Editors’ Update: “Bojack Horseman” won the Annecy International Animated Film Festival award for the episode “Fish Out of Water” this week, and to show appreciation the team created a fun FYC image — see below.
For the past two years one of the most critically acclaimed animated TV shows, Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman,” has been completely snubbed by the Emmys. The show takes place in a world in which anthropomorphic animals co-exist along with regular humans, and focuses on a horse named “Bojack” (voiced by Will Arnett in the best performance of his career) who was once the star of a very famous TV show called “Horsin’ Around,” a fictional sitcom that parodies shows like “Full House” and “Home Improvement.” In the present day, he is washed up and his best friend Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) lives with him.
In “Bojack Horseman” Season 3, he tried to make a career comeback by receiving an Oscar nomination for his performance (secretly created entirely out of CGI) in the biopic “Secretariat.” Unlike most animated comedy shows where we see a generic happy ending, Bojack ends up getting snubbed by the Oscars, losing his friend Todd and his agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and winds up all alone and lost in life. The show gets into many darker themes, such as depression, self-loathing, greed, and the tragic effect that all those things combined can have on a person’s life. It also has received praise for its satire, dealing with issues ranging from sexism (“Hank After Dark”), to abortion (“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew”), to the farming industry (“Chickens”), to awards shows like the Oscars (“It’s You”). The production design by Lisa Hannawalt is also magnificent, packed with tons of cleverly satirical detail that will have you constantly rewinding to catch everything that she draws into the show.
This year, the series submitted for Best Animated Program the experimental, instant-classic “Fish Out of Water” episode. Since most of the half-hour takes place underwater, no words are spoken, and the episode makes the bold move of telling its story through visuals. The story is that Bojack goes to an underwater film festival to campaign for his Oscar nomination, but he mistakenly gets on the wrong bus and witnesses a male seahorse give birth to multiple babies. One of the babies is accidentally left with Bojack, who then tries to return it to its father. He also tries to make amends with a director whom he unintentionally cost the job of directing “Secretariat” the previous season. The episode currently is the #1 best of the entire series according to IMDB, and was even ranked by Time magazine as the #1 best TV episode of all of 2016.
“Fish Out of Water” was written by Elijah Aron and Jordan Young, who also penned the show’s best Emmy submission for Best Comedy Writing, the season’s penultimate episode “That’s Too Much Man!” It also happens to be the show’s second highest-rated episode on IMDB, and deals with Bojack reeling from the dual blows of missing out his Oscar nomination and finally losing his friend Todd. He goes to his former “Horsin’ Around” co-star Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), who has been trying to stay sober following many years of drugs, booze and sex, and convinces her to go on a bender with him. They crash an AA meeting, Bojack tries to talk to his former Oscar campaign manager, and they even go to stalk Bojack’s ex-friend’s daughter, whom Bojack had hit on the previous season. Eventually, Bojack and Sarah end up in a planetarium, where Bojack wonders what their purpose is in the universe, and Sarah passes away in his arms from the effects of a drug overdose. The episode is funny, surreal, and ultimately tragic. Even though no animated episode has ever been nominated for the Emmy in the general category of writing, the way “That’s Too Much, Man” balances so many different tones, emotions and ideas is exactly the kind of extraordinary achievement that the Emmys exist to recognize, and to snub one of the best written episodes of any TV show in the past year would be an absolute disgrace.
The series had already received many accolades from other awards groups in its time, such as the Gold Derby Awards and two Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Animated Series. Earlier this year, “Fish Out of Water” itself was nominated for the WGA Award for Television Writing in Animation, only to lose to another “Bojack” episode, “Stop the Presses” written by Joe Lawson. The show has been nominated by the Annie Awards for the past two years in the category of Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production. And Alison Brie was nominated at the Annies for the most recent season for her performance as Bojack’s friend Diane Nguyen.
The time has come for the Emmys to recognize one of the new century’s most intelligent and heartbreaking TV shows, animated or otherwise. Just see what these critics have to say about the brilliance of “Bojack Horseman”:
Daniel Fienberg (Hollywood Reporter): “Netflix’s ‘BoJack Horseman’ evolved from frothy talking-animal Hollywood satire to character-rich treatise on depression in its first season, deepened and darkened into one of TV’s best shows in its second season and gallops into its third season with a profound confidence.”
Darren Franich (Entertainment Weekly): “It’s an unforgivable cliche to compare a great TV show to ‘Sopranos,’ but ‘BoJack’ scratches at several of the great ideas that motivated that series: The idea that any kind of happiness is a brief illusion, the Therapy Age urge toward self-realization mixed with the darkly comic belief that the only realization is that you don’t like that self.”
Liz Shannon Miller (IndieWire): “When you look for beauty in life, the most rewarding moments are the unexpected. And for the third season in a row, the Hollywood comedy ‘BoJack Horseman’ has surprised us.”
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