BoJack Horseman: Raphael Bob-Waksberg Unpacks a Sensitive, Brilliant, Post-#MeToo Season

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This post discusses the entirety of BoJack Horseman Season 5.

The final moment of animated comedy BoJack Horseman’s fifth season, which debuted Friday on Netflix, is one I can’t stop thinking about. Diane (Alison Brie), now with a new, sharp coiffure, drives into a glorious sunset, following the Pacific Coast Highway until she returns to the dense, bustling traffic of Los Angeles. What matters about the moment, narratively, is that she’s just left her old friend BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) at a rehab facility, where—for the first time—he will try to address the cycle of addiction that keeps his life in the suspended animation of false progress. (The opening credits of the show, which change a little each season but present the same essential story of hangover, excess, and momentary peace, have never seemed more prophetic.)

Nothing happens, exactly, after Diane leaves BoJack and begins to drive home. Yet the episode lingers on, through the vivid landscapes of production designer Lisa Hanawalt’s imagining as the War on Drugs’ “Under the Pressure” begins its first tentative chords. The song feels like the beginning of something beautiful, even though its start implies its inevitable conclusion.

I read it as a hopeful ending, but you would not be blamed for feeling especially gutted at the close of BoJack Season 5—which takes the viewer through some of the most fraught territory the show has explored yet. As BoJack films the lead role in Princess Carolyn’s (Amy Sedaris) new project for whattimeisitrightnow.com—an antihero crime drama named Philbert—the toxicity he’d sort of managed to control in Season 4 as he got to know his half sister, Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), spews out of him in unexpected, awful ways. He’s crippled by an opioid addiction, and enters into a relationship of convenience with his new co-star Gina (Stephanie Beatriz)—which goes horribly wrong when, addled by hallucinations and guilt-fueled paranoia, he nearly chokes her out during a staged fight scene.

BoJack Horseman has always been a TV show about TV—a technicolor, bizarre glimpse into the inner workings of Hollywood—but the meta aspect is heightened this year by BoJack’s increasing inability to differentiate between the narrative of his show and his own vivid psychodrama. As Philbert’s set gradually accumulates more of the show’s cast—Diane becomes a writer, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) becomes a co-star, and Todd (Aaron Paul) naturally becomes a high-ranking executive at whattimeisitrightnow.com—Philbert is a staging ground for industry-wide conversations about harassment, gender and power dynamics, the creative process, and what it means to make a show about men behaving badly.

Show-runner and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg told me that Season 5 was “our most meta season—which is really saying something for this show.” Then again, when Bob-Waksberg and his writers began work on BoJack, they didn’t entirely realize that BoJack himself would reflect the profile of so many men eventually implicated in the #MeToo movement. “Coincidence is a strong word, but there’s some architecture we’ve been doing in the show for the last four years that kind of dovetails into some of the conversations we’re having now as a society,” he said.

Or, to put it more simply: “BoJack—he seems like a creep!” Not just because of what happens in Season 5, but because of what has been happening on the show up until this point, and what’s been insinuated about the character’s behavior for the last several years. The driving question for BoJack’s plotline this year, Bob-Waksberg said, became, “How do we view this character in light of how we view this kind of guy now?”

Bob-Waksberg was candid about how much #MeToo forced him to reconsider his own assumptions—and how that reconsideration fed into the plot for Season 5. “The kinds of stuff that maybe in the first season would have been treated as a punch line, all of a sudden are not so funny anymore—if even they were funny then! And I think some people would say, No, it wasn’t funny then, you asshole! My frame for this behavior has really shifted,” he said. “It’s amazing that we’ve allowed ourselves, as an industry, to go so far down that road—to rationalize and legitimize that behavior as just par for the course.”

Cheekily—and with an eye on balancing out the heavy material of Season 5 with lighter fare—the story of entitlement also plays out with Todd’s ridiculous creation: Henry Fondle, a bawdy sex robot bristling with dildos that ends up rapidly rising through the ranks of whattimeisitrightnow.com. There’s some wicked social commentary in how this machine programmed to seduce becomes such a well-regarded figure, but according to Bob-Waksberg, “it didn’t start that way! It started—*let’s have Todd build a sex robot, that’ll be funny.”

“Originally we were thinking about stunt-casting the character with Alicia Vikander, because she played a similar character in Ex Machina,” he explained. “But then the scheduling didn’t work out, and we thought, this should really be a man’s voice. This should be a male robot.” In the end, Paul performed Henry Fondle, too, which meant frequently acting in scenes opposite himself.

Henry Fondle’s rise originally took longer, until the writers realized they could show the whole thing in just a handful of scenes. “We can tell a larger story here about how quickly these guys rise through the ranks, now that the way these guys get ahead is suddenly seen in a new light,” Bob-Waksberg said. “There’s a statement there about how men—or things that are coded as men; this is a robot—are given the benefit of the doubt.”

As the #MeToo movement enters its second year—punctuated both by the resignation of CBS chief Les Moonves and the return of stand-up comic Louis C.K.BoJack’s ruminations are especially valuable. In the 10th episode, “Head in the Clouds,” Diane and BoJack get into an elegant, furious disagreement over whether he’s a bad guy—and, if he is, whether he’s really trying to get better. To emphasize the metatext of it all, one of the things they are arguing about is whether Philbert, the show within the show, offers justification or excuses for its own main character’s bad behavior.

Bob-Waksberg told me that much of the dialogue about the responsibility of an artist—and the guilt of the accused—came directly from meta-discussions in the writers’ room. In particular, #MeToo forced Bob-Waksberg to consider BoJack’s own culpability: “What is our responsibility to our audience to signal, hey, this kind of behavior isn’t cool, don’t emulate this?”

In the moment where Diane and BoJack are fighting at the Philbert premiere, they are squabbling over what humanizing this protagonist accomplishes—a conversation that reflects some of Bob-Waksberg’s own doubts. “Going into this season, I really had this belief that showing something on television or in movies inherently glamorizes it,” he said emphatically. But some of the other writers didn’t feel that way. Bob-Waksberg specifically argued with the writer of “Head in the Clouds,” Nick Adams, who wrote Diane and BoJack’s argument. “It’s his episode, actually, where Diane says—she uses the word ‘normalizes,’ which I think is a much better word than ‘glamorizes.’”

