It may be strange to type – but the most devastating and on-point Hollywood satire stars an animated horse. BoJack Horseman mercilessly skewers the capricious Hollywood system, the clearest successor to Altman’s The Player. Even more – the show, now entering its third season, has developed into a tragic-comedy on the failures (even in success) of its lead: former sitcom-star BoJack Horseman. At its core, the show is a bleak existential comedy on the horrors of getting what you want and, worse, being yourself.
The third season finds BoJack on the cusp of regaining his super-stardom. He has a new film, Secretariat, set to hit theaters, and there’s even talk of an Oscar nomination. Yet during a grueling press tour, BoJack grows nostalgic for his old life and begins to self-sabotage his rekindled career. It’s not all doom and gloom though – BoJack still mixes in the best absurdist comedy on TV. My favorite bit in the premiere involves a pigeon trying to jump off a balcony to her death – only to discover, to her dismay that she can fly.
At the BoJack Horseman premiere, series creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, alongside stars Will Arnett (BoJack Horseman), Alison Brie (Diane Nguyen), Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Peanutbutter) & Aaron Paul (Todd Chavez) discussed the upcoming third season, what drew them to the show, their own tragic Hollywood stories, and the key to being a game show host. For highlights from the event, read below:
- Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg on the overarching theme of the third season: “Here’s a guy (BoJack) who’s thinking about his legacy. [He’s] at a crossroads in his career – thinking about what he’s going to do next, how he’s going to move forward… He’s thinking about what effect he’s had on both the world at large and the people in his life. That was the genesis of a lot of the episodes for the season.
- Will Arnett revealed what initially drew him to the show. “I think the first time I read the script it was a shortened version. It was a pilot presentation. It was just really funny at first… and then it destroyed my life.” Bob-Waksberg jumped in – adding, “It’s funny because we pitched the whole season to Netflix; but we never pitched it to the actors. We just sent them the first script. So with every progressive table read as the season got darker and darker, there were moments where the actors would look around and go ‘What did we sign up for. It’s not going to keep going like this, is it?’”
- Alison Brie lamented Diane’s downward spiral over the course of the series: “I think Diane has a lot of problems figuring herself out” she said, “In Season 1, I think she really knew who she wanted to be. She had a really hard line on how she defined herself but then realized that she wasn’t really that person. So now she’s just trying to be herself more, be in the moment, embrace the loser that she is…”
What makes Paul F Tompkins the perfect game show host like his character Mr. Peanutbutter? “I think it’s that I’m an enthusiastic person and that I’m enthusiastic about people” Tompkins opined, “I think that one of the amazing things about game show hosts is that they treat everyone as if they are equally fascinating, when in fact very few people who show up on game shows are interesting. If you’re a contestant on a game show, you have to give a fun fact about yourself and then Pat Sajak or whomever has to go down and say ‘You like thimbles… how did you even… we’re so glad you’re here. We’re so happy you’ve ordained to appear on the Wheel of Fortune.’”
- Tompkins on what BoJack Horseman gets right about Hollywood: “I think in general everyone’s freaking out all the time. It’s never enough. There’s a lack of perspective. It always seems like there’s this idea in your head that you should be doing better than what you’re doing, that things should be better. Of course — there’s always someone looking at your life going ‘I wish I had that person’s life.’ It’s a huge lack of perspective that you have when you live in this bubble.”
- BoJack Horseman isn’t just a Hollywood satire though. Per star Will Arnett: “There are a lot of things [BoJack] gets right about Hollywood and a lot of things it gets right about life. If you look at all these characters where they started in season one and where they are now, I think you could potentially call this show ‘Raphael has decided you’re not exactly who the fuck you think you are and here’s why.’ There’s lot truth there. It can be depressing and it can be sad but it can also be really fantastic.”
What Hollywood experiences influenced the show? Bob Waksberg revealed that an actor who turned down a part had a heavy hand in an upcoming storyline for the third season. “Last season there was an actor we wanted to get for something and I coincidentally bumped into him. I said ‘This is so crazy. We had an offer for you to be on my show BoJack Horseman.’ He was like – ‘Oh my god, I’ve heard about that show and would love to do it. That sounds fantastic. I want you to know no matter what my agent says – I want to do it.’ So I thought awesome but then I got word back from the agent: ‘No thanks. It’s a pass.’ So I was like ‘Did you talk to him? He said he wanted to do it.’ And the agent said ‘Yeah we talked to him. It’s a pass.’ So there’s a story in Season 3 ripped from that headline.”
- Paul F Tompkins revealed that in the third season, “you get to see where Mr. Peanutbutter comes from. You get to meet some members of the Mr. Peanutbutter family.” Per Bob-Waksberg, Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane take a trip back to his home country where they meet some of his brood.
- The most pressing question of them all: why are there no animal hybrids on the show? Per Bob-Waksberg: “We have very strict rules for what happens on this show. Here’s the logic problem – on our show when two different species have a baby together, it’s either one or the other. It’s not necessarily who’s the mother or father – it’s just going to be one or the other: like brown eyes or blue eyes. The reason for that is because if there were mixes, by this point in animal-human history, it would’ve gotten so mixed up there would be no pure species left… Oh – that sounded a little Nazi-ish.”
The third season of BoJack Horseman premieres Friday, July 22nd on Netflix.