Sunday, 17 December 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: BOJACK HORSEMAN


53. “Mr Peanutbutter’s so stupid he doesn’t realise how miserable he should be. I envy that.”



17/12/2017




It has been over a week now since I saw what is, for me, one of the defining moments of television I have seen this year – the fact it was first shown last year means I should have come across it earlier.

It involved a character whose self-worth had dropped to zero – he was told, by his friends, on many occasions, that his own destructive behaviour, which has led him to lead a lonely life, cannot be blamed on others, for it is just who he is. Now, with this behaviour leading to the death of a friend, he drives to the desert, in order to kill himself. He puts his foot down on the accelerator pedal, and lays back in his seat. Something stops him – putting on the brakes, he gets out of his car, and looks across the desert to see a pack of wild horses, running to... who knows. For the first time in a very long time, the character has hope in his eyes. All the while, the music playing has been Nina Simone’s live cover of Janis Ian’s song “Stars” – “We always / We always / We always have a story.” As the credits begin, Simone’s final piano crescendo dies down – “The latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with / And the latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with / And the latest story that I know is the one that I’m supposed to go out with…” The record ends, the credits end, the episode ends.


I was devastated – I am still trying to find a copy of Nina Simone’s 1976 Live at Montreux album. For all the decades “The Simpsons” proved that animated TV shows can have emotional plots and situations, it is “BoJack Horseman” that, in unrestricted space afforded it by streaming on Netflix, transcended the sitcom altogether, into comic drama. “BoJack Horseman” was a show that initially received questionable reviews, as it was not clear why we should follow a has-been former sitcom actor who hates himself, but treating character development like a drama, while continuing to treat the comedy like a sitcom, is something that makes the regular sitcom format stale. Not resetting the status quo at the end of every episode helps too, especially when you turn to the binge viewing that Netflix encourages. (Having said that, this paragraph took four hours to write, because research turned to enjoyment - just go watch the show.)

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