Friday, September 8, 2017

REVIEW: 'BoJack Horseman' - Mr. Peanutbutter's Campaign for Governor Begins in Earnest in 'See Mr. Peanutbutter Run'

Netflix's BoJack Horseman - Episode 4.01 "See Mr. Peanutbutter Run"

Mr. Peanutbutter's campaign to recall the governor of California culminates in a high-stakes ski race. Meanwhile, BoJack is nowhere to be found.

BoJack Horseman is back for its fourth season but it's missing its lead character. "See Mr. Peanutbutter Run" is such a fascinating way to kick off the new season. The third season ended in the darkest place yet with BoJack's downward spiral being a significant contributing factor in Sarah Lynn's tragic death. He needed to escape the city once more out of fear that he truly was poisonous and simply broken. The season ended on a somewhat uplifting note with him finding other horses in the wild. That was an intriguing glimpse at the future that might be for BoJack. And yet, BoJack isn't in this premiere at all. In fact, no one knows where he is or what has happened to him. Of course, this has to be commonplace for the characters of this world by now. BoJack has always been coming in and out of their lives. He can go missing for months at a time only to return to screw things up once more. This time the show is just depicting the story from the other characters' perspectives. The impact of time is still important to the overall story. BoJack has been gone for three months at the start of the episode and this premiere spans a couple weeks as well. No one is any closer to figuring out what happened to him or what he's doing now. His absence is felt in the story. And yet, that's the point as well.

Diane needs BoJack in her life because he is a kindred spirit of sorts in terms of depression. She is slowly spinning out of control regarding Mr. Peanutbutter's attempt to become Governor of California. That seems absolutely crazy. She believes she can be the supportive wife because she doubts Mr. Peanutbutter will succeed in this venture. But every time she believes the campaign is over, he just gets more and more popular. It seems like this could actually become a real campaign for him. He could actually be going into politics. That's crazy to Diane. She needs BoJack in order to get a grip on her own reality. During these months, it's been comforting for her to leave him voice messages. He never answers the phone. But she's picking up his own mannerisms in leaving a voice message. She gives these long winded messages about what's going on in her life only to end with reminding to give her name. It's always been a funny joke when BoJack does that. And now, it carries new meaning when Diane does it across this episode. It shows that the two of them really are so alike. She's frustrated that he isn't here for her - especially since the last time she did see him he was saying he needed her in his life in order to feel stable. And now, he's just gone and the world is just getting crazier and crazier.

Of course, it's also just a lot of fun to see the show find its humor in politics this season. It makes it a very timely story because real-life politics are just getting so outrageously ridiculous. It's tragic to think about all the damage that can be. But it's still insightful for comedy writers to make keen observances about the ridiculousness of the entire system. The show is saying that Mr. Peanutbutter can be a viable candidate for office despite him having no experience in politics whatsoever. That's a familiar pattern for Mr. Peanutbutter as well. In Season 2, he lucked into the job hosting Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities! What Do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let's Find Out! because Princess Carolyn was assembling the show for the network. And now, "See Mr. Peanutbutter Run" opens on the circumstances for how he became the star of Mr. Peanutbutter's House. He just wandered onto the set and started telling jokes to the amusement of the studio audience. The show's executives were frustrated with their original choice for the star of this Horsin' Around knockoff. Of course, that's fitting as well because that first choice was Vincent D'Onofrio who plays everything very seriously. It's also just humorous to think of The Sopranos creator David Chase also being the head writer for this sitcom. But it all just shows that Mr. Peanutbutter keeps walking into success. He may be oblivious to a lot that's going on. But he has the talents to really be good in each profession he enters. He didn't know how to act before Mr. Peanutbutter's House. He didn't know how to host a show before Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities! What Do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let's Find Out. So, he may actually be a good governor. It's just important that this premiere doesn't dash his dreams before even exploring the opportunity.

Instead, "See Mr. Peanutbutter Run" just needs to create the circumstances where a race for governor even needs to occur. Mr. Peanutbutter's first ex-wife, Katrina, came to him with this opportunity even though there wasn't a scheduled election for this year. So, the campaign has largely just been getting the signatures to recall the current occupant of the office, Woodchuck Coodchuck-Berkowitz. He's already a great new addition to the season. BoJack Horseman isn't the first comedy to cast Andre Braugher as someone who can't believe the crazy situations he finds himself in while also saying ridiculous things. That's essentially what he's doing in live-action over on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But it's still a great use of him nonetheless. Woodchuck is just as baffled as everyone else that Mr. Peanutbutter is gaining so much momentum and attention in this race despite it seeming like a longshot. Mr. Peanutbutter refuses to give up because of Diane's encouraging advice that he misinterprets. Him challenging Woodchuck to a ski race for the office is crazy. And yet, Katrina is able to get a bill passed through the State Senate that makes it a legitimate law in the state. That's ridiculous while also being a cutting commentary on how any bill can pass as long as there is enough buried in the document to appeal to the people actually making the decision. The Schoolhouse Rock style sequence depicting that is pretty hilarious while still highlighting the corruption of politics. Katrina has the power and influence to get this done.