He described the needle they were trying to thread as one that embraces complexity, but doesn’t abdicate responsibility, either. “The danger of being sophisticated and nuanced is that you’re going to be misinterpreted. How do you account for that? Is it your responsibility as an artist to account for the ways that your show will be misinterpreted? More and more, I think yes—somewhat. Some of it you can’t account for, and it’s going to be out of your power. But it’s disingenuous to wash your hands from it entirely and say, Look, I’m just making a show.

BoJack Horseman in black and white.

The fifth season of the show invests even more time in one-off episodes that showcase a particular character’s crossroads. For BoJack, it’s “Free Churro,” an episode delivered entirely in monologue through the device of a eulogy for his mother. That’s an indication of how the rest of the season sharply keys into BoJack’s psychology. The penultimate episode, “The Showstopper,” which features BoJack’s violence against Gina, is one of the most hauntingly sad explorations of his tortured psyche yet—ending, quietly, with him ascending a flight of stairs to confront an untethered balloon of himself, inflated but free, hovering but detached.

BoJack Horseman Season 5 is an attempt to integrate an understanding of BoJack’s own trauma with the irreparable consequences of his actions—to have empathy for both victim and perpetrator, without diminishing the harm done by the perpetrator. It makes for a tough, doubled feeling: is BoJack, as he asserts, the biggest victim of his own careening life? Or is he inflicting more pain than he realizes, as Diane suggests? “I want to believe we can forgive each other, and that we can do the things necessary to earn forgiveness. I don’t think that anyone is completely irredeemable,” Bob-Waksberg said.

But when asked, hypothetically, what it would take for him to personally forgive some of the men fingered by the #MeToo movement, he hesitated. “I really thought about that, and I struggled with it,” he said.

Those debates ultimately made it into the season. “It doesn’t necessarily offer easy solutions, but it doesn’t say, because there are no easy solutions, that we should just throw our hands up and stop talking about it,” he said. Bob-Waksberg knows that there are still some sentiments in the show that not everyone in the writers’ room would agree with. But, he joked, “Luckily, I am the boss, so I get to decide what goes in the show.”

In balancing empathy and responsibility, Bob-Waksberg put a great deal of significance into the conclusion of the season—which leads BoJack, almost against his will, to seek help to treat his addiction. “This presents a step forward for him in a very critical way that he has not been able to take before—which is admitting he cannot do it by himself. That was a very crucial stumbling block,” he said. “You could realize something is bad in your life and watch to change it . . . but if you are trying to do it all yourself and you are unable to, then that is not an admirable quality, that you are not able to ask for help from others.”

Bob-Waksberg thinks that BoJack suffers from the “specifically masculine” belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness—when, in fact, “the opposite is true. It takes great strength and courage to ask for help.”

Season 5 pushes the character to the darkest, furthest hole he’s been down yet. But there is some faint light at the end of the tunnel. Bob-Waksberg was loath to discuss much about future seasons—which have not officially been green-lit—but if given a Season 6, he said, “I am not interested in flushing that all away immediately . . . We couldn’t really tell the story of his process, or his progress, without dealing with this step—and he wasn’t going to take this step until he was absolutely forced to.”

BoJack Horseman may be TV’s most candid show about the realities of Hollywood—a niche topic, and not necessarily because creators are afraid that getting too real about it could damage their careers. “A lot of the hesitancy to talk about the industry in real, concrete terms is not because of people being afraid of biting the hand that feeds them, and more about the fear that people in the middle of the country will not be interested,” Bob-Waksberg said.

“What makes our show work, in a way, is that it’s not just isn’t the industry stupid and silly, but also, here’s the damage that causes for society as a whole, and also, here’s the way in which people have internalized these ideas that this factory has put out into the world. This is the damage that this has done.

It helps, of course, that the show’s “Hollywood” is populated with a menagerie of bizarre creatures, adding a twist of hyperbole to its sometimes crushing realism. At a few points this season, BoJack tosses his head in a way that I interpreted as especially equine—fitting for a series where it increasingly seems as if the walls are closing in on him, eliminating his coping mechanisms until he has nowhere to hide from his own demons. Bob-Waksberg assured me that the gesture, which exposes BoJack’s neck, is one that they have done in seasons past. But BoJack’s horsemanship, such as it is, is something that is often on his mind. “We haven’t offered a firm answer on what it means to be a horse in this world, in this society. We’ve sort of played fast and loose with it. But that was a big theme at the end of Season 3,” he reminded me, as it closes with BoJack coming to the countryside, dressed in his jeans, while a herd of wild horses dashes across the plains, wild and free.

As BoJack continues to unravel and remake himself, BoJack Horseman has more up its sleeve that it will eventually reveal. A theme that the show hasn’t fully explored yet is how “[BoJack] is mostly surrounded by people who are not horses,” added Bob-Waksberg. “He is alone in the world that way. What does that mean? What does that mean, to be a lone figure in this world?”

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Full ScreenPhotos:The 30 Best Animated Shows Since The Simpsons
Doug

  1. Doug (1991-1994)

I was a Nickelodeon kid, not a Disney/ABC kid. (Millennials know that this is a crucial distinction.) So when Doug Funnie, Patti Mayonnaise, Skeeter, and the gang made the jump from the latter network to the former in 1996, I didn’t follow them. But for awhile there, Doug was home to the most relatable goober in children’s TV. Lovelorn for Patti, with an adorable dog named Porkchop, a chic older sister, and more than his share of #kidproblems (I still, for some reason, think often about him having to write an essay on silt deposits—I still don’t know what those are), Doug was the ideal everyman for boring kids like me. His show also had some of the best character names on TV to date: Tippi Dink, Roger Klotz, Mosquito Valentine. Dickens would be proud. — K. Austin Collins

Photo: From ©Nickelodeon Television/Everett Collection.

