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- Pac-Man Fever: Played for laughs with Decapathon VII which looks like it should be a violent and exciting gore-fest but is actually just a Tetris-esque puzzle game.
- Person as Verb: When BoJack tells one of the women he's slept with to leave his house the next morning.BoJack: My memoirist is going to show up soon and I don't need you... what's your name?Pam: Pam.BoJack: I don't need you Pamming up the place when she gets here!
- More seriously, he worries he's going to "BoJack things up" with Hollyhock in the context of "screw everything up until she hates me".
- Pet the Dog:
- Kelsey Jannings has a sharp personality but adores Todd for no reason.
- Beatrice was critical of Bojack for starring in Horsin' Around in Season 2. When she starts suffering from dementia in Season 4, she can only recognize Bojack on the show, and actually enjoys watching it.
- Phrase Catcher: "Aren't you the horse from Horsin' Around?"
- Avoided when Bojack meets Charlotte's family, where Penny asks "so who are you again?"
- Polyamory: Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack was adopted by 8 men in a gay polyamorous relationship.
- Posthumous Character:
- As of Season two, Herb Kazzaz, who continues to appear in several flashbacks.
- BoJack's father Butterscotch, who has only been seen in flashbacks. The fact he died was revealed in a flashback in Season 4, and Season 5 reveals he died in 2009 from injuries he sustained in a duel with a guy who didnt like his novel, by tripping and bashing his head on a rock.
- Everyone in the Sugarman family, which includes Beatrice's parents Joseph and Honey and her older brother Crackerjack, who died in 1944 while fighting in World War II. Beatrice herself dies in Season 5.
- Sarah Lynn dies in Season Three, although she appears in a flashback the episode after her death.
- Platonic Declaration of Love: Played With in that they never outright say love, but they come pretty close...
"Dear Judah, you are a wonderful employee. I am very proud of you. Sincerely, _________________."
- Invoked in "Love And/Or Marriage" after Princess Carolyn returns from three blind dates to sign congratulations cards to everyone in VIM Agency with the stock words made by her assistant, Judah. She signs them mechanically until she sees the one meant for Judah. She's genuinely touched he so desperately wants her approval.
Princess Carolyn: It's been a pleasure working with you, Judah.
- And then in "It's You":
Judah: I've found it to be an above-average experience. Please forgive me for getting emotional.
BoJack: And I wish you didn't get so distant after you moved out.
- In "That Went Well", Diane visits BoJack after Sarah Lynn's death, finding him in a really low point and after talking about it, Diane raises his spirits by telling him that contrary to what he now believes, Horsin' Around was an important show in people's life, especially for troubled people growing up....like her. After processing what she has just said, BoJack retorts that she's wasting her time writing tweets for celebrities when she could do much better and then:
Diane: I'm sorry.
BoJack: You know me better than anybody, and you can't not be a part of my life.
- During BoJack and Sarah Lynn's bender, he ponders over how no one else really knows what they went through. Due to a blackout, the setting changes and we next see him rambling on the same subject to her in a motel room, holding her hand, but looking nowhere near sexual. He tells her that "this... this is love."
- Precision F-Strike: Invoked. The show has a rule of using the word "fuck" exactly once per season for extra magnitude, typically to punctuate the darkest point of a season or BoJack doing irreversible damage to a relationship.note :
- In Season 1's "The Telescope", Herb tells BoJack to "get the fuck out of [his] house" after BoJack's Rejected Apology.
- In Season 2's "Escape from L.A.", Charlotte tells BoJack, "if you ever try to contact me or my family again, I will fucking kill you" after she finds BoJack in bed with her teenage daughter.
- In Season 3's "It's You", Todd unloads an angry monologue on BoJack on how selfish he is for using his Dark and Troubled Past as an excuse to be reckless with people's emotions, concluding with an exasperated "Fuck, man. What else is there to say?"
- Played with when Diane discovers that she's pregnant: "Love And/Or Marriage" ends with her screaming "MOTHERFU-!" and "Brrap Brrap Pew Pew" begins with her screaming "-UCKER!".
- Season 4's subverts it by having the word be spoken, but not necessarily "used." Bojack tells Hollyhock that he wants to look his senile, dying mother in the face and say "Fuck you, mom!", but ultimately decides it isn't worth it and spend their last visit together giving her a happy memory.
- Season 5 plays the trend more straight, with Gina saying to BoJack "What the fuck is wrong with you?!" after he nearly chokes her to death due to being high on drugs, and temporarily Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality.
- The Production Curse: In-universe, The whole Philbert production could serve as this. Princess Carolyn almost casting Vance Waggoner results in Ana showing the New Mexico tape to Diane, which later culminates in her turning hostile towards Bojack, writing the incident into an episode and later disowning him entirely. And Bojack later gets into an accident on the set which causes him to get addicted to prescribed opioids which later results in him losing sanity and almost strangle his co-star as a result.
- Pun-Based Title: Episodes 9 and 11 of season 1, "Horse Majeur" and "Downer Ending" and episodes 4 and 6 of season 2, "After Party" and "Higher Love".
- Punny Name:
- Race Lift:
- In-universe example when Naomi Watts (a white blonde) is cast to play Diane (who is Vietnamese-American).
