man). Slowly, BoJack begins to fall for Diane, which confuses things in a life already complicated by his agent/ex-girlfriend Princess Caroline and Todd, the man-child living on his couch.
The first half of the season is above average stuff but it’s not until the show climbs over its mid-point that it truly begins to shine. From that point on, BoJack Horseman is a picture-perfect portrayal of narcissism, self-destruction, addiction, sexism, and traumatic human experience. It’s not for nothing that this show often comes with a trigger warning for those who are suffering from emotional difficulties.
As with many a modern animated show, the real stars of BoJack Horseman are the voice cast, led formidably by Will Arnett as the titular screw-up. He is ably backed by Alison Brie as Diane, Aaron Paul as Todd, and Paul F Tompkins as Mr Peanutbutter, but the standout is Amy Sedaris as Princess Caroline, and this will only become more apparent the more seasons you watch. Guest stars abound, too, with Kristen Schaal, Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, and JK Simmons all turning up in the first season, and you’re often playing a fun game of “guess the voice” in between laughing and cringing at the set-ups.
These Blu-ray discs do not have much in the way of extras, with production animatics and one episode commentary, a far cry from the copious extras supplied with the US release of seasons one and two, but it’s not as if the show doesn’t sell itself.
Over its five (soon to be six) seasons, BoJack Horseman has taken us on a rollercoaster ride with its booze and pill-addicted protagonist, watching with split sides and through pained fingers as he messes up again and again and again. Worse still, BoJack is never the major casualty of his destructive behaviour, and yet somehow he remains a sympathetic character who you just want things to go well for. That’s good writing, that’s great performing, that’s good television.