Horseman Episode 02 Review
Featuring the literal Navy SEAL.
Why I watched it:
I guess I'm just horsing around.
I will repeat this joke every week until it gets funny.
How it works:
The show wants to be satirical without putting in the effort to make a more compelling story than a strawman facing off against an asshole, which is a trap that so many shows fall into. This is assuming that the show is actually supposed to be satire and isn't pulling a double reacharound, pretending to be satire in order to show that shows which focus on satire are intentionally terrible, but just as every adult cartoon has to be a sitcom comedy (unlike in Japan where cartoons can be made about any fucking subject), every adult cartoon in the New Tens has to be satirical.
I guess this is due to the nature of adult cartoons being made for a specific type of audience, namely young Western males who probably use the Web to spout their opinions on things - hey, where did my credibility go? Oh wait, I don't need it, I have my broad brush. And in spouting these opinions, they tend to consume media that follows their viewpoint, which is why rednecks watch Duck Dynasty and why new liberals watch adult cartoons. I'm going to need that brush handy for the rest of my review, thanks.
Let's not put the cart before the whore. Bojack sleeps with one, finds his friends pissing him off, argues with a seal about some muffins, makes himself look like an asshole on a news show, goes on Peanut Butter and Jelly (the bara dog's shitty reality show), and rants about the soldiers for a few minutes before we find out about his abusive parents. The episode assumes we're equally as interested in Bojack's opinions about the United States Armed Forces as we are about his moral ability to call dibs on a box of muffins somebody left outside the washroom. Never go full Stallman, Bojack.
The last half of the episode exists to make Bojack look like a twat who can't control himself, and the first half does too. Actually, he's just a twat overall. If I keep whoring around his characterisation, I don't think it will tell us anything more about the character besides that he is a self-absorbed, sometimes ignorant asshole surrounded by people who either take advantage of him or are too good for him and are sticking around because they get paid to do work that he's too lazy to do. We're not supposed to like Bojack. If anything, we're supposed to laugh at him, which makes it fucking strange why we're expected to care about his opinions on things.
What Bojack says about the United States isn't important, and actually distracts from the absurdity of the situation that he's arguing about a box of muffins on a reality show, ate another box, and had to give away a leather sack of used hamburger buns to a literal Navy SEAL. When a show takes the piss out of itself as often as this one does, it's jarring, and indeed inappropriate, to expect us to start shooting serious scenes in a gambit to teach us the character's opinions on things, because expecting us to care about Bojack is like expecting us to care about the ten-year-old maniac on Xbox Live.
I'm aware that the show could be taking the piss out of itself too, when it displays Bojack's rant about the armed forces right before cutting to a dog in a bucket, so you could say that is was never really about what he said but is instead being shown in the context of a narrative, seeing as it takes the piss out of HIM enough to talk to Diane (the human nerd) about his shitty childhood. I guess this also extends to him ranting on cable news, though if the show is so desperate to hammer in that he's such an unlikeable character, all it has to do is show him talking to somebody for one minute, and let us see for ourselves.
What I felt:
Maybe I have a case of bad second episode syndrome, where a good first episode makes the second episode look like garbage. I liked all of the little details that the animators continue to put in, like Mr. Peanut Butter (who is probably the secret antagonist of this show, based on his almost malicious stupidity combined with his uncharacteristic strength) panting when he gets scratched, or having catty Princess Caroline hanging a mouse toy while running on a treadmill, or even having one character eat a toaster strudel, Bojack saying there was only three left, then have three more characters eat a toaster strudel separately with Bojack doing nothing to stop them and yet still having Bojack bitch about there being no more toaster strudels. Like I said in episode 01, it's these profoundly stupid details that tells you that this show has some potential to reward an audience that cares about it, and that it's implying that you have to give it time to grow.
I dislike a show that wastes its time on subjects that distract from what it really wants to focus on - in this case, a character-driven drama about an asshole of a main character getting his shit kicked in all the time by people who are just as petty as him. If the animators feel a need to shoehorn in inappropriate satire, or tell jokes that aren't particularly funny or relevant to the plot, or continue to assert that Bojack is an asshole despite any reasonable audience already catching on, then it would do them some good to focus on doing one thing really well than trying to be good at everything.
I guess it's the stigma that adult cartoons have nowadays, feeling a need to be "funny" instead of being "worthwhile" or even "entertaining" to watch. It's a bit like how video games have a need to be "fun" instead of telling a story or exploring a unique atmosphere, or how visual art needs to be technically well-constructed instead of expressing a message or showcasing a unique design. Granted, it's a very good thing if a cartoon, game, anime, or picture can do all of these things - but if you can't do it, and aren't willing to get better at it, then you shouldn't until you are and you can.
This is not to say that Bojack Horseman will not get better at telling jokes or sharing opinions - it got four seasons so I assume it will at least try. I will say that until you are able to, for instance, make fluid animations, then you shouldn't try to tell slapstick, or if you make a black comedy show then you should be willing to have directing that picks up the pace instead of drawing out the joke for too long. You need to know what you do well, while you're secretly practicing at what you suck at, and capitalise on that until you get good at what you're not good at.
And I can tell that this stigma is weighing down heavily on the show, because what it wants isn't always what the producers or the networks wants. The same way that a licensed show has to effectively be a commercial sometimes, a show commissioned by a distributor has to meet arbitrary market demands at the expense of quality. So while Bojack Horseman doesn't tell funny jokes, it must feel the profit-driven pressure to tell these jokes in the hopes that it captures a dumber audience that doesn't care about the nuances of drama.
I might be a bit too cynical to expect that a brand new show fresh out of the gate has to be perfect, despite the first two episodes being of decent quality, especially with a show that seems to want a hell of a lot more episodes in order to say what it wants to. I will say though, that if I don't point out these flaws, then creators reading my words will not be able to improve their work, and the whole writing endeavour will be meaningless.
What I learned:
It's easy to say we all know what satire is: it's taking the position of an alternate viewpoint in order to show how absurd it is. There are exceptions, and there are things that look like satire but actually aren't (Poe's law), but that's the gist of it. When this episode takes the position of people who mindlessly glorify the United States forces, or the position or newscasters which stir up controversy in order to increase their relevance in the public image, or the people who feed off that controversy, or the petty people who try to cause controversy, then that's proper satire.
The effectiveness of that satire in this episode varies, as it serves a few purposes. When the news show builds Bojack's character by making him call in and argue on live television, it serves the purpose of character development (despite us knowing he was argumentative, though I suppose we're expected to think that he's even more so). When the seal argues with Bojack on live television, it's an example of how Bojack keeps getting shit on by people who are even more petty than him, yet he still argues with them.
Satirical shows don't have an obligation to be satirical all the time, and it's this flexibility which makes a show like South Park the defining example of satire in animation. In addition, non-satirical shows don't have to stay that way forever, as there are a great deal of instances where shows like The Simpsons and Futurama pulled off satire well (though more often doing it badly). It helps for the show to stick to their strengths, and venture forth into genres that they're not familiar with once they know they can pull it off well.
Makes his back hurt - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on September 4, 2016!
When I was a little filly and my show was burning down... to the ground...