Over the Garden Wall

  1. Over the Garden Wall (2014)

This wonderfully strange animated miniseries debuted just a few years ago on Cartoon Network, but owing to its surprising allure, it has already established itself as an all-time great. Patrick McHale’s limited series aired five nights in a row and unfolded with the surreal logic of dreams, presenting two brothers in an enchanted forest who don’t know how they got there or what they’re supposed to do next. At first, the series is mystifying. But as the characters assert themselves and the weirdness resolves, it turns Over the Garden Wall into not just a fairy tale but a sliver of a coming-of-age story, with reverence for both the real world and the need to run away from it. Starring the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Melanie Lynskey, and Christopher Lloyd, it’s an artful fantasy for all ages. — Sonia Saraiya

28. *The Powerpuff Girls* (1998-2005)

  1. The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)

While female-led cartoons still remain few and far between, these three bobble-headed heroines redefined what a “girls’ show” could be (with a little help from Chemical X). Created by Craig McCracken, the mind behind the equally zany and creative Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Powerpuff Girls is about female heroes—but really, it’s for everyone. A 2016 reboot was met with average to negative reviews from fans of the original—but the legacy of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup remains. The members of this trio were equalizers on-screen, bravely facing villains as they learned self-assurance and how to work as a team. In their endearing, pastel-wearing way, they were examples of gender equality and heroism, the sort we could use more of on our screens today. — Sarah Shoen

Arthur

  1. Arthur (1996-present)

What a wonderful kind of day it has been, thanks to 21 seasons (and counting!) of America’s favorite aardvark. Created in 1996 by Marc Brown, Arthur has won over the hearts of audiences by doing exactly what most of his viewers are doing: hanging out with his best friend (in this case, a lovable white rabbit), getting through the school day, and trying to figure out how this crazy world works. From navigating the trials and tribulations of being a big brother to grappling with long-distance friendship, Arthur has experienced all the problems and questions kids face every day. Over more than two decades, the show has documented the best and worst of what growing up can be, and its relatable nostalgia still rings true today. Arthur has also reminded us that having fun isn’t hard as long as you have a library card, and that treating yourself to a sundae at the Sugar Bowl is always the best way to end a day. Now, all that’s left to do is wait for the Pal spin-off show. Who doesn’t love a never-aging puppy with a British accent? — Sarah Shoen

Photo: From ©PBS/Everett Collection.

Animaniacs

  1. Animaniacs (1993-1998)

Animaniacs wasn’t just a cartoon—it was a chaotic, old-fashioned variety series, one that won a Peabody award in its inaugural season due in part to the way the show reminded the Peabody committee of the glory days of Hollywood animation. With the backing of Steven Spielberg, frequent celebrity cameos, and the characters’ home base on the Warner Bros. Studios lot, Hollywood was indeed central to Animaniacs’ DNA. As the story goes, animated siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner were locked away in the studio’s water tower in the 1930s—then emerged six decades later to unleash their brand of wild humor onto the world, as well as more than a few exceptionally catchy educational musical numbers. (“United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru . . .”) They bridged the gap between Hollywood’s golden age—particularly the inspired lunacy of Bugs Bunny and co.—and the present day, with a satirical edge and pop-cultural references aplenty, the sort that appealed to children and adults alike. And with two new seasons coming to Hulu in 2020, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are getting ready to take over once again. — Christine Davitt

Photo: From ©Warner Bros./Everett Collection.

BoJack Horseman

  1. BoJack Horseman (2014-present)

The age of Peak TV is crowded with shows about show business—and Los Angeles, and nostalgia, and self-medicating male antiheroes. But none of them hold a candle to BoJack, which also happens to be the most moving comedy (or is it the funniest drama?) on television. In its early days, Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s centauric creation seemed like a minor blip with a two-joke conceit: 90s sitcom has-been struggles to navigate 21st-century Hollywoo. (The D got destroyed in episode 6.) Also, he’s a horse. As its first season went on, though, the Netflix original gradually transformed from a simplistic showbiz satire into something deeper, richer, and altogether more daring—a series that tackled all those Peak TV pet topics, but one that also wasn’t afraid to thoughtfully undermine its own premise. Why should we care about BoJack Horseman’s redemption? And what does redemption really mean, anyway?

As rendered by Bob-Waksberg’s talented writers and an endlessly imaginative animation team headed by Lisa Hanawalt, the anthropomorphized animals and occasionally beastly humans that populate BoJack are richly layered, capable of provoking both belly laughs and heartbreak—sometimes within the span of a few seconds. Yet BoJack doesn’t feel disjointed; it’s simultaneously hilarious and haunting, self-conscious and sweeping, gravely serious and unabashedly silly. (The Simpsons may have invented the modern blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag, but BoJack has perfected the form; you could spend hours combing each frame for hidden jokes and puns capable of impressing even the most seasoned dad.) The only real knock against it is that in between those flights of fancy, BoJack can be a tremendous bummer—the sort of show where nobody is allowed to be happy for very long. But even in its most relentless moments, there’s enough humor to keep BoJack from sinking as low as BoJack himself often descends—and enough poignancy to keep viewers coming back, ideally for several seasons to come. — Hillary Busis

Photo: From ©Netflix/Everett Collection.

1. *South Park* (1997-present)

  1. South Park (1997-present)

First things first: this show is not perfect. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s offensive comic masterpiece—a television staple since 1997 that starts its 22nd season this September—definitely reached the height of its run during the Bush years. Its beginnings in the Clinton epoch relied mostly on shock value and gross-out humor; its Obama-era episodes were funny, but not always incisive. And in the Age of Trump, it’s fair to wonder whether the show may have lost its way entirely. But those glory days certainly were glorious. At its peak, South Park was (and is still capable of being) as sickeningly funny (“Scott Tenorman Must Die”) and socially astute (“Here Comes the Neighborhood”) as it was maddening.

In a good way. Few post-Simpsons animated shows have managed to battering-ram their way into the cultural lexicon as thoroughly or mischievously as South Park. Few have enough iconic characters to fill a yearbook (Cartman! Mr. Garrison! Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo!), or as many classic episodes just waiting to be referenced whenever a relevant current event crops up. When I think of bad C.E.O. apologies, oil spills, or Cthulhu, I think of South Park. World of Warcraft? South Park. Poverty telethons, Stephen Sondheim, Mormons, Scientologists, lost underwear, cats in heat, NASCAR, pan-flute bands, chili, the word “succubus,” redheads, Jennifer Lopez, red-hooded jackets, child-mortality rates, woodland creatures . . .

Even if we were always the butt of every South Park gag, we were also always in on the joke. At its best, this series has defined, and maybe even predicted, the culture—and it’s also really fucking funny. From the looks of it, the rest of television is still catching up. — K. Austin Collins

<ol start="30">
<li><em>Doug</em> (1991-1994)</li>
</ol>

  1. Doug (1991-1994)

I was a Nickelodeon kid, not a Disney/ABC kid. (Millennials know that this is a crucial distinction.) So when Doug Funnie, Patti Mayonnaise, Skeeter, and the gang made the jump from the latter network to the former in 1996, I didn’t follow them. But for awhile there, Doug was home to the most relatable goober in children’s TV. Lovelorn for Patti, with an adorable dog named Porkchop, a chic older sister, and more than his share of #kidproblems (I still, for some reason, think often about him having to write an essay on silt deposits—I still don’t know what those are), Doug was the ideal everyman for boring kids like me. His show also had some of the best character names on TV to date: Tippi Dink, Roger Klotz, Mosquito Valentine. Dickens would be proud. — K. Austin Collins

From ©Nickelodeon Television/Everett Collection.

