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Bojack Horseman: Sabrina's Christmas Wish

Bojack: “Todd, special holiday episodes are always stupid. Cynical cash grabs, by greedy corporations, looking to squeeze some extra Nielsen points, from sentimental clap-trap for mush brain idiots, who'd rather spend their Christmas watching a fake family on TV then actually trying to have a conversation with their own dumb families.”
Todd: “I like when people on TV hug each other.”

I for one love a good cynical cash grab. And I also love Bojack Horseman.

Bojack Horseman is probably my favorite TV show on right now. I don’t think I’ve felt quite so strongly about a show since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I get pretty passionate about TV shows. I’d never been hugely into adult animated shows, but something about Bojack was different. The characters are real, painfully so. The show takes huge narrative risks and they execute them so well and effectively. And there’s something about the philosophy of Bojack Horseman I just feel so connected to. With the show coming to a close (which I am still terribly devastated over) I thought now was as good a time as any to write a review for it.

My qualifications: avid love for the show (as described above), years spent watching and loving various Christmas specials (despite my Jewy-ness), and a childhood obsession with Full House (many trips to my grandparents’ were spent watching Full House episodes on DVD).

With that said, to the episode! So it’s Christmas, obviously. Bojack’s staying home drinking, as he often does. Todd is in the Christmas spirit and wants to spend some holiday-themed time with Bojack. After some coaxing, Todd convinces Bojack to watch a Horsin’ Around Christmas episode with him (mostly because Bojack gets residuals every time someone watches an episode). We see the Christmas episode in question, occasionally pausing to watch Bojack and Todd banter or Bojack yell at Todd. The episode’s plot seems like it could easily slip into any season of Full House: it’s the kids' first Christmas since the orphanage, the horse is forced to go to work on Christmas day, and Sabrina asks Santa Claus to bring her dead parents back to life.

The show really nails the nineties family sitcom. From the cheesy title sequence, to the three kids consisting of an overly adorable little girl, sarcastic middle child, boy-crazed teenage girl, and the neighbor no one wants around, and all the world’s problems being neatly solved by the end of the episode. It’s got the Christmas special feel of family togetherness and even brings in Santa (who may or may not exist in the Horsin’ Around universe). One thing Bojack Horseman has always done is demonstrate the clash between sitcoms and real life. While everything comes together on the sitcom, in real life Bojack still comes away feeling cranky and depressed. There are small (often hard to notice) instances of progress in real life, like Bojack realizing he appreciates spending Christmas with Todd even if Christmas is really utterly insignificant. By bouncing back and forth between Horsin’ Around and Bojack’s bedroom, the episode really highlights the clash between the sugary sweet TV show and the complicated, often harsh real world. This makes it so much easier to see why Bojack often feels so disappointed in the real world after coming away from years pretending to live in a much simpler one.

That said, Horsin’ Around’s conclusion was actually much deeper than any nineties family sitcom I remember. The horse isn’t able to save Christmas until he has an honest conversation about Santa Claus; specifically, the fact that Santa doesn’t exist and people should really do good for the sake of it, not to get rewards from some creepy old man. This fits really well with Bojack’s overall philosophy: as Diane puts it, “There's no such thing as ‘bad guys’ or ‘good guys.’ We're all just... guys, who do good stuff sometimes and bad stuff sometimes. And all we can do is try to do less bad stuff and more good stuff.” Christmas is a holiday that has become very influenced by morality and altruism, even if we sometimes forget that. Bojack used that to further speak on its own questions of morality, giving the episode more purpose than just some fun Christmas special (though I think that would’ve been enough). Because like I said, Bojack does a great job taking narrative risks and executing them well.

Bits and Pieces

-- I do not feel qualified to review any other episode of Bojack Horseman so this unfortunately will likely be my only review of the show.

-- This episode would be worth it just for the Horsin’ Around title sequence alone.

-- Sabrina seems so much less annoying than Michelle Tanner and Ethan seems to be the funniest despite his failed catch phrase.

-- Sabrina becoming terrified of Santa Claus after considering the implications of his seeing everything was great because really we all should have reacted that way.

-- For context, this premiered in between season one and season two. Bojack seems as depressed as ever.

-- My only gripe with this episode is the severe lack of Christmas songs. I love Bojack songs and Christmas songs and feel this was a terrible injustice.

Audience Member: “He’s doing the thing he said he wasn’t going to do!” Why wasn’t Full House’s live studio audience this entertaining?

Audience Member: “Fire that Jew!” I feel personally attacked.

Ethan: “On Dancer, on Prancer… on Necromancer?”

Four out of four giant, sticky candy canes.

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