Bo­jack Horse­man is TV’S best show about de­pres­sion.

Bo­jack Horse­man is TV’S best show about de­pres­sion. Also its fun­ni­est

Newsweek - - NEWS - DAVID MA­CLEAN

THE AN­I­MATED SE­RIES about a has-been sit­com star who hap­pens to be a horse, has the weird­est shift­ing tone in TV. One minute, char­ac­ters—some an­i­mal, some hu­man—are de­bat­ing the na­ture of the soul in a va­pid uni­verse. The next, there are cat puns.

Some­how, this adds up to the most pow­er­ful evo­ca­tion of clin­i­cal de­pres­sion in pop cul­ture. I am not a psy­chi­a­trist, so by di­ag­nos­ing Bo­jack Horse­man I will not be break­ing the Gold­wa­ter Rule. I am, how­ever, clin­i­cally de­pressed, so I rec­og­nize the symp­toms.

Bo­jack, the in­spired creation of writer and co­me­dian Raphael Bob-waks­berg, is a self-sab­o­tag­ing char­ac­ter des­per­ate for love but un­able to ac­cept or give it, and obliv­i­ous to the dam­age he does. He is just the lat­est in a long line of com­pul­sively watch­able, emo­tion­ally stunted sit­com char­ac­ters— Michael Scott, David Brent, Homer Simp­son, Cliff Clavin, Martin Payne, Gary Shan­dling, Kenny Pow­ers, Liz Lemon, the en­tire Bluth fam­ily— who flirt with change with­out ever ac­tu­al­iz­ing it. (Will Ar­nett, who voices the epi­cally cyn­i­cal Bo­jack so win­ningly, is ar­guably our great­est in­ter­preter of ar­ro­gant losers.)

But here an­i­ma­tion has an ad­van­tage—and where the an­i­mal puns start to make sense. If this were live ac­tion, the show would feel too small and di­dac­tic. The wis­dom/life ad­vice/dev­as­tat­ing ob­ser­va­tions land harder be­cause they are pre­ceded by, for ex­am­ple, Keith Ol­ber­mann voic­ing the blue whale—and news an­chor—tom Jumbo-grumbo. Bob-waks­berg has fig­ured out that the best way to keep au­di­ences glued to four sea­sons of ex­is­ten­tial angst is to sur­round it with inanity.

For ex­am­ple: In one episode near the end of sea­son three, Bo­jack is ar­gu­ing with his long­time agent and oc­ca­sional lover, a 40-ish cat named Princess Carolyn (voiced by Amy Sedaris). They are out­side a restau­rant, at the valet stand, which is staffed by a col­lie. The col­lie hands the car keys to Carolyn, who, in a fit of anger, throws them across the street. The col­lie ea­gerly fetches them. Bo­jack ac­cuses Carolyn of “fetishiz­ing her own sad­ness” (pla­gia­rized from his man­ager, who lobbed the same in­sult at Bo­jack). Carolyn throws her keys again. The col­lie fetches them. Bo­jack goes on to fire Carolyn and stalks off. Obliv­i­ous to her bro­ken heart, the col­lie sim­ply hopes for an­other toss. Life, in other words.

In the trailer for sea­son four, Princess Carolyn says, “The world is dark and scary and full of creepy clown den­tists, but we’ve gotta push through and hope there’s bet­ter stuff ahead.” Solid ad­vice, grav­i­tas and an ab­surd joke in the mid­dle—ev­ery­thing I love about Bo­jack Horse­man.—

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