Season 4 of BoJack Horseman premiered July 22. (Courtesy of Metro.com)
When “Bojack Horseman” first started out, it sounded like a terrible idea. A ‘90s sitcom star going about his daily life as a depressed, cynical, alcoholic and washed up actor who has not done anything relevant in two decades, and he is an anthropomorphic horse. It sounded completely silly, but for three seasons the showrunners proved that initial assumption wrong. Season four carries on that tradition, though it is beginning to show cracks.
One of the things that made “BoJack Horseman” such a unique show was its willingness to go where others shows would not. It was honest with its audience in a darkly satirical way. Whether it was handling drug addiction in a non-after school special sort of way where it showed the drastic consequences of it like the season three episode “That’s Too Much, Man!” or its depiction of how rape allegations are handled by society in the dark, satirical and intelligent season two episode “Hank After Dark,” “BoJack Horseman” always showed its teeth.
Now those teeth have been retracted, and it has exchanged its uniqueness for the exact same tone and feeling as multiple other animated programs. The best example of this is in one of season four’s main story lines where Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) runs for governor. There is no witty or honest commentary about politics or anything like that; it is just another spoof of the 2016 election that every comedy program from “The Simpsons” to “Saturday Night Live” has already done. Not to mention, “BoJack Horseman” is late to the game on this one by almost one year.
There are a few times that it seems like the show is going to take a stab at some touchy topics, like racism, dementia and gun control, but these are either underdeveloped or just used for funny but not very clever punchlines.
Not only has the quality of the satire deteriorated, but the overall writing that the show so proudly and superbly flaunted is also going downhill. The well-written episodes that were told with a dark sincerity are now gone and have been replaced by episodes where bad thing after bad thing befalls the characters to garner sympathy for them or to influence their progression. That is not good writing; that is lazy and manipulative writing.
Even in a show where humans and anthropomorphic animals live side by side, there still managed to be a strange sense of realism and brutal honesty in the show. That is gone now too. The once restrained humor and mostly restrained storylines are now off the walls. In its place are supercharged wacky antics, obvious jokes, rushed and unoriginal storylines, and even a character played by Matthew Broderick who is just overly cruel and borderline evil.
It is important to mention that these aforementioned aspects are not necessarily badly written or poorly executed, but it does display a lack of creativity. The first three seasons were something different whereas season four feels generic. The show gave its audience something new, and now it is giving them something they already had multiple of.
To be fair, season four does include a number of things that show promise. The character of Todd (Aaron Paul) gets some development, which is one of the few storylines in the season that meets the writing standards of the first three seasons, and it finally feels like the character of BoJack (Will Arnett) is finally making some amount of progression. There are still a lot of good jokes, with the humor based around the animal characteristics of the anthropomorphic characters being some of the most memorable in the show’s four-year run.
Season four of “BoJack Horseman” is not bad, but it is showing warning signs of becoming what people originally feared it would be. There are still a number of promising details, but the season overall was not up to par.
Final Grade: B-