TV Review - Bojack Horseman: Season 2

BoJack Horseman, voiced by Will Arnett and Todd
Chavez (right), voiced by Aaron Paul
I didn't write a review for the first season of Netflix's animated series for adults BoJack Horseman, but I did watch it. I wasn't a fan of the first season. It seemed like just another Hollywood satire that didn't amount to much more than the Emmy-nominated series The Comeback or even Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, what creator and head-writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg did at the end of the first season, specifically the final, three episodes, really focused the series into being a really compelling character study not just on the titular, male protagonist but also on the female protagonist. What's also great is that Bob-Waksberg flirted with the obvious route of making love interests out of those two characters, but thankfully he didn't.

Will Arnett (Arrested Development) stars as the voice of BoJack Horseman, the star of a hit sitcom in the 1990's called "Horsin' Around," which was about a single horse raising three, human children. It was like a mix of Mr. Ed and Charles in Charge. Fully anthropomorphized animals like horses that walk and talk like people and are fully integrated into human society as if nothing is odd. Years after the sitcom ended, Bojack struggles to find work in Hollywood, probably because he developed a horrible, cynical, selfish, narcissistic personality.

Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad and Big Love) co-stars as the voice of Todd Chavez, the human best friend of Bojack who is currently unemployed and sleeping on BoJack's couch, mooching off his washed-up celebrity friend in his mansion-like home atop a cliff. Todd is not that far off from Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad but who lacks a lot of direction in his life and is perhaps a bit more dim-witted.

Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy) co-stars as the voice of Princess Carolyn, the talent agent who works for Bojack, desperately trying to get jobs for the now infamous star. She's a literal cat-lady. She has the body of a woman and the head of a cat, almost in the vein of Kim Hunter in Planet of the Apes (1968). She gets annoyed and frustrated, but she cares for Bojack and not just because they had sex. She's also very career-oriented.

Alison Brie (Community) also stars as the voice of Diane Nguyen, the Vietnamese writer who was hired to craft BoJack's memoir. She parted ways when she didn't want to do a puff piece but instead a real, hard-hitting, journalistic exposé. Annoyances and frustrations with her family pushes her into questioning her career and life choices, including her recent, newly wed status.

Paul F. Thompkins (Mr. Show with Bob and David) plays the voice of Mr. Peanutbutter, the star of another hit sitcom in the 90's. Mr. Peanutbutter has the body of a man but the head of a dog, specifically a yellow Labrador. His sitcom is ironically similar to BoJack's sitcom. BoJack in fact continues to reiterate that Mr. Peanutbutter copied his career, and potentially stole his future wife. Mr. Peanutbutter married Diane.

While the first season dealt with the writing of BoJack's book, this season focuses on BoJack trying to make the movie about his childhood idol, an older "horseman" named Secretariat. However, the stories and lives of the other four characters are developed and interwoven into the narrative so brilliantly and perfectly, and the 12 episodes build to an emotional conclusion that is very beautiful, making you love those four characters.

Unlike the first season, the series didn't take until the final three episodes of twelve to hook me. The second season had me hooked from the first three. The way that the show does so is by not behaving like other animated shows or how The Simpsons was in the beginning. The show is serialized. Actions and events have consequences that continue from episode to the next. There's character-growth and characters who die and stay dead unlike Kenny from South Park.

In fact, Episode 3 is a funeral of a character from the first season and that funeral has impact because, despite bring a cartoon, the death feels real. The show makes us feel the loss. The show and particularly the vocal performances like from Arnett can nail the heavier emotional turns. A perfect example is in Episode 1, titled "Brand New Couch," where BoJack literally has to give a vocal performance himself.

Don't be mistaken though! This series is very funny. It certainly has fun with the anthropomorphized animals. It makes lame puns. Instead of U-Haul, the moving company, this series has "Ewe-Haul." Instead of MSNBC, the news channel, this series has "MSNBSea," and all the news anchors are aquatic beings. Instead of Vanity Fair, the magazine, the series has "Manatee Fair." It also has visual puns with celebrity names that were on-the-nose but always made me giggle. For example, the actors Scott Wolf and Matthew Fox are portrayed here like BoJack in Episode 7 as a human with a wolf's head and a human with a fox's head.

The guest stars are all well-used from Lisa Kudrow, Joel McHale, Wendie Malick, John Krasinski, J.K. Simmons, Amy Schumer, Daniel Radcliffe, Liev Schreiber, Alan Arkin, Garry Marshall and Ricky Gervais. I like how friends of Arnett were integrated too. Margo Martindale who co-starred with Arnett in The Millers was utilized in this series. Henry Winkler who guest-starred in Arrested Development with Arnett is also utilized well here.

I love every episode but my favorite is probably Episode 4, titled "After Party." It's an episode structured in a gimmick way, but it again reinforces the idea that this show is so much about the characters dealing with realistic relationships or even ridiculous relationships that have such realistic emotions, more in-tune with the living, physical world than even most live-action comedies.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 30 mins. / 12 episodes.


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