<ol start="29">
<li><em>Over the Garden Wall</em> (2014)</li>
</ol>

  1. Over the Garden Wall (2014)

This wonderfully strange animated miniseries debuted just a few years ago on Cartoon Network, but owing to its surprising allure, it has already established itself as an all-time great. Patrick McHale’s limited series aired five nights in a row and unfolded with the surreal logic of dreams, presenting two brothers in an enchanted forest who don’t know how they got there or what they’re supposed to do next. At first, the series is mystifying. But as the characters assert themselves and the weirdness resolves, it turns Over the Garden Wall into not just a fairy tale but a sliver of a coming-of-age story, with reverence for both the real world and the need to run away from it. Starring the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Melanie Lynskey, and Christopher Lloyd, it’s an artful fantasy for all ages. — Sonia Saraiya

<ol start="28">
<li><em>The Powerpuff Girls</em> (1998-2005)</li>
</ol>

  1. The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)

While female-led cartoons still remain few and far between, these three bobble-headed heroines redefined what a “girls’ show” could be (with a little help from Chemical X). Created by Craig McCracken, the mind behind the equally zany and creative Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Powerpuff Girls is about female heroes—but really, it’s for everyone. A 2016 reboot was met with average to negative reviews from fans of the original—but the legacy of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup remains. The members of this trio were equalizers on-screen, bravely facing villains as they learned self-assurance and how to work as a team. In their endearing, pastel-wearing way, they were examples of gender equality and heroism, the sort we could use more of on our screens today. — Sarah Shoen

<ol start="27">
<li><em>Arthur</em> (1996-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Arthur (1996-present)

What a wonderful kind of day it has been, thanks to 21 seasons (and counting!) of America’s favorite aardvark. Created in 1996 by Marc Brown, Arthur has won over the hearts of audiences by doing exactly what most of his viewers are doing: hanging out with his best friend (in this case, a lovable white rabbit), getting through the school day, and trying to figure out how this crazy world works. From navigating the trials and tribulations of being a big brother to grappling with long-distance friendship, Arthur has experienced all the problems and questions kids face every day. Over more than two decades, the show has documented the best and worst of what growing up can be, and its relatable nostalgia still rings true today. Arthur has also reminded us that having fun isn’t hard as long as you have a library card, and that treating yourself to a sundae at the Sugar Bowl is always the best way to end a day. Now, all that’s left to do is wait for the Pal spin-off show. Who doesn’t love a never-aging puppy with a British accent? — Sarah Shoen

From ©PBS/Everett Collection.

<ol start="26">
<li><em>The Critic</em> (1994-1995)</li>
</ol>

  1. The Critic (1994-1995)

Sure, not every joke on this occasionally crude, broadsiding series landed. It was sometimes crass, going for the mean reference or obvious insult when perhaps nuance would have been more elegant. But when The Critic was funny, man, was it funny. Jon Lovitz’s Jay Sherman, a sad portmanteau of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (but without most of their charm or dignity), was both boor and offended aesthete, a guy trying to stand athwart the decline of culture while also contributing to it. He was surrounded by delightfully insane people, most memorably Jay’s gonzo patrician mother, Eleanor (voiced beautifully by Judith Ivey). The Critic, created by Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss, ramped up its predecessor’s non sequitur and sight-gag humor—which, yes, perhaps paved the way for Family Guy and Seth MacFarlane’s other derivative shows, but felt fresh and exciting at the time. And, not for nothing, the show’s opening credits were a cheering tribute to the cozy Manhattan of Meg Ryan comedy. It didn’t stink, really. — Richard Lawson

From ©Columbia Pictures Television/Everett Collection.

<ol start="25">
<li><em>Star Wars: Clone Wars</em> (2003-2005)</li>
</ol>

  1. Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003-2005)

Genndy Tartakovsky collaborated on The Powerpuff Girls (see No. 28) and created two other shows for Cartoon Network: beloved, genre-defying Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, each with their own brilliant charm. But for our money, the work that stands out best is his entry in the Star Wars franchise: 25 shorts that tell stories that take place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. They have been strung together on YouTube into a feature-length Star Wars animated story, which for some fans stands as the finest film of the franchise. Tartakovsky lends his creation a grace and elegance that George Lucas’s second trilogy was lacking—and makes much of Star Wars landscapes, taking an operatic, majestic tour through events leading to the fall of the Galactic Republic. Much of the series unfolds without dialogue, instead relying on sound and careful framing to establish resonance with the audience. Tartakovsky’s vision paved the way for Lucas’s own C.G.I. cartoon (the very similarly titled Star Wars: The Clone Wars, released in 2008)—but more importantly, it was an early indication of what new artists could do with the Star Wars universe. Fifteen years later, we are tight in the grip of franchise cinema. But Tartakovsky’s work points to how beautiful, refreshing, and exciting franchise work can be. — Sonia Saraiya

<ol start="24">
<li><em>Aeon Flux</em> (1991-1995)</li>
</ol>

  1. Aeon Flux (1991-1995)

Creator Peter Chung developed Aeon Flux for MTV while working on the popular Nickelodeon series Rugrats, an iconic series in its own right. And while its legacy has since been overshadowed by a regrettable 2005 adaptation starring Charlize Theron, the animated series deserves better. It’s a bizarre, exceptional landscape of erotic tension and surveillance dystopia. Aeon is an agent trying to destroy her nemesis and erstwhile lover Trevor, a scientist from the fictional, future country Bregna. Especially at first, she keeps dying—but the show persists anyway, lingering on the tensions of heroism rather than the conclusion of any particular character’s arc. It’s unsettling, nasty, fluidly drawn, and deliberately unsatisfying, with an attention to thematics that was way ahead of most other animated shows of the era. Chung’s figures are all drawn long and lean, with narrow, expressive faces that evoke haunted paintings—unsurprising, given that Chung cites Egon Schiele as an inspiration. Aeon Flux is so potent and unsellable that it’s ridiculous it made it to cable television in the first place—but that was the story of MTV in the 90s, which also spawned Beavis and Butt-Head and Daria. — Sonia Saraiya

From ©MTV Networks/Everett Collection.

<ol start="23">
<li><em>Robot Chicken</em> (2001-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Robot Chicken (2001-present)

The brainchild of nerdy 90s cool kids Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken’s irreverent stop-motion spin on pop culture was one of the earliest original programming hits for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block—after being rejected as a segment by S.N.L., MadTV, and other sketch-comedy shows. Green and frequent on-screen co-star Breckin Meyer lead a cast of familiar voices as every pop-culture sacred cow from Disney to the Smurfs gets the snarky Robot treatment. Green and Senreich’s obvious love for and encyclopedic knowledge of the properties they skewer came to a head with three Star Wars specials—before the saga was popular again—that were so clever even George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Jar Jar Binks himself, Ahmed Best, got in on the fun. It’s both incredible that Robot Chicken didn’t get sued into oblivion over copyright claims and impossible to imagine something like The Lego Movie existing without it. — Joanna Robinson

From ©Adult Swim/Cartoon Network/Everett Collection.

<ol start="22">
<li><em>Beavis and Butt-Head</em> (1993-1997)</li>
</ol>

  1. Beavis and Butt-Head (1993-1997)

The ludicrously crude and endlessly quotable Beavis and Butt-Head defined juvenile humor for seven seasons on MTV. Its title characters’ obsession with sex, violence, and heavy metal struck an instant chord with disaffected members of Generation X, and led to pioneeringly dumb, dirty humor that eventually paved the way for even more outrageous fare in the years to follow, from Jackass to South Park. A 2011 revival couldn’t quite capture the magic of the original, proving that the Great Cornholio and his T.P.-deficient bunghole were decidedly of their time; 25 years later, no one wants to waste their time watching two idiotic teenage tastemakers crack themselves up with crass jokes and obnoxious commentary. Or do they? — Christine Davitt
<ol start="21">
<li><em>King of the Hill</em> (1997-2010)</li>
</ol>

  1. King of the Hill (1997-2010)

After Beavis and Butt-Head, Mike Judge moved on to more mature material: the day-to-day life of Hank Hill, humble Texan and salesman of propane and propane accessories, and his family, neighbors, and friends. With sly humor and rich humanity, Judge’s series spent 13 seasons capturing a slice of middle-class America rarely depicted on television. As the world spun out around him, Hank and his heart of gold tried their best to keep up—to both hilarious ends and Shakespearean levels of inner turmoil. But no matter what befell the Hills, Hank’s commitment to being a man of decency and morality remained steadfast. I can’t help but think that if he were around today, Hank Hill wouldn’t want to make America great again; he’d believe it’s great already. — Christine Davitt

From ©20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection.

<ol start="20">
<li><em>Avatar: The Last Airbender</em> (2005-2008)</li>
</ol>

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)

When Avatar: The Last Airbender first premiered on Nickelodeon, it was written off by some as another kitschy action cartoon, starring a boy with a blue arrow on his forehead. But others were hooked by the show’s intricate world-building and hard-hitting life lessons. Now, 10 years after its series finale (which drew a massive 5.6 million viewers), Aang and his friends’ adventure is revered as one of the greatest feats of animation to date. Co-created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, The Last Airbender uses the aesthetic of anime and Asian cultures to craft a world where kids fly around on bison while also critiquing imperialism. Aang’s emotional authenticity brings out the best, and at times darkest sides of those he meets. It is in these dark moments where The Last Airbender truly separates itself from other cartoons of its era. Aang’s quest for enlightenment can raise challenging topics, but the show never lets this heavy material weigh it down. As a viewer, The Last Airbender teaches without trying—and is a shining example of what it means to show unconditional devotion to a greater cause. — Sarah Shoen

From ©Nickelodeon/Everett Collection.

<ol start="19">
<li><em>The Boondocks</em> (2005-2014)</li>
</ol>

  1. The Boondocks (2005-2014)

Over the course of four seasons and 55 episodes, The Boondocks was a nearly singular entity. The series, which followed the lives of brothers Huey and Riley Freeman, as well as their grandfather Robert, premiered on Adult Swim in 2005—and from the very beginning, the series established a sharp satirical perspective, critiquing society with a particular focus on race relations. Its philosophical center was Huey, appropriately named after Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton. (If he and Riley sound familiar, that’s because both boys were voiced by none other than Regina King.) Yes, the show could be vulgar; yes, it made frequent use of the n-word—a source of controversy early on. And yes, the show’s final season went severely downhill, thanks to the exit of Aaron McGruder, who created the comics upon which the show was based. But Season 4’s shaky landing was not disappointing enough to undo the show’s legacy—which, by the way, includes a Peabody award for one particularly controversial episode. — Laura Bradley

From ©Cartoon Network/Everett Collection.

<ol start="18">
<li><em>Space Ghost Coast to Coast</em> (1994-2008)</li>
</ol>

  1. Space Ghost Coast to Coast (1994-2008)

This groundbreaking Frankenseries—a talk-show parody assembled haphazardly from vintage footage and new bits, hosted by Space Ghost, a D-list Hanna-Barbera superhero—deserves a spot on this list if only for the myriad shows it begat, either directly or indirectly (including, but not limited to, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law; Aqua Teen Hunger Force; and The Eric Andre Show). But taken solely on its own merits, Space Ghost Coast to Coast is still more than worthy. It made history as Cartoon Network’s first original animated series, eventually inspiring the channel’s entire Adult Swim lineup and popularizing a signature absurdist brand of humor—long before purposefully weird non sequiturs, loose improvisation, and cleverly repurposed found footage became de rigueur for a certain brand of cult television. It predicted Internet culture, in other words—and would probably be better represented in memes today if the majority of its episodes hadn’t only been made available to stream in 2016. — Hillary Busis

From ©Cartoon Network/Everett Collection.

<ol start="17">
<li><em>The Legend of Korra</em> (2012-2014)</li>
</ol>

  1. The Legend of Korra (2012-2014)

For many children of the 2000s, Avatar: The Last Airbender (see No. 20) was a defining series. But its offshoot, The Legend of Korra, was even better. Both shows follow supernaturally gifted adolescents with the ability to manipulate—or “bend”—elements. When Avatar premiered, its hero, Aang, was 12 years old; Korra, his reincarnation, was 17 during Legend of Korra’s first season. That age shift seems intentional: many Korra fans grew up watching Avatar, and as such, the show’s sequel matured with them. Both series approached the subject of growing up and confronting one’s demons with candor and heart—and both were rife with political parallels—but Korra definitely upped the ante by tackling increasingly complex issues. And its finale, in which Korra walked into the sunset not with any of the male characters she’d known throughout the show, but with her female friend Asami, was nothing short of groundbreaking for a franchise aimed, nominally at least, at kids. — Laura Bradley

From ©Nickelodeon Network/Everett Collection.

