Netflix has done it again.
While the Broadcast Sitcom Assembly Line has generated shows ranging from the lukewarm (A to Z) to the downright languid (Mulaney), Netflix has trotted out (heh) BoJack Horseman, the rare show whose execution lives up to its ambition.
In this fall's stale comedy landscape, BoJack is like a breath of fresh air — and it's clear that Netflix has faith in its latest project, which was renewed four days after it premiered last month. The cartoon's just-go-with-it premise follows the title character (voiced by Will Arnett), a washed-up former equine star of the '90s hit sitcom "Horsin' Around" who's trying to write his memoir. The show really finds its footing by Episode 3, which skewers former child stars-turned-sexpots via a storyline about Sarah Lynn (voiced by Kristen Schaal), a young woman who played BoJack's adopted daughter on "Horsin' Around" and now bears more than a passing resemblance to Miley Cyrus. It's hilarious, but also dark and oddly resonant at times.
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3. Think Archer meets Arrested Development.
Much like on Arnett's other standout, Arrested Development, the jokes on BoJack come at a machine-gun, blink-and-you'll-miss-them rate, and are multilayered. While you're laughing at the dialogue during an argument between Bojack and Princess Carolyn, you might miss her landing on all fours after getting thrown out of his car. Or, if you're only half paying attention, the name of 14-year-old singer Sextina Aquafina's hit song, "My Clitoris Is Gynormous," may pass you by.
4. It's not just another dumb cartoon. "I think of the show almost as a dramedy, in the way that some live action shows are," Bob-Waksberg says. "The way I pitched the show is it's going to be this wacky, fun, goofy cartoon show that gets gradually darker the further it goes. I think all the actors really liked that idea — that it wouldn't just be funny voices, that they get to do some real acting in addition to the silliness."
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5. It lets celebrities show they can take a joke.
The impressive list of Season 1 guest stars includes Stephen Colbert, Kristin Chenoweth, Patton Oswalt and Olivia Wilde, as well as Margo Martindale, Naomi Watts and Wallace Shawn playing outsize versions of themselves. Keith Olbermann also makes an appearance as Tom Jumbo-Gumbo, a blue whale news anchor who's the face of "MSNBSea." And other celebrities, like Andrew Garfield and David Boreanaz, find themselves the butt of running jokes. ("I had the idea — which is a really easy, dumb idea; I'm not the first person to make this connection — that Andrew Garfield would love lasagna and hate Mondays," Bob-Waksberg explains. "That just really made me giggle.")
6. It's not afraid to take risks — and they pay off. While network sitcoms tend to either play it safe when it comes to humor, or egregiously misfire (see: Dads), BoJack hits the mark both in terms of absurdity and poignancy. If you think a show about a horse with a drinking problem can't be moving, think again. "Netflix really trusts us," Bob-Waksberg says. "We don't get a lot of network notes. They're not coming back all the time like, 'Oh, this is too sad,' or 'This is too weird.' ... I've been in rooms where the creator has sold a show and then felt like the network didn't buy the show they wanted. They bought a show they thought they could craft into the show they wanted. And with Netflix, it feels like with all their shows, they like the show that is being pitched and they let the creator make that show. Which is so amazing."
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7. It begs to be binge-watched.
Aside from not having to deal with language restraints because it airs on Netflix BoJack Horseman doesn't push the envelope that much further than, say, Family Guy. But Bob-Waksberg says Netflix's viewing model was really the big draw in terms of the story he wanted to tell. "When it was time to take it out, Netflix was the top spot," Bob-Waksberg says. "I had crafted the pitch to [the streaming service]. The fact that the episodes are all released at once and you can go through the whole thing, I really wanted to use that to my advantage. ... I love the idea that everyone's going to watch these episodes in order. That's how Netflix is designed. No one's going to tune into Episode 6 and not know what happens. I don't have to reintroduce the characters every episode. I can plant stuff in Episode 4 that pays off in Episode 9. It's a really fun way to think about writing television. It opens up a lot of possibilities."
All 12 episodes of BoJack Horseman are available on Netflix. Watch a trailer for the series below: