If Catherine the Great were alive today, she’d get a big kick out of Netflix’s latest offering. The animated sitcom BoJack Horseman is an absurdist equine satire that centers on BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett)—a washed-up, hard-partying former TV star/horse who spends his time lounging around in his L.A. bachelor pad, inhaling booze, vomiting up cotton candy, and sexing groupies. You see, BoJack was the star of Horsin’ Around, a celebrated ’90s ABC sitcom about a young bachelor horse who has to reevaluate his priorities when he’s forced to raise three human children (think Who’s the Boss). His catchphrase was “Nay means no!” and the show was, despite mediocre reviews, a massive hit, playing for nine seasons.
But that left the air 18 years ago. So BoJack, the Hollywood has-been, attempts to launch a comeback by writing his memoir—or rather, being interviewed by Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), a witty Asian hipster who’s ghostwriting it for him. She has a hard time getting the self-absorbed, self-loathing D-lister to open up (in between booze binges). Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, a member of the Olde English comedy troupe and relative newcomer, all 12 episodes of the series’ first season were made available on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. PT on Friday, Aug. 22.
“For some people, life is just one long, hard kick in the urethra,” BoJack tells Charlie Rose.
A mischievous cross between Sunset Boulevard and Adult Swim, BoJack Horseman boasts an exciting cast of supporting characters. There’s Todd (voiced by Breaking Bad’’s Aaron Paul), a stoner twentysomething who lives in BoJack’s house and gobbles up all of his Toaster Strudel. In a past life, the shiftless roommate was a Molly dealer who now owes a good chunk of cash to a Mexican drug lord, but in exchange, agrees to throw his daughter a quinceañera at BoJack’s manse. Princess Carolyn (voiced by Amy Sedaris) is BoJack’s glamorous cat/agent/on-off girlfriend, who often finds herself dumping her snarky, commitment-phobic client (as a boyfriend). During one of several hilarious Family Guy-esque cut-away scenes in the pilot, we see BoJack having sex with a British, lingerie-clad groupie while watching reruns of his sitcom.
“Everyone gets a Mulligan!” he explains to Carolyn. “And my Mulligan was Carey Mulligan. I’m kidding, geez. It was Emily Mortimer.”
And, in addition to Diane, there’s her grating boyfriend, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Thompkins), a dog and fellow egotistic faded TV star that essentially copied BoJack’s show, and is thus his nemesis. Several characters are also voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt, who serves as the show’s Hank Azaria.
But the real star is BoJack and, with the aid of Arnett’s signature sarcastic baritone, Bob-Waksberg’s show hooks you from the moment its trippy, Mad Men-meets-The Graduate opening theme hits (with psychedelic music courtesy of The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney). Over the first handful of episodes, the degenerate, self-destructive stallion becomes embroiled in a national controversy when he’s accused of stealing muffins from a Navy SEAL (an actual seal, voiced by Oswalt) who’d just returned from a 10-month stint in Afghanistan. The seal claimed he called dibs at the supermarket, and the incident turns into a media sensation when it’s picked up on MSNBSea where a sperm whale, voiced by the real Keith Olbermann, moderates an argument between seal and horse over what constitutes “dibs.”
In Episode 3, BoJack’s kid daughter on Horsin’ Around, Sarah Lynn (voiced by Kristen Schaal), has transformed into a sex-crazed, Miley Cyrus-esque pop star who sings grating odes to her “prickly muffin” and is dating Spider-Man himself, the well-coiffed British actor Andrew Garfield. However, her popularity is waning as the big 3-0 approaches, so Garfield decides to dump her at an antique furniture store. This prompts Sarah Lynn to stab herself with a Confederate bayonet letter-opener, causing a geyser of blood. After BoJack checks her in to the rehab facility Promises Malibu, she escapes and materializes at his house. He decides to take her in—which proves to be a huge, huge mistake.
Sarah Lynn proceeds to crush pills into powder-mounds that she then snorts like Scarface—pills she acquired from a doctor she met “at Adam Levine’s Halloween party.” She throws gigantic, destructive parties, and purposely lights his ottomans on fire. But things get downright Freudian when Sarah Lynn and BoJack randomly start having sex—much to Todd’s disgust.
The un-PC show skewers all comers, from making Holocaust and 9/11 jokes to a serious dig at Buzzfeed when BoJack encounters one of their reporters trailing Mr. Peanutbutter at the Comedy Central Roast of Gloria Steinem.
“My book will be in libraries for hundreds of years!” he exclaims. “Your Buzzfeed article will be crammed between an animated GIF of a cat falling asleep and a list of fun facts about Legally Blonde!”
BoJack Horseman isn’t at the level of an Archer or Bob’s Burgers just yet. Some jokes fall flat, a few scenarios seem uninspired, and Arnett’s horse does seem strikingly similar to his hilarious man-child/magician Gob in Arrested Development, but this bizarre dreamscape where humans and anthropomorphic animals commingle and cohabitate is filled with promise, providing a fun, delightfully gonzo take on Hollyweird.