Oh, the Zoo-manity!

Patience may be a virtue, but it is not always a virtue that gets rewarded. How many times have we sat through a television or book series that was rough going at first, but with a promise of better things to come that never arrived? Sometimes, though, an initial investment pays off. Such is the case with BoJack Horseman. After watching the first season, I gave it some tempered praise, saying that while the cast was terrific, the show itself wasn't quite inspiring cartwheels.

I didn't mention it then, but part of the reason for that is that my increasing impatience with misanthropic comedy. Asshole-curmudgeon-with-a-heart-of-gold-or-whatever as protagonist is a tough wire to balance a show on. For every Black Books, there are ten that get overly cranky and turn me off. It's the entire reason I gave up on Peep Show and Last Man on Earth. The strong voiceover work and unique premise of the BoJack Horseman universe kept me watching, but if Season 2 had been a continuation of trying to wring laughs solely out of BoJack's personality flaws, this show would probably be joining many others in the television graveyard.

Instead, it built on the foundation of Season 1, and started to expand. Continuity is not something I generally expect from a cartoon, but BoJack Horseman never forgets what's already happened to these characters, meaning that they can grow and change in really believable ways, since we have a past to refer back to. Even the opening credits, which show brief glimpses of secondary and tertiary characters in the background, subtly changes as people (and animals) enter and leave BoJack's sphere.

But what's really incredible about Season 2 is how effortlessly they ramped up both the comedy and the tragedy. This is simultaneously one of the funniest and one of the most depressing shows I've seen this year. Both the jokes and the storylines about heartache have matured. BoJack and Diane both struggle with self-loathing and an inability to derive happiness out of life, even when things are going swimmingly. BoJack has scored the lead in the Secretariat movie, but worries that he's not talented enough to pull it off (worries that are not entirely unfounded). Diane is feeling aimless and unimportant, wanting to contribute something to society, but being stymied at every turn.

Episode 7 ("Hank After Dark") is one of the most vicious skewerings of what women who attempt to call out the predatory actions of famous men can expect in return, and ended on a note that chilled my blood. In the very next episode ("Let's Find Out"), I was back to belly laughing at the antics during Mr. Peanutbutter's game show. All the characters get a chance to shine, from Princess Carolyn to Todd, and BoJack even manages to find the chance at love with Wanda, an owl who just emerged from a 30-year coma, and thus doesn't know anything about his history. Wanda is voiced by Lisa Kudrow, who I want to single out, because she knocks it completely out the park as a person (well, owl) who wants to make BoJack happy, but can't figure out how to bring that about.

There has been a wealth of great TV in 2015, and I can already tell that narrowing shows down to a top five for the State of the Art post at the end of the year is going to be torture. Watching Season 2 of BoJack Horseman is not going to help the process. The show may have started off as clever, but nothing special, but has somehow morphed into one of the smartest, funniest, and introspective things on the air.

BoJack Horseman - Season 2: A


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