How a Show About a Talking Horse Became the Most Human Show on TV

Note: This review is spoiler-free

A year ago, I had never seen BoJack Horseman. If you had told me then that this show would make me cry, have multiple existential crises, re-evaluate my life direction, make me depressed, pull me out of depression, cause me to rethink how I view some people and prompt me to make change in my life for the better, I’d have had a hard time believing you. After all, it’s just an adult cartoon with funny animals and pop-culture references. And don’t get me wrong, it is an adult cartoon with funny animals and pop-culture references. But it’s also one of a few shows with the power to legitimately change your life.

The series follows BoJack Horseman, an anthropomorphic horse. Back in the ’90s, he played the main character on a Horsing Around, a popular sitcom. He has barely done anything of note since. At the start of the series, he spends most of his days sitting around his house in the Hollywood Hills, rewatching episodes of his show to relive the glory days. In episode 1, BoJack hires a memoirist named Diane to ghostwrite his autobiography, setting the plot in motion. Admittedly, the show doesn’t wow you right from the first episode. It’s an adult cartoon with crude humor, an unlikeable main character, and passable animation. If you quit watching BoJack, it’ll most likely be in the first few episodes, and it’s hard to blame you for that. However, if you keep watching just a little bit longer, the show will begin to reveal its true colors.

The main thing you need to know about BoJack is that he is not a good person. He has an inflated view of himself due to his status as a celebrity, puts himself over others’ happiness, and has ruined many people’s lives through his own carelessness. In a standard adult cartoon, these things wouldn’t be that much of an issue, with all problems being resolved by the end of the episode. However, BoJack doesn’t work by sitcom rules. Actions have consequences, and the things BoJack does haunt him for years to come, both via outside factors and his own depression and guilt. This is where the show shines the most: its grippingly realistic approach to mental health. The problems BoJack has with himself are deeply human and, at times, disturbingly relatable. A common feeling among fans of the show is that it has given them the vocabulary to describe feelings that they had, or it made them realize aspects of themselves they didn’t know existed. That is the way in which BoJack Horseman is life-changing.

Despite all that, the show is still a comedy, and a good one at that. The writers have a real knack for absurdity, wordplay, absurd wordplay, (“You’re telling me your dumb drone downed a tower and drowned downtown Julie Brown’s dummy drumming dum-dum-dum-dum, dousing her newly found, goose-down, hand-me-down gown?” is a real line) and they get more mileage out of half the cast being anthropomorphic animals than anyone could expect. Despite this, the show never felt confused with its tone. It knows when to make you laugh and when to make you cry, and the lightheartedness of some moments made the darker parts all the more potent.

BoJack Horseman ended its 6-season run earlier this year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. Somehow, this show about a talking millionaire horse became my favorite show of all time. It changed my life, and it could very much change yours as well.

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