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”Things don’t become traditions because they’re good, BoJack. They become good because they’re…traditions.”
2014 has given the world Christmas specials from both beloved franchises, such as Toy Story That Time Forgot, and from brand new characters, such as NBC’s How Murray Saved Christmas. And right in the middle of that is the expertly crafted BoJack Horseman Christmas Special: Sabrina’s Christmas Wish, a special from a new-to-2014 Netflix Original character with an excellent first season already under his horse-sized belt. It isn’t going to dethrone How the Grinch Stole Christmas or anything, but this future classic definitely deserves a spot in the kingdom. (My kingdom for this horse.)
BoJack Horseman, which made my Top 10 TV Series list this year, centers on the titular character living in the drunken squalor that his early career on the sitcom Horsin’ Around has afforded him. The Christmas special is entirely devoted to BoJack (Will Arnett) and his housemate Todd (Aaron Paul) watching one of the Horsin’ Around holiday episodes, which presents us with a constantly hilarious parody of 1980s sitcoms and Very Special Episodes in general. And the laughs surprisingly outnumber the cringes.
The wraparound plot of BoJack being forced to watch the episode isn’t a great representation of the series as a whole, admittedly. BoJack is too aggravated with Todd, and it’s just a tennis match of talky anger against holiday-infused simple-mindedness. But the Horsin’ Around stuff? I was already arguing (to no one but myself) that the fictional cornball show needed to become a real-life spinoff, and this episode just drives that point home, taking minimal sets and events and making them shine through terrible lines and heartwarming gak. Plus, Fred Savage is awesome as the annoying pop-in Goober.)
Part of BoJack Horseman’s unique charm is its surreal universe of animal characters and the puns that ensue, but this is almost an entire half-hour of this series’ point-of-view brought to traditional TV. Watching writer and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s interpretation of lowest-demographic schmaltz is at times arguably more rewarding than watching Charles M. Schultz’s highest-demographic schmaltz in A Charlie Brown Christmas. BoJack is the father of three adopted orphans, and the all-too-heightened drama involves young Sabrina (Kristen Schaal) wanting her parents back from the dead. As a Christmas wish. Eesh. I won’t spoil how it’s handed for those who haven’t watched it, but it’s exactly what you’d hope and expect from this series. (And involves BoJack telling Sabrina that he’s glad her parents are dead.)
There are a good amount of professional hindsight in lines like “What the hell is a one-jacket mind?” as well as overly goofy sitcommy things like loud audience members and young Ethan’s (Adam Conover) attempt to make a catchphrase work. I’m in the camp who thinks there’s an artform in making dumb things genuinely funny, and Horsin’ Around is a completely different side of Waksberg’s genius that serves as a prism for what is assumedly a good amount of time watching terrible television. And audiences of 2014 are the true victors here…in 30, 29, 28, 27…
You can watch the BoJack Horseman Christmas Special right now right here, and keep an eye out for Season 2 next year. And since there were many seasons of Horsin’ Around, there’s a really good chance we’ll get another one of these next year. Yowzah yowzah bo-bowzah!