The eponymous antihero of BoJack Horseman is lonely and desperate for approval, prone to narcissistic monologues, angry outbursts, substance abuse: Bad Behaviour in general. Like a toddler having a tantrum, he wants attention. Like a toddler having a tantrum, he’s myopic to a world beyond his own needs and feelings, but deep down he wants what we all want – to be happy and fulfilled. The central question at the heart of this animated sitcom is whether BoJack is capable of changing his life for the better; of behaving properly, sitting up straight and taking a deep breath instead of throwing a fit. What might that happiness and fulfillment look like? And how might one attain it?
He has at least one reference point. As the star of a cheerful family sitcom back in the nineties, BoJack has tasted the sweet possibility of heartwarming mishaps amidst rosy equilibrium promised by much popular television. Horsin’ Around, which follows a young bachelor horse who is forced to re-evaluate his priorities when he agrees to raise three orphaned children, is filled with jokes like this:
‘Ugh… Mondays,’ says one of the orphaned children [cue live studio audience laughter].
‘Good morning to you too,’ says BoJack’s character.
‘Hay?! Where? I love hay!’
Fast-forward twenty years, and things aren’t so simple. Horsin’ Around has run its course and BoJack is a vaguely remembered fading star, living alone in an apartment much too big for someone so lonely. He’s a washed-up alcoholic, increasingly jaded about Hollywood and his place in it, and obsessed with Horsin’ Around. When we meet him in Season 1, BoJack sits watching it over and over again. He’s fixated on the show – not only because he made it in his prime but because it represents everything that is missing from his life now.