<ol start="16">
<li><em>Tiny Toon Adventures</em> (1990-1992)</li>
</ol>

  1. Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992)

Originally conceived as a feature film, Tiny Toon Adventures set out to capitalize on the late 80s trend of launching what amounted to origin stories for beloved children’s characters. (Think Muppet Babies or Flintstones Kids.) But soon, Warner Bros. got Steven Spielberg on board—and the famed director had no interest in re-treading Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest. Instead, he created a whole new tiny crew, led by Buster and Babs Bunny (no relation) and Plucky Duck. Looney Tunes shorts were always injecting topical and adult humor into their animated antics, and the Tiny Toons were no different. Voice actors were asked to slip seemlessly into impersonations of pop-culture figures of the day, from Barbara Bush to Julia Roberts, Madonna, Macaulay Culkin, Roseanne Barr, and Spielberg himself. Warner Bros. would dial that irreverent attitude up to 11 for its very next animated project: Animaniacs. (Pinky and the Brain, by the way, were based on two Tiny Toon writers.) But while the snarky spin-off adventures of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot may have burned a little brighter in the pop-culture firmament, Tiny Toon Adventures has the distinction of having inspired the second season of Donald Glover’s Atlanta. Not bad work for a little duck and a pair of cute bunnies. — Joanna Robinson

From ©Warner Bros./Everett Collection.

<ol start="15">
<li><em>Hey Arnold!</em> (1996-2004)</li>
</ol>

  1. Hey Arnold! (1996-2004)

It’s hard to think of a children’s show with a bigger heart than Hey Arnold! That starts with the animation, which renders Arnold’s unnamed home-base city like a dreamy urban playground—the perfect place to stage adventures. And then there are its heroes: Arnold Shortman, a pensive fourth grader; Helga Pataki, a mercurial girl with a fierce temper; and Gerald Johanssen, Arnold’s best friend and the group’s most gifted raconteur. Hey Arnold! seamlessly wove urban legend with real-world experiences, and treated its characters’ challenges and triumphs with the weight they deserved. It delivered sentiment without becoming saccharine, and taught its young viewers lessons without condescension. That might be why Hey Arnold! remains a pleasure to re-watch, even as an adult. Its understated whimsy, along with its undercurrent of melancholy and tender optimism, are still one of a kind. — Laura Bradley

From ©Nickelodeon/Everett Collection.

<ol start="14">
<li><em>Batman: The Animated Series</em> (1992-1995)</li>
</ol>

  1. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Influenced heavily by Tim Burton’s stark adaptations of Gotham City and the stylish world of noir that inspired the creation of Bruce Wayne, the World’s Greatest Detective, in 1939, Batman: The Animated Series remains to this day the gold standard against which all other comic-book animated series are measured. With an unmistakable visual style that the creators nicknamed “dark deco,” this show—which ran for only 85 episodes—produced the definitive depictions of several of pop culture’s most famous characters. DC comic enthusiasts will hold up Kevin Conroy’s voice work as Batman and Mark Hamill’s gonzo version of the Joker against all other on-screen depictions. The show even generated an iconic figure of its very own: the Joker’s compellingly psychotic sidekick, Harley Quinn. Though Batman has always flirted with darkness (see the works of Frank Miller), this particular show is where the gothic grit of Bruce Wayne and the eccentric extremes of a memorable rogue’s gallery created the perfect tonal balance that DC’s films are still struggling to recapture to this day. — Joanna Robinson

From ©Warner Bros./Everett Collection.

<ol start="13">
<li><em>Bob’s Burgers</em> (2011-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Bob’s Burgers (2011-present)

I was reluctant to get into Bob’s Burgers. I didn’t like the title; I didn’t like the way it was being relentlessly plugged by a certain subset of comedians on Twitter. It all just seemed so smug and cutesy and exhausting, like Parks and Recreation memes in cartoon form. I’m glad I didn’t heed my initial revulsion, though. Because when I finally did start watching Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive’s wonderful series, it won me over near instantly. Bob’s Burgers is funny and sweet and strange, both transgressive and traditional, an idiosyncratic paean to family and its odd satellites. The voice work—by H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, and, most crucially, the sublime John Roberts—is intricate and specific, a remarkably credible family bond created from the isolated confines of a recording booth. I love the world of Bob’s Burgers, for the way it manages homey quaintness alongside wacky adventure, sardonic observation, and a defiant spirit of sex positivity. If it were up to only me, I wouldn’t only name Bob’s Burgers the best animated series since The Simpsons; I’d name this that show’s true heir apparent, a thoroughly winning portrait of a family in all its irreverent intimacy. Alright! — Richard Lawson
<ol start="12">
<li><em>Steven Universe</em> (2013-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Steven Universe (2013-present)

Steven Universe is the series that countless queer people wished they had growing up. Creator Rebecca Sugar, who identifies as a non-binary woman, is blazing trails with her casually heroic approach to L.G.B.T.Q. representation in children’s media. A four-time Emmy nominee, the Cartoon Network series stars a remarkably compassionate boy named Steven and his cohort of humanoid gemstone warriors, who do their best to defend the planet while also trying simply to get by. Human or not, the characters on Steven Universe display a range of emotions—anxiety, rage, love, resentment, pride—with a level of thoughtfulness rarely explored in kid’s programming. And with its emotional intelligence, nuanced character development, and inherent queerness, Steven Universe has an appeal that transcends age. “We need to let children know that they belong in this world,” Sugar has said; in Steven’s universe, child or not, you know you belong. — Christine Davitt
<ol start="11">
<li><em>Adventure Time</em> (2010-2018)</li>
</ol>

  1. Adventure Time (2010-2018)

Creator Pendleton Ward has said that Adventure Time—starring Jake the Dog and Finn the Human—was meant to be a show that “everyone can watch.” The series itself has certainly achieved that goal: set in the fantastic (and post-apocalyptic) Land of Ooo, this is a cartoon for kids that also manages to capture the complexity of human nature and all of its contradictions. Adventure Time is often silly, set in a candy-coated technicolor landscape—but it also doesn’t do much to obscure the fact that Finn and Jake are a child and his mutant dog friend simply trying to survive in a world where civilization has been wiped out. In all of its surreal glory, Adventure Time takes a grim backstory and weaves it into a heartwarming tale of friendship and adventure with a compelling narrative and complex characters. It’s simply . . . algebraic. — Christine Davitt

From ©Cartoon Network/Everett Collection.

