BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) is ready to end his life but stops at the sight of horses running wild as Nina Simone’s ‘Stars’ plays. This is the beautiful final moment that closed out BoJack Horseman season three. The show’s creator, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, tells LWLies that there will be a payoff in the upcoming fourth season. “You will see the immediate aftermath of that scene,” he says. “We’re not going to come back, say, three years later and no one is ever going to talk about it again. There are lasting ramifications to what we saw at the end of season three and we use that as our starting point.”
Last season left BoJack at a crossroads, having ruined his best chance at being content with his life in the shadow of fame – again – and facing the possibility that he might have a teenage daughter. The show started out as a dark comedy about a celebrity horse who struggles with matching the success of his popular ’90s sitcom, Horsin’ Around. It’s full of puns, visual gags and absurd jokes about Hollywood. But over the course of three seasons, BoJack Horseman began to dig deeper in its contemplation of depression in the shadow of success. If a cartoon celebrity horse can’t find happiness, can anyone?
Bob-Waksberg reveals that he is constantly blown away by the different ways fans interpret the show. “We leave enough ambiguity and we try to make it as rich and as well realised as we can with enough space to breathe so people can get their own stuff out of it. What you are when you went through the machine affects what you are when you come out of the machine.” An emotional ambush occurs with BoJack Horseman because you never expect an animated show to be so profound. “It makes you more vulnerable and open to things,” Bob-Waksberg says. “I think it turns off the part of your brain that over-analyses things or finds faults or nitpicks. When you enter that spirit you go with the emotions and we take you to very dark places.”
It’s a marvel that a show like BoJack Horseman is now entering its fourth season, and Bob-Waksberg believes its success owes a lot to the continued support of Netflix. “BoJack Horseman would have been cancelled in the middle of its first season of broadcast television. It would have never been able to play out its initial season arc if it was on a traditional network at any other time other than right now. Even right now, I don’t think it would have lasted if not for the Netflix model of watching all the episodes and you binge through it, and even if you’re not into it a first, you keep going and discover how much you like it.”
BoJack Horseman has opened doors for Bob-Waksberg, who worked on the script for The Lego Movie Sequel, but he laughs off the suggestion that his life could start to mirror BoJack Horseman. “Maybe I’m naive. I feel very secure in myself and my life. If I never make a show as good or as popular as BoJack Horseman, that’s okay, I’ll do other things. I don’t tie my own ego to my success in my career. There’s a danger that BoJack Horseman could become my own Horsin’ Around, the first line in my obituary will be the thing I’m most known for but I’m not haunted by that.”
To stay grounded, Bob-Waksberg takes inspiration from Aaron Paul, who voices Todd, “He’s someone who is very connected with one character, Jesse Pinkman [on Breaking Bad], and is aware that is going to be what he is for the rest of his life. He’ll play other parts and other roles that are as big, or might not, but he is very comfortable with people, still, after the show has ended, coming up and telling him how much they love Breaking Bad, and he loves it too and is very proud of it. If Jesse Pinkman can deal with people yelling out ‘hey, bitch’ at him everywhere he goes and keep a smile, and genuinely enjoy and love it, I think there’s hope for all of us.”
BoJack Horseman arrived a year after Netflix launched their assault on the television industry, and Bob-Waksberg thinks this disruption to the status quo has been a necessary one. “You have some people complaining now that there is too much TV or that we’re at peak TV, it’s unsustainable, and in some ways I understand those concerns but I think if you are used to watching everything, like if you’re a TV critic, then you need to change the way you work because it’s just not feasible anymore. But I don’t think there is anyone that would say ‘there’s too much music this year’ or ‘there’s too many books’. Yes, there is a lot of something but that just means there’s more for everybody.”
He continues, “The more TV shows there are, the more voices that can speak, the more showrunners you have. I’d love to see more women of colour running shows, more transgender people running shows, more women in general. But I think there are so many more interesting stories to uncover and I’m very excited to see what happens there and Netflix has been at the forefront of that as part of a larger trend, which on the whole is a good thing.”
Netflix haven’t committed to a fifth season of BoJack Horseman yet, and if the third season cliffhanger is any indication, the fourth could be just as vague. Then again, perhaps BoJack’s path to accepting his place in the world has only just begun.
BoJack Horseman season four is on Netflix from 8 September, 2017.
Published 3 Sep 2017
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