Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: the BoJack Horseman episode that stuck with me.
Most year-end lists that feature the remarkable Netflix series BoJack Horseman have focused on the third season’s dazzling fourth episode “Fish Out of Water,” which has virtually no dialogue as the title character takes an emotional roller coaster under the sea. A few mentions have also been afforded to “That’s Too Much, Man!” which depicts a bender gone horribly wrong between two self-destructive friends.
Both those episodes deserve the accolades they’ve been given. But equally astounding was “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” which comes five episodes after the former and two before the latter. (Incoming: sentence I never thought I’d write.) This episode is to BoJack Horseman what “The Suitcase” was to Mad Men, and the two hit with a familiar, devastating force.
Diversity of many varieties was on the brain for many spheres of television this year. Network executives, showrunners, critics and audiences alike engaged in thoughtful discourse about what it means to make diverse television in 2015. There are more places than ever to watch TV, and more places than ever to distribute it. It makes logical sense that TV offerings this year would touch on a wider range of issues, feature a wider range of character types and demographics and explore a wider range of stories and universes than ever before.
But with great power comes great responsibility. My favorite shows in 2015 were the ones that used the expanding boundaries of what’s possible on television to their fullest advantage, crafting rich and surprising worlds, telling stories that dovetail with the themes, ideas and controversies guiding our daily lives. In relatively arbitrary order of preference (who’s to say whether a dark comedy about an animated horse is superior to one of the most beloved drama series of all time?), here are my ten favorite shows of 2015.
Bojack (left, voiced by Will Arnett) and Diane (right, voiced by Alison Brie) in Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman.” Photo courtesy of Netflix.
BoJack Horseman is about BoJack Horseman, the washed-up star of a popular 90s sitcom who lives in Los Angeles, spending his days grappling with the reality of his dwindling fame and chronically minimal self-esteem. He has a cavernous home, a loyal roommate, an enterprising agent, no friends, inconsistent job prospects and a streak of self-destructive behavior that keeps his closest acquaintances and confidants at a remove. He’s sad, lonely, bitter, sarcastic, self-serving, unfaithful and deeply, painfully, perpetually depressed.
If he were the subject of a live-action comedy or drama, you might find him deplorable, or at least unwatchable. But the key is, he’s not just a man. He’s also a horse. And the show around him is a horse of a different color.
Listen to this week’s episode of The M&M Report here.
This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I tackled The Lego Movie and The Americans with special guest Heather Mongilio. All three of us loved the movie, and Heather and I are really digging the second season of FX’s romantic 80s spy thriller. Catch up on season two here.
Bonus: Devin Mitchell unleashed a rant against winter weather in the latest installment of Devin Doesn’t Like Things.
Tune in next time for discussion of The Good Wife and more.
The Lego Movie practices what it preaches: creativity, imagination, originality, distinctiveness and daring. That it accomplishes such feats while reinvigorating the endlessly profitable Lego brand and providing a showcase for famous actors in uncharacteristically self-deprecating guises and reaffirming that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are two of the most valuable assets to mainstream Hollywood filmmaking is nothing short of a miracle. The Lego Movie appeals directly to our most basic desires for boisterous spectacle without sacrificing intelligence, wit or pure sensational pleasure.
And now, the story of an Arrested Development fan/admirer who likes the fourth season more than some people and less than others.
I binged-watched the first three (and, until 2013, only) seasons of Arrested Development over the summer, marveling at the volume and velocity of the gags, the spiraling awfulness of the main characters, the casual brilliance of the social criticism, the comedic transcendence of the actors in peak form. The first two seasons whizzed by in a nearly flawless blaze of acidic, frequently self-referential hilarity. The third season, while funny and arguably more absurd and labyrinthine than the first two, seemed more desperate to be liked than its predecessors, and the comedy suffered as a result. (The metacommentary began to swallow the show’s plot, and the less said about the “For British Eyes Only” arc, the better.) Nonetheless, I finished my binge satisfied with the fruits of my “labor.” (The “Next Episode” button doesn’t press itself, after all.)
I started the first season right around the time that the fourth season dropped on Netflix. I didn’t have a chance to decide whether the show’s three seasons were sufficient before another one was in the works. But when I finished “Development Arrested,” which mirrors the pilot and offers a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the saga of Annyong, I didn’t find myself clamoring for more. Especially with a show as densely packed as Arrested Development, there’s value in concentrating the brilliance.
Yesterday, I unveiled a list of my ten favorite shows of 2013. As I argued in my piece on Wednesday, though, this year’s television can’t be summed up in terms of just ten shows. Here, then, is a snapshot of other things I enjoyed on TV in 2013.