Your Belly Will Ache, Your Heart Will Break


People overuse the word “masterpiece.” And by people I mean me.

Having said that, BoJack Horseman is an unequivocal, un-caveat-ed masterpiece.

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg (and yes, that hyphenation is somehow correct), this animated show about a washed-up former sitcom star who also happens to be an animated equine just wrapped its 6th and final season. And it’s not only the best original show Netflix has ever produced; it’s one of the most thought-provoking and well-constructed television shows of the 21st century.

BoJack somehow manages to excel in both comedy and pathos, often making your heart hurt with empathy mere minutes after making your belly ache with laughter. There are hundreds (thousands?) of goofy sight gags — both in the foreground and the background — and go-for-broke wordplay flourishes that made my pun-adoring self beam with awe. And then right next to that goofballery, respectfully adjacent to all the bonkers humor, there are scenes of childhood trauma and substance abuse that made me reel with sadness.

And somehow, with an emphasis on the “how[?!]”, the helium-infused levity of the Naked Gun-by-way-of-MontyPython-but-it’s-own-thing-entirely dialogue doesn’t in any way undercut the deep gravitas of the darker elements of the show. It’s a dizzying high-wire act, but the standout writing staff manage to adeptly maintain their balance for 77 episodes. (Well, the first season is a bit tonally inconsistent. But it’s an amazing ride after that.)

There are individual episodes, like “Fish Out of Water” and “Time’s Arrow” and “Free Churro” and “The View from Halfway Down,” that are works of art — achingly poignant or achingly beautiful or achingly devastating, or some combination of the above. How can an animated comedy (slash psychodrama) about a horse possibly pull that off, winning several Writer’s Guild awards in the process?

The short answer is: I have no idea.

I could gush for days about this show. And heck, I’ve barely even hinted at its actual plot. Or the bottomless well of voice talent (Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, Amy Sedaris, Aaron Paul, Lakeith Stanfield, and what felt like 100 others over the course of the show’s run). Or the eye-popping, hyper-vivid animation design. Or the mind-boggling web of cultural and pop-cultural and literary references that are skillfully woven through every single episode. Or…

You know what, I’ll leave it at that. All I really want to do is make one person want to watch BoJack Horseman. (Assuming that person can tolerate some dark, psychologically probing, and sometimes melancholy content.)

I hope you’re that person! Please let me know if you are. I’d love to discuss the show.

And if you’re not, thanks a lot for reading this far. I genuinely appreciate it.

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