<ol start="10">
<li><em>SpongeBob SquarePants</em> (1999-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)

As land dwellers who lurk the Internet know, few cartoons have enjoyed more enduring cultural relevance than SpongeBob SquarePants. Its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, cut his teeth as a director for Rocko’s Modern Life; his magnum opus is a gentler series with a sunnier sensibility, though it retains that earlier show’s wacky sense of humor. Just try not to be charmed by the titular sea sponge and his aquatic friends, including a dopey starfish named Patrick Star, the cranky cephalopod Squidward Tentacles, and an industrious Texan squirrel named Sandy Cheeks. Even now, nearly two decades after its debut, the series continues to air new episodes—following two film adaptations, one in 2004 and a sequel in 2015—and the SpongeBob SquarePants musical, which debuted in Chicago in 2016 and opened on Broadway last year. Online, SpongeBob moonlights as a perpetual meme machine—and unlike the mysterious machinations of Patrick’s mind, it’s easy to understand why. This show is a perfect storm of appealing visual style, kooky humor, and absurdism. It’s no wonder that almost 20 years later, one little sponge is still managing to latch onto viewers’ souls like a grappling hook. — Laura Bradley

<ol start="9">
<li><em>Big Mouth</em> (2017-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Big Mouth (2017-present)

Earnestness and gross-out humor might not seem like comfortable bedfellows—yet when Big Mouth premiered last year, it proved that an animated series can, indeed, successfully walk the tightrope between the two. After all, this is a show about puberty—and how can one tell the story of adolescence without both tenderness and a sentient, semen-filled pillow? The Netflix comedy follows a gaggle of pre-teens as their bodies and interests begin to change. It might sound like rote territory; episodes cover predictable milestones like first periods, embarrassing erections, and relationships that last only days, thanks to young love’s capricious gaze. But Big Mouth is a lot smarter and more whimsical than it had to be. Its characters are haunted by horny Hormone Monsters; more than one episode features anthropomorphized genitals. Disgusting? Sometimes. But it’s all in service of a noble goal: providing one of TV’s most honest depictions of growing up. Besides, it’s hard to think of a better cast to pull it all off than Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph, Jessi Klein, Fred Armisen, and Jenny Slate. — Laura Bradley

Courtesy of Netflix.

<ol start="8">
<li><em>Futurama</em> (1999-2013)</li>
</ol>

  1. Futurama (1999-2013)

Matt Groening’s follow-up to The Simpsons leaves behind the dynamics of a family sitcom for the arguably more grown-up world of workplace ensemble comedy, featuring the story of a present-day human who accidentally gets fast-forwarded 1,000 years into the future. The snappy repartee and hundreds of characters that make up Groening’s universes are replicated here—with the added madcap energy of alien species, advanced technology, and every science-fiction trope known to humanity. Futurama paved the way for the existence of something like Rick and Morty; the newer show superseded and on this list, anyway, surpassed the successes of this science-fiction animated gem. But for the dog episode alone, Futurama is an all-timer—and President Richard Milhous Nixon’s pickled head in a jar elevates it into cynical, sharp art. — Sonia Saraiya

From ©20th Century Fox Film Corp.

<ol start="7">
<li><em>Rocko’s Modern Life</em> (1993-1996)</li>
</ol>

  1. Rocko’s Modern Life (1993-1996)

The elastic, cruel world of creator Joe Murray’s O-Town was outfitted with the bold colors, geometric shapes, and gross-out humor of many beloved Nickelodeon Nicktoons. But amid the eye-popping stunts and barf jokes was a strangely calming, somewhat depressing story of succumbing to the absurd banality of modern life. Led by Australian wallaby Rocko, new to the vaguely Midwestern locale of O-Town, Rocko’s Modern Life told stories of malfunctioning appliances, condescending advertisements, baffling group rituals (Aerobics! Sightseeing! Lamaze classes!), and corporate anonymity. Rocko’s a naive, upbeat soul who seemingly attracts pyrrhic victories. The show’s tone is inimitable—disgusting, wry, cheerful, and glowing with the technicolor of the false promise of suburban life. — Sonia Saraiya

From Everett Collection.

<ol start="6">
<li><em>Rick and Morty</em> (2013-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. Rick and Morty (2013-present)

Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s obscene Rick and Morty is exceptional, in a kind of scary way: it’s easily one of the most brilliant illustrations of the limitations of Internet brain—that depersonalized, trolling, anger-driven entitlement that boils under the surface of online conflict. Not long ago, a subset of fans waged a harassment campaign against the show’s female writers and threw mob-sized tantrums at McDonald’s over its limited supplies of Szechuan sauce. But let these demonstrations indicate that Rick and Morty is a show that inspires great devotion. A twist on Back to the Future’s Doc and Marty, Rick and Morty showcases the universe-altering adventures of a mad scientist and his fumbling, pathetic grandson. An episode might feature a trans-planetary battle, murder Ricks and Mortys from parallel universes, and plumb the difficulty of intimacy without pausing for breath. Rick will, however, pause long enough to belch, spill food on himself, and yell obscenities at his family. It’s a testament to the show’s skills that somehow this all becomes part of his charm. — Sonia Saraiya

Courtesy of Turner Broadcasting.

<ol start="5">
<li><em>Daria</em> (1997-2001)</li>
</ol>

  1. Daria (1997-2001)

Though the snarky and unabashedly feminist vibe of one seems in direct contradiction to the juvenile, boyish humor of the other, Daria is, in fact, a spin-off of Beavis and Butt-Head. Created to be a foil for those snorting, AC/DC-loving dummies, Daria eventually graduated from background stick-in-the-mud to a truth-telling hero in her own right. Her thick glasses, combat boots, and deadpan delivery echoed a 90s archetype established by the Ghost World graphic novel and the comedic stylings of Janeane Garofalo. But in bringing that distinctly female and subversive sensibility to the largely male-dominated world of teen animation, Daria created a vital, fun space for disenfranchised, eye-rolling young women to sneer at our sick, sad world.

