Film and drama

Screen Themes: Rick & Morty season 3 vs Bojack Horseman season 4

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It’s time for some animated action! Entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out two of the best adult cartoons around — the downbeat BoJack Horseman and the anarchic Rick and Morty.

BoJack Horseman (Season 4)

Created by Bob-Raphael Waksberg

BoJack Horseman tells the tale of a former sitcom star trying to remain relevant and find his place in the world as he makes a series of increasingly bad decisions.

Living in a world inhabited by animal/human hybrids, BoJack (Will Arnett from Arrested Development) is a literal horse man, reluctantly served by his agent Princess Carolyn (a cat/human voiced by Amy Sedaris) and constantly frustrated by the inexplicably successful Mr Peanut Butter (a golden retriever/human, Paul F. Tompkins). The fact that nobody mentions the hybrid thing and dating between species is completely normal may or may not be a comment on marriage equality, but it’s a cute touch either way.

There are also regular humans in this world, notably BoJack’s roommate Todd, voiced by Aaron Paul, and Mr Peanut Butter’s on/off girlfriend Diane (Alison Brie from GLOW). Far sweeter than Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman, Todd Chavez is innocent and eager to please, spending much of the 4th season dealing with his emerging asexuality and career as a male model/trophy boyfriend.

When we left BoJack at the end of Season 2, the former TV star had hit rock bottom, morally responsible for the overdose of his former child co-star Sarah Lynn after a month-long bender. BoJack flees Hollywoo (the D fell over in the first season as has never been replaced) and is barely seen for the first few episodes, only snapping back to himself at the appearance of his estranged daughter Hollyhock and his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. Of course, BoJack snapping back to himself doesn’t make him a good person, which results in an increasing spiral of depression, alcoholism and self-loathing as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, Mr Peanut Butter is running for governor and Diane is working for a Buzzfeed-style blog, depressed that her in-depth stories are getting less clicks than stories about Liam Hemsworth’s penis. Some of the biggest laughs of the season come from the Princess Carolyn sub-plot about Taken sequel Ms. Taken, a project increasingly threatened by a rash of mass shootings across the country. A token "thoughts and prayers" for the victims is immediately discarded for discussions of how the studio can turn the massacres to their advantage.

Depression is an ongoing theme in BoJack Horseman and the series isn’t afraid to find humour in mental illness. BoJack’s ailing mother Beatrice is an undeniably horrible person, but flashbacks reveal that her upbringing was no happier than BoJacks, the family apparently destined to keep repeating history as BoJack fumbles his parenting of Hollyhock.

Skirting the line between black comedy and drama, Bojack Horseman is available on Netflix.

Rick and Morty (Season 3)

Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon

Being a Rick and Morty fan can be something of a frustrating experience. The wait between seasons 2 and 3 stretched on interminably, as merchandising went into overdrive, while rumours circulated of creative tensions between producer Dan Harmon and voice talent Justin Roiland. The first episode of season 3 was released with no fanfare on April Fools Day, but the next episode of the series wasn’t released until July. 

Fortunately, once the season proper kicked in everything was fine, particularly with the episode 3 introduction of Pickle Rick. At once a parody of Die Hard, a balanced look at psychiatry and laugh-out-loud funny mini action movie, this episode captures everything that is great about Rick and Morty. In an effort to avoid a family trip to therapy, Rick transforms himself into a pickle, then spends the next 20 minutes using MacGyver science to make himself into a bio-mechanical killing machine.

In terms of over-arching narrative, this season deals with the separation of parents Beth and Jerry, along with the struggle for power on the Citadel of Ricks. With echoes of the recent U.S. presidential race, it comes as no surprise when Evil Morty bucks the polls and becomes Citadel President, leading to one of the darkest reveals of an already jet black series. Of course, this being Rick and Morty, for every bit of intriguing plot development we get a random episode like Morty’s Mindbenders, this season’s answer to the popular Interdimensional Cable episodes of seasons past.

In a definite improvement from previous series, Netflix has the latest episodes available only a week after they air in the United States. More tech savvy viewers can find other legal ways to watch the series and it’s always worth buying on DVD for the uncensored episodes, but credit to Netflix for making positive moves to combat piracy.

In turns hilarious, wildly offensive and surprisingly sweet, Rick and Morty is available on Netflix.

The Verdict

Both Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty feature lead characters with serious emotional issues, diminutive sidekicks and occasional laugh out loud humour. Taking this into account, there are more differences between the series than similarities, as Bojack could fairly be described as an animated drama while Rick and Morty is frequently one of the funniest comedies on TV.

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, both shows are more than worth checking out.

Bojack Horseman (Season 4): 8/10

Rick and Morty (Season 3): 9/10

Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)

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