“under the pressure” – the war on drugs (2014)


I don’t watch a lot of television.  Between work, volunteer commitments, a social life, and other hobbies, I just don’t have the time.  I am supposedly living in a second Golden Age of Television, but I just haven’t paid attention to the shows that receive the most buzz.

However, there are a couple of shows that I follow and get really excited when they return with another season.  What I look for in a show is a blend of absurdist humor, wit, escapism, and starring protagonists with relatable issues overcoming real-world problems.  And with all that in mind, I stand behind Bojack Horseman as being the best television series currently running,

For those unfamiliar with Bojack Horseman, it is an animated show about a talking horse named Bojack who was the star of a family sitcom in the 1990s called Horsin’ Around where he played the adoptive father to three orphaned children.  Since the show’s cancellation, Bojack’s status as a celebrity faded and he has grown bitter, cynical, and developed substance abuse issues.  He is selfish, narrow-minded, and awful to people in his life.  As the series progresses, he experiences a resurgence in his career coupled with various emotional and professional setbacks.  During this, he faces is demons during a continuing existential crisis that hurts everyone who tries to help him.

Bojack Horseman premiered in August 2014.  It took me a few weeks before I caught in episode.  In August of that year, I was working through a devastating breakup and I spent that month packing out of my girlfriend’s apartment and finding a space for myself.  It was pretty world-shattering for me, so I didn’t focus on much else.

When I got to my new place, I took a few months for me to find my footing.  My whole life involved this person.  I had met them early on when I moved to Chicago, so we shared the same friends with many of them being her friends first.  On my own now, I only had two friends that I would still be able to see and spend time with post-breakup.

Not only that, I wasn’t making that much money and I worked all the time.  What little time I had outside of work was spent with my girlfriend, so I didn’t have hobbies of my own.  My biggest worry after I moved into my new apartment was “what am I going to do in my free time?”

It took months for me to make new friends and find new hobbies.  Eventually, reading would become a passion, I would take guitar lessons, and I would increase the amount of volunteering I would do.  However, I had to get through this rough transitional period.  So, I did something I would never do now.  I binged-watched.

The first few episodes of Bojack Horseman weren’t interesting to me at all.  If this was a show I discovered now or didn’t come to me during a rough patch where I had to rediscover myself, I would’ve just passed on it and never looked back.  A close friend of mine says that things come to you at the right moments.  And perhaps that’s why I started the show when I did.

Bojack Horseman deal with a lot of heavy subjects through a surrealist and absurdist lens.  And in many of these situations, Bojack has to face his past and confront difficulties that leave him guilt-ridden so many years later.  And, often, these are things he cannot change so matter how much he as changed.  The series covers topics such as the death of an abusive parent, infidelity, searching for an identity, substance abuse, and sexuality in ways that transcend the animals in the show and feel real and relatable to the viewer.

This show is heavy.  It makes me laugh, but also leaves me in a weird headspace that I find dark and uncomfortable.  I recently asked a friend who also watches the show if they experience the same thing and what they do about.  He laughed it off by saying the show leaves him in a negative space and drinks through it.  The themes and issues of the show are too real to me, so I try to practice mindfulness.  While the problems Bojack faces seem real and relatable, I don’t want the life Bojack has.

I finished the fifth season which recently made its way to Netflix.  Whenever I finish a season, it takes me a few days to process and work through the weird things that occupy my head.  Basically, I don’t feel that good and I have to tell myself that it is ok not to feel good sometimes.  I then evaluate the positive things in my life and what I can do t continue living well and be good to the people in my life.  After a few days, I get into a better mood and I’m left with a perspective that I’m a good person so matter what doubts may come to mind.

One great aspect of the show is the soundtrack.  Alternative and indie songs are used very effectively to convey a mood or elevate the scene.  In this latest season, “Under the Pressure” by The War on Drugs from their 2014 studio album Lost in The Dream is used beautifully and one of the best uses of soundtrack score in the series.

Bojack Horseman, considering the difficulty of the subject matter, is an absurd and very funny show.  The can be extremely dark, but there is a light-hearted honesty that makes the characters and their struggle somewhat endearing.  You want them to succeed in overcoming their demons.  And despite that I don’t watch much TV, I still stand by my declaration this is the best show currently running.