The show was a huge hit for MTV at a time when the network’s brand was as much about mocking the cool kids as it was about courting their attention and dollars. Daria not only punched up at vain popular girls and simple-minded jocks, but also found room to sympathize with everyone—even clueless parents—and skewer its own overwhelming whiteness through the lens of overachieving black teens Jodie and Mack. And let’s not forget one of 90s animation’s all-time sex symbols: dirtbag musician Trent Lane. But above all else, Daria put outsiders like Jane Lane and Daria Morgendorffer on the inside long before “nerd” and “geek” became synonymous with mainstream. — Joanna Robinson

From ©MTV/Everett Collection.

<ol start="4">
<li><em>Clone High</em> (2002-2003)</li>
</ol>

  1. Clone High (2002-2003)

If there were any justice, Clone High would have lasted forever. Its simple but ingenious premise—our heroes are the teenage clones of famous figures like Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, loving, learning, sharing, judging, and going to high school together—was broad enough to spark decades’ worth of inventive teen soap-opera parody, sly historical nerdery, ear-wormy one-liners, and truly inspired wordplay. (Principal Scudworth is secretly planning to hold his students captives at a zoo-like amusement park he’ll call “Cloney Island”; the show is arguably also responsible for coining the term “promposal.”) It was an early showcase for the zany, fourth-wall-busting aesthetic that creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller would eventually bring to big-screen works like The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, to much acclaim. But while their later projects are much better known, none are as fully realized as Clone High—a mile-a-minute joke machine that still managed to have real heart, thanks mostly to plots revolving around lovelorn Joan’s unrequited passion for her best friend, Abe Lincoln (voiced by a career-best Will Forte). Alas, the world wasn’t quite ready for a cartoon about a bubble-butted J.F.K. palling around with a party-animal clone of Mahatma Gandhi; dismal ratings led to its premature cancellation after a single perfect season. After all, numbers don’t lie. — Hillary Busis
<ol start="3">
<li><em>Animaniacs</em> (1993-1998)</li>
</ol>

  1. Animaniacs (1993-1998)

Animaniacs wasn’t just a cartoon—it was a chaotic, old-fashioned variety series, one that won a Peabody award in its inaugural season due in part to the way the show reminded the Peabody committee of the glory days of Hollywood animation. With the backing of Steven Spielberg, frequent celebrity cameos, and the characters’ home base on the Warner Bros. Studios lot, Hollywood was indeed central to Animaniacs’ DNA. As the story goes, animated siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner were locked away in the studio’s water tower in the 1930s—then emerged six decades later to unleash their brand of wild humor onto the world, as well as more than a few exceptionally catchy educational musical numbers. (“United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru . . .”) They bridged the gap between Hollywood’s golden age—particularly the inspired lunacy of Bugs Bunny and co.—and the present day, with a satirical edge and pop-cultural references aplenty, the sort that appealed to children and adults alike. And with two new seasons coming to Hulu in 2020, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are getting ready to take over once again. — Christine Davitt

From ©Warner Bros./Everett Collection.

<ol start="2">
<li><em>BoJack Horseman</em> (2014-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. BoJack Horseman (2014-present)

The age of Peak TV is crowded with shows about show business—and Los Angeles, and nostalgia, and self-medicating male antiheroes. But none of them hold a candle to BoJack, which also happens to be the most moving comedy (or is it the funniest drama?) on television. In its early days, Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s centauric creation seemed like a minor blip with a two-joke conceit: 90s sitcom has-been struggles to navigate 21st-century Hollywoo. (The D got destroyed in episode 6.) Also, he’s a horse. As its first season went on, though, the Netflix original gradually transformed from a simplistic showbiz satire into something deeper, richer, and altogether more daring—a series that tackled all those Peak TV pet topics, but one that also wasn’t afraid to thoughtfully undermine its own premise. Why should we care about BoJack Horseman’s redemption? And what does redemption really mean, anyway?

As rendered by Bob-Waksberg’s talented writers and an endlessly imaginative animation team headed by Lisa Hanawalt, the anthropomorphized animals and occasionally beastly humans that populate BoJack are richly layered, capable of provoking both belly laughs and heartbreak—sometimes within the span of a few seconds. Yet BoJack doesn’t feel disjointed; it’s simultaneously hilarious and haunting, self-conscious and sweeping, gravely serious and unabashedly silly. (The Simpsons may have invented the modern blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag, but BoJack has perfected the form; you could spend hours combing each frame for hidden jokes and puns capable of impressing even the most seasoned dad.) The only real knock against it is that in between those flights of fancy, BoJack can be a tremendous bummer—the sort of show where nobody is allowed to be happy for very long. But even in its most relentless moments, there’s enough humor to keep BoJack from sinking as low as BoJack himself often descends—and enough poignancy to keep viewers coming back, ideally for several seasons to come. — Hillary Busis

From ©Netflix/Everett Collection.

<ol>
<li><em>South Park</em> (1997-present)</li>
</ol>

  1. South Park (1997-present)

First things first: this show is not perfect. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s offensive comic masterpiece—a television staple since 1997 that starts its 22nd season this September—definitely reached the height of its run during the Bush years. Its beginnings in the Clinton epoch relied mostly on shock value and gross-out humor; its Obama-era episodes were funny, but not always incisive. And in the Age of Trump, it’s fair to wonder whether the show may have lost its way entirely. But those glory days certainly were glorious. At its peak, South Park was (and is still capable of being) as sickeningly funny (“Scott Tenorman Must Die”) and socially astute (“Here Comes the Neighborhood”) as it was maddening.

In a good way. Few post-Simpsons animated shows have managed to battering-ram their way into the cultural lexicon as thoroughly or mischievously as South Park. Few have enough iconic characters to fill a yearbook (Cartman! Mr. Garrison! Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo!), or as many classic episodes just waiting to be referenced whenever a relevant current event crops up. When I think of bad C.E.O. apologies, oil spills, or Cthulhu, I think of South Park. World of Warcraft? South Park. Poverty telethons, Stephen Sondheim, Mormons, Scientologists, lost underwear, cats in heat, NASCAR, pan-flute bands, chili, the word “succubus,” redheads, Jennifer Lopez, red-hooded jackets, child-mortality rates, woodland creatures . . .

Even if we were always the butt of every South Park gag, we were also always in on the joke. At its best, this series has defined, and maybe even predicted, the culture—and it’s also really fucking funny. From the looks of it, the rest of television is still catching up. — K. Austin Collins

Source : https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/09/bojack-horseman-raphael-bob-waksberg-season-5-me-too