Of course, it's then surprising and funny that Mr. Peanutbutter doesn't know how to ski at all. He didn't believe the race would actually happen either. He's baffled by this new development as well. He didn't express those feelings or concerns before this moment. But it just sets up the set piece of him going to ski school but not really learning anything there. It's a nice play on training montages where the wise professor has the student do menial tasks that don't connect back to the actual skill at all. Mr. Peanutbutter is there for a day, doesn't learn anything and still gets to graduate. It's a fine sequence but it's not as good as the rest of the comedic beats in this premiere. Of course, the eventual race is hilarious. Woodchuck happens to be a champion skier. Meanwhile, Mr. Peanutbutter is just falling down the hill. But it's Todd who actually prevails in a surprising moment. His story throughout this episode is pretty fun as well and is stemming on the fact that he doesn't want to be labeled at the moment. Emily was disappointed that he wasn't interested in her romantically. And now, he just wants to enjoy his ice cream on a burger and drone throne instead of worrying about labels. That's a nice attitude to have even though the world is insisting on a label for him. He's not ready to make that distinction at the moment. That leaves him plummeting out of the sky to win this race. But he doesn't want to be Governor - even though that would have led to a very funny recurring story this season.

All of this is just a circular way of getting things back to the central election. It is once again going to be a race between Woodchuck and Mr. Peanutbutter for the office. The race down Devil's Mountain only led to Todd winning then resigning which triggered a special election. Even Woodchuck is surprised that he isn't just named Governor again. He's even more taken aback when Mr. Peanutbutter is able to quickly win over the crowd simply because he's coming across as a working class hero who went to Northwestern and not an elitist who went to Dartmouth. It's surprising to see him get so much support so quickly. The premiere opened with this seeming like an outlandish prospect for the season. But now, it's really getting some traction. That's absolutely terrifying to Diane. She wants to be the supportive wife. She wants to care for Mr. Peanutbutter when all of these new hopes and dreams come crashing back to reality. But now, she has no outlet to voice her concerns because BoJack's inbox is full. The world around her no longer makes any sense. Again, it's empowering to see Mr. Peanutbutter luck his way into this success. He's a simple guy who does genuinely care about people. He doesn't stand for any particular issue. He's still being manipulated by Katrina. But this is something he believes he'll be good at. Diane not being supportive of that could be really destructive to their marriage. But things are still moving full steam ahead and Diane isn't sure what to do about it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "See Mr. Peanutbutter Run" was written by Peter A. Knight and directed by Amy Winfrey.
  • Things are still going strong between Princess Carolyn and Ralph despite her returning to work - this time as a manager. He delivers her greeting cards all the time which is pretty cute. And yet, she still doesn't trust him enough to let him in on her being pregnant and then suffering a miscarriage. But that does foster a good conversation about trying to get pregnant on purpose. So, the two are still strong as a couple by the end of the premiere too.
  • It's absurd to think that the cow waitress is still working at the diner after getting an $8 million tip from Todd. But she is. She's just fancier now and has spent the money on luxury items. Todd's still her favorite customer and wishes he'll give her a big tip each time he comes in for a meal.
  • Of course, Emily still has her $8 million. She did buy a bag full of really fancy hats like she wanted to do. But now, she's also planning on launching a dating app that pairs firemen with red-headed women. It's very specific to her own interests. But she really wants a boyfriend and can't keep wasting her energy on Todd and his uncertainness over his identity.
  • Diane also finds herself working at a blog called Girl Croosh this season. She wants to believe it's a place where she can write really important articles about the reality of the world for women. But she's not getting the traffic that clickbait articles about celebrity boners do.
  • The news ticker at the bottom of MSNBSea is reporting that Character Actress Margo Martindale is still missing at sea following her boat accident and is presumed dead. Of course, it also boasts of a new study that says news ticker headlines are more distracting than informative.
  • Judah has to remind Princess Carolyn that FX is currently casting an actor to play BoJack Horseman in the miniseries adaptation of Sarah Lynn's life story. The project, of course, comes from Ryan Murphy and is titled American Dead Girl. That's a subplot to keep an eye on in the future.
  • Buried deep in the bill that Katrina gets passed is the construction of a bridge from California to Hawaii. Again, that seems ridiculous. But the bill got passed and Diane says the bridge was built but put the state of California into billions of dollars of debt.
  • Diane: "Diane Diane what now?" It's nice to see that Diane isn't just picking up on BoJack's mannerisms as well. Here, she has her own spin on Mr. Peanutbutter's catch phrase as she reacts to his speech after the ski race.
  • Princess Carolyn: "Jennifer Garner's in the lobby. She'll sign onto anything!"
  • Princess Carolyn: "Are you sure you wouldn't rather play a Governor in a movie or TV show? I could get Tommy Schlamme attached." Mr. Peanutbutter: "Tommy Schlamme.... mommy Schlamme."

As noted in previous reviews from Netflix shows, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.