Will Arnett (Arrested Development) voices BoJack, a failed, legendary 90’s sitcom star from a fictitious hit family sitcom called “Horsin’ Around” (think Full House). He’s been trying to find his way through a muddle of self-loathing, whisky and failed relationships. His best friend, Todd (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad), and his feline agent and ex-girlfriend, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris, Strangers with Candy), are helping BoJack mount a comeback.
In the first episode, BoJack is an insecure narcissist who can’t stop living in the past, where he was a beloved TV star. He spends his time wearing pajamas and watching re-runs of his show. He is so self-centered that he barely registers when anyone else is talking, let alone has needs. Will Arnett plays him masterfully, because Arnett played very similar characters in Arrested Development and 30 Rock.
Todd, his roommate or house guest, depending who you talk to, has a surprisingly cheery disposition for someone who is homeless and in trouble with local drug lords. Todd keeps his backstory under wraps, allowing BoJack to hog the spotlight.
BoJack has an on-again, off-again relationship with Princess Carolyn. She breaks up with him because he completely ignores her, but she’s easily drawn back into his bed. She’s not only his girlfriend, but also his agent. As she explains, she makes a point to keep her personal and professional lives separate.
At the end of the first episode, BoJack meets Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie, The LEGO Movie), the woman who will ghost write BoJack’s memoir. BoJack is taken with her, but then he finds out she’s dating Mr. Peanut Butter (Paul F. Tompkins, The Sarah Silverman Program), another actor who rose to stardom on a family sitcom at the same time BoJack did. Mr. Peanut Butter is over-friendly and superficial, a thorn in BoJack’s side.
The characters are a mix of humans and animals, although the animals have hands instead of hooves or paws. (It made for an entertaining conversation between my husband and me about how mixed couples would procreate.) For instance, Princess Carolyn is a cat, but she wants a baby with BoJack. Cartoons don’t need to make sense!
My Two Cents
The episode was enjoyable, but not so much that I’m dying to see the next episode. The jokes were occasionally funny enough to make me laugh out loud, but most were just thoughtful jokes that just make you say, “That’s funny.” (Kind of like that girlfriend Zach Braff had on Scrubs. She never laughed, only ever said, “That’s funny.” Which bothered him.)
BoJack Horseman is a dark comedy with a self-centered lead character. Much like Curb Your Enthusiasm, having a jerk for a lead character might turn a lot of people off. You have to set aside your irritation to get at what’s really going on with BoJack.
The series isn’t without merits. The performances are enjoyable, allowing the actors to play against type in several instances. Amy Sedaris is very sedate and mannered as Princess Carolyn, and Aaron Paul is as sunny as can be as Todd.
BoJack Horseman attempts to explore a lot of very relatable human emotions, like insecurity and loneliness. Those feelings are heightened because Hollywood is the setting, where insecurity and loneliness are de rigueur.
I think I need to see one or two more episodes before I make a final decision about BoJack Horseman. So many times pilot episodes spend a lot of time introducing characters and setting up the show’s premise that it doesn’t really hit its stride.