I am honestly a huge fan of BoJack Horseman. If you glance at the first What I’ve Watched article, you would notice that I recommended it as my TV Pick of the Week. I loved the show, its dark humour, and I even said “BoJack Horseman is a terrific show, with so much room to grow in its recently announced second season. I can’t wait”. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and euphoria when I spotted a Christmas Special on Netflix. My expectations were sky-high, and to be honest, that may be the reason I am dissatisfied with this episode.
The Christmas Special follows BoJack and his lodger Todd, played superbly as usual by Will Arnett and Aaron Paul respectively. However, the episode consists mainly of scenes from the show Horsin’ Around, a fictional program that launched the equestrian alcoholic to fame. The episode follows ‘the horse’ as he tries to convince his youngest adoptee, Sabrina, that Christmas is the most magical time of the year. This is where the problems began. Since there is only about 4 minutes maximum set in the present day, we don’t even get a reference to all the excellent secondary characters we met during the series, which really seems like a missed opportunity. We have never seen a full episode of Horsin’ Around, so I really didn’t care about any of the characters, and the episode felt boring because of it. Nothing that happened interested me in any way because I simply didn’t care which way the plot went. The characters were stereotypical, and the humour wasn’t as sharp and original as before. The episode lacked the quirkiness of the previous 12, the kooky characters and bizarre occurrences. We didn’t get to see much of BoJack or Todd, and it felt like a huge leap away from the normal.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, and at points I felt that the episode’s message was genuinely touching. Of course, how could I forget, who doesn’t love Will Arnett? He is solid as usual in this episode, and I’m really liking Aaron Paul as Todd in this series.
Unfortunately, my expectations for the BoJack Horseman Christmas Special were too high, which has led to my disappointment with the episode. It tries to poke fun at generic Christmas episodes, but ends up being just that – a generic Christmas episode. I still love BoJack Horseman, and I’ll continue to watch the show, but it felt too detached from what had been brilliantly crafted in the first series.
After writing this review, I decided to sit down and watch the BoJack Horseman Christmas Special again, to see if my opinions have changed, and honestly, they have. Below I have listed the positives and negatives I found with the episode.
+ Present day scenes/commentary from BoJack and Todd, and the development of their friendship in the final scene
+ Voice acting – particularly Kristen Schaal as Sabrina/Sarah Lynn
+ The character of Ethan and the audience’s reaction to his jokes
+ The audience’s reactions: “That’s my favourite line!” “Yeah, she said it again!” or my particular favourite: “He’s doing the thing he said he wasn’t going to do!”
+ Ethan’s ‘sensible winter socks’ cracked me up
+ The more touching moments – such as the letter, who actually wrote it? Also when BoJack says “I’m putting people first”
– Contradiction – says how bad Christmas specials are but ends up being just that
– Laugh track – funny the first few times but got very annoying very fast
– By setting the episode in Horsin’ Around, we lose the show’s trademark humour, and all the great secondary characters
– Goober’s introduction was confusing and jarring as we had no idea what the joke was, so when the audience laughed I felt very confused
– The whole “I’ve heard of…” gag was only funny the first time
– Since 90% of the episode is set outside the character’s world there isn’t a lot by means of character development, like there was in the first series
– The “I’m glad your parents died” was supposed to be touching (I think?), but didn’t feel funny or touching
– Ethan and Olivia paled in comparison to Sabrina
Although some of my negative points refer to the fact the episode is set in Horsin’ Around, you can hardly argue by saying “it’s meant to be unfunny! It’s meant to be cheesy!” because a show like BoJack Horseman doesn’t suit a full episode set in the sitcom. It felt awkward and jarring at times, and although viewing it for a second time has made me like it more, I still feel a little let down. However, the episode was only made as a surprise, and I loved the fact that there was no advertising, and at the end of the day, a surprise episode of BoJack Horseman is better than no episode of BoJack Horseman. Roll on series 2, I say!
I give BoJack Horseman: Sabrina’s Christmas Wish 7/10.