The golden age of television has given us a lot of gems. Some, like the consistently genius Rick And Morty, provide intellectual conundrums, Easter eggs, and philosophical musings. Others, like Game Of Thrones, offer big spectacles, along with plenty of material ripe for fans to pick apart.
But my favorite series are those that are emotionally resonant. Mad Men never failed to make me feel, just as its spinoff Better Call Saul continues to do. You’re The Worst is one of a new breed of comedies that have emotional moments that are not cloying or contrived.
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And into that mix comes Bojack Horseman, an animated series that never stops making me laugh with animal puns and visual gags, while continually punching me in the gut.
When the fourth season was released on September 8, I binge watched its 12 episodes. And although I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, my fears were unfounded. It’s the best season yet of a show that continues to surprise.
What’s most surprising is not that it keeps the jokes coming, including season-long setups that play out in the most satisfying way. Nor is it the fact that it remains emotionally resonant. Rather, it’s that its depth of feeling surpasses most – if not all – dramas. This Is Us, Big Little Lies, and The Handmaid’s Tale all impressed and were rewarded for it at the Emmys.
But for me, Bojack Horseman is second to none, and here’s why.
There’s no destination
Life has no destinations. We don’t live until we reach our goals and then calmly move on to the next world. But that’s how most TV portrays it. Everyone is working towards some sort of resolution. Whether it’s the destruction of a particular evil, a happy ever after ending, or the success or failure of a rebellion against an oppressive system. They all have a destination, even if sometimes the characters fail or the “bad guys” win.
One of the reasons Mad Men was so compelling is because you never knew where it was going. You could not know that because it was ultimately going nowhere. In that way, it was as true a portrayal of human life as we’d ever seen.
Bojack Horseman takes it even further. What goals its characters have changed along the way, often due to them realizing there’s nothing at the end of their respective rainbows. No one is going anywhere. They’re just trying to be happy.
Bojack epitomises this, with the character constantly aware that his fame means nothing, and that even when he gets what he wants, he either screws it up or finds that it doesn’t make his life better.
The other characters around him follow similar paths, never getting where they think they’re going, and only sometimes finding happiness along the way.
This is the only way art can truly reflect life. A story needs a plot – but that plot does not have to follow a pre-ordained route. That plot can simply be the things that happen to a character, sometimes interesting, sometimes shocking, but always painfully real.
For this reason, Bojack Horseman is more emotionally resonant than anything else on TV. As long as this does not change, it will never fail to connect us to the feelings at the foundation of a real life.