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6 Reasons You Should Be Watching "BoJack Horseman"

Netflix's animated series is smart, hilarious, and painfully honest. And yes, it stars a talking horse.

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1. It's deeply funny.

Netflix / Via sandandglass.tumblr.com

Few sitcoms are as consistently funny as BoJack Horseman, which offers that rare combination of smart character-based humor, sight gags, and hilarious one-liners. It's a testament to the writing staff — led by creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, with production designer Lisa Hanawalt responsible for most of the background jokes — that the show provides so many laughs...and never at the cost of story. There is something especially satisfying about a show that finds the right balance between jokes and storytelling, a task sitcoms often fumble.

In some ways, BoJack could be compared to a half-hour HBO comedy: Certainly, it has similar dramatic elements, and an open-ended approach to narrative that contrasts with the traditional sitcom desire to wrap everything up in under 30 minutes. But it's also funnier than your standard HBO comedy — it has pathos, yes, but that doesn't mean it's above an easy laugh.

2. It's deeply sad.

Netflix / Via beatlesleak.tumblr.com

But BoJack Horseman is also seriously depressing. That's because it's stubbornly grounded in reality — which may sound like a weird thing to say about a series centered on an anthropomorphic horse, but here we are. When it comes to storytelling, the show does not pull any punches about the depths of has-been actor BoJack Horseman's darkness. Nor does it shy away from the equally sad lives of his agent Princess Carolyn, his ghostwriter Diane Nguyen, and his roommate Todd Chavez. Sometimes it takes a bunch of talking animals to tell the harshest truths about humanity.

At the same time, BoJack isn't the bleakest show you can watch — it's lighter than The Leftovers, for example. But the series is never quite as cynical as its characters. While it would be silly to call it optimistic on the whole, it affords just enough character development and moments of sincerity to allow for a tempered and realistic reflection of life. Can a horse like BoJack ever really change? The show is intent upon a depressing but refreshingly honest answer: Kind of.

3. It's serialized in a way few animated series are.

Netflix / Via machinyan.tumblr.com

It's certainly possible to watch a random episode of BoJack Horseman and get the gist of it, but the show was meant to be watched from start to finish. (With each season under six hours, it's particularly apt for Netflix's bingeing model.) The first season focuses on BoJack joining forces with ghostwriter Diane to tell his story, and the second season picks up after the release of the book — with painful truths about BoJack's life revealed throughout — as the sitcom star navigates his return to acting. Few animated series even attempt continuity, let alone this kind of serialized storytelling.

The benefit, of course, is that the characters get to grow and develop over the course of the sitcom. This isn't just a show about terrible people having a series of misadventures. It's as much about terrible people realizing they are terrible and deciding to change course or learning to live with it. The emotional underpinnings of the story recall the best years of The Simpsons — and even The Simpsons rarely made changes that stuck from episode to episode. You watch BoJack Horseman in part because you're genuinely curious about what happens next.

4. It has some of the most well-developed characters on television.

Netflix / Via adventurecomics.tumblr.com

The characters on BoJack Horseman are some of the most three-dimensional that you'll find on television. The fact that they happen to be, by and large, anthropomorphic animals just makes them that much more delightful. Who knew one of the most darkly relatable characters in 2015 would be a talking horse? BoJack is the standout — not just because he's the star, but also because his worst qualities (his relentless selfishness and limited worldview) so often reflect the traits we dread most in ourselves. He is part cautionary tale, part uncomfortable mirror.

But everyone who watches BoJack has a favorite character, and it's not always the titular horse. There's Princess Carolyn, who carefully separates her professional life from her personal life, but begins to realize how unsatisfied the latter is making her. Or Diane, who wavers between righteous indignation and disaffected pragmatism in her pursuit of the truth. Or the beloved (except by BoJack) Mr. Peanutbutter, a preposterously positive Labrador retriever whose deluded attitude irks BoJack. All of these characters are deeper than their initial appearances suggest — they are constant reminders to not judge a book by its cartoon animal cover.

5. It's a pitch-perfect parody of celebrity culture.

Netflix / Via m1lhouse.tumblr.com

While the life of a once-famous TV star is fairly niche, BoJack Horseman is able to use its main character's life to satirize celebrity culture as a whole. It's not just BoJack's life that has taken a turn for the tragic: His child co-star Sarah Lynn has grown up into a drug-addled shell of her former self. And Herb Kazzaz, creator of BoJack's sitcom Horsin' Around, was blackballed by the network after being outed as gay — a slight for which BoJack never came to his defense, even though they were best friends. Despite being presented through a comedic lens, these are very real issues in the industry. There's even a whole plotline inspired by the Bill Cosby allegations.

Then there are the cameos, which lambast everyone from Daniel Radcliffe (playing himself) to "A Ryan Seacrest Type" (yes, that's his name). Character actress Margo Martindale also has a recurring role as "Character Actress Margo Martindale." While these celebrity appearances are often limited to one-off jokes (most often an animal-related pun, as in the case of Maggot Gyllenhaal and Quentin Tarantulino), they also offer pointed commentary on the downside of Hollywoo. (That's Hollywood after BoJack stole the "D" from the sign.)

6. It rewards repeat viewing.

Netflix / Via charliedaybowbow.tumblr.com

First of all, there are the background jokes. A lot of them. You could watch BoJack Horseman pausing during each scene and still not catch them all. Or you could just accept that you're probably not going to get everything and save some fun for when you watch the series again. It's not just the funny signs in the background, either. The show is intricately plotted, with enough foreshadowing and oblique references to rival Arrested Development. This is all the more reason to watch again, with the added benefit of context.

The world of BoJack Horseman deepens during a rewatch: The strange laws that govern behavior among humans and human-ish animals are fascinating to uncover. It's a universe much like our own but different and weird enough to merit close attention to detail. And then, of course, there's the fact that the seasons are intentionally structured to tell a complete story: It's easy to get lost in them while you're watching, but once you take a step back and have a clearer picture of the whole, you can begin to fully appreciate the work the writers are doing. And what makes BoJack Horseman more complex than the vast majority of TV comedies.

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