- A "Species Lift" is done in the same movie with BoJack playing Mr. Peanutbutter and Wallace Shawn playing BoJack.
- Rage Breaking Point: Season Three has Princess Carolyn hit hers when BoJack, after firing her, mentions in passing that he'd talked the decision over with Ana because he respects her opinion — a courtesy that he'd never given to Princess Carolyn in the course of their twenty-three-year relationship, professional or personal.
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: BoJack has a prepared set of cards he wrote for firing Princess Carolyn as his agent. Not only does he read all of the stage directions out loud, but he also gets the pages out of order and mixed up with jokes from a Roast.
- BoJack does this whole working on Philbert, which Princess Carolyn spins as proof that Philbert does not play by the rules
- Reality Ensues:
- In the episode "The Shot", while making a movie about his Tragic Hero Secretariat, BoJack is furious that a powerful and dramatic event from the Secretariat's life was cut in favor of some schmaltzy, sentimental, and inaccurate scene. BoJack then convinces the director to film the original scene anyway (even having to resort to breaking and entering to get the proper set) and show it to the producer. After all, once he sees it, he'll realize his mistake and back down in favor of their artistic vision, right? That is incorrect. Even without being aware of the illegal hijinx involved in shooting the scene, the producer has the director fired for the insubordination alone and replaces her with an utter hack of a director who turns the movie into an even bigger schmaltzy Hollywoodized mess.
- Played for tragedy when BoJack attempts to make peace with his former friend Herb. (Herb was BoJack's best friend and the guy who created/wrote the show that made BoJack a star, but when Herb was outed as gay in a sex scandal, the Moral Guardians worked to get the studio to fire Herb, and the studio execs talked BoJack into cooperating instead of trying to save his friend.) The end of the episode made it clear that Herb will never forgive BoJack, not just for betraying him, but also for cutting him off as a friend afterward and never speaking to Herb again until Herb was about to die from cancer. Which shows that an apology doesn't magically make everything better, and some people will just never forgive you, no matter how genuinely apologetic you are, or how painful rejection of your sincere apology can be.
- A more humorous example happens when a couple of bird paparazzi photograph BoJack having sex with his former co-star Sarah Lynn and try to blackmail him. After spending multiple episodes trying and failing to contact him, they finally get through to his agent... who proceeds to inform them that blackmail AND taking pictures in private property without authorization of the owner are both illegal, and threatens to press charges unless they hand over the pictures and walk away with nothing.
- When BoJack, Todd, and Sarah Lynn try to write BoJack's book, they take a bunch of drugs in order to get the energy to crank out a book in just a few days. Except while the drugs might give them energy, it doesn't give them focus, and they all wind up taking far too much and going on major trips instead. What they do manage to get down is a handful of 9/11 conspiracy theories, about 20 pages of Doctor Who erotic fanfic, and the links to a bunch of YouTube videos. Drugs don't magically give you superhuman creativity, focus, or the ability to get past crippling psychological blocks, especially when you have an Addled Addict directing you and getting you to take far too much of them.
- Despite seventeen being the legal age of consent in New Mexico, no one thinks Penny and Bojack sleeping together is a good idea. Especially not Charlotte, Penny's mother. Once she catches them making out, Charlotte instantly ends her relationship with Bojack right then and there, threatening to kill him if he so much as contacts Penny ever again.
- Later in the series, when Bojack finds Penny and attempts to say he's sorry, Penny naturally freaks out. For one, Bojack just shows up out of nowhere to apologize without letting Penny know he was coming. For another thing, Penny having had time to reflect on her decision led her to have a lot of regrets about the night she fell to temptation. So, when Bojack shows up, he doesn't even get a chance to say he's sorry before Penny screams at him to leave her alone.
- Diane attempts to take down Hank Hippopopalus (an Expy of Bill Cosby) after it's been found that Hank has been sexually assaulting women for ages and got away with it due to his fame. As hard as she tries, Diane's attempts to get Hank arrested ultimately go nowhere, since there are too many people that benefit from having Hank around, to the point that the Hollywoo hype machine makes Diane out to be the bad guy, and the accusations eventually fall by the wayside when the public moves on to something else. People in Hollywoo have spent years learning how to cover their butts when something goes wrong; Diane's may be morally in the right, but she's just one woman going up against an entire industry.
- Not to mention, mere accusations without any evidence whatsoever don't usually garner a lot of sympathy or respect in the public opinion.
- The series, as a whole, delivers the Aesop that Celebrity Is Overrated by showing multiple Jaded Washouts, and how sad and empty their lives are after their star power fades. It's best exemplified in "That's Too Much, Man!" with Sarah Lynn, one of Bojack's costars on Horsin' Around. After trying to stay sober for a while, the former child star falls back on the wagon after opening up to Bojack about how empty she feels inside, and that she desperately craves any form of affection. The drugs were simply a way to feel something again. Falling back on the wagon leads to a drug overdose, and she ends up dying in Bojack's arms.
- "It's You" blows a harsh truth in Bojack's face when he's trying to justify to Todd why he slept with his girlfriend Emily by saying that he was drunk. Todd angrily cuts him off and tells him that no matter how much he wants to pin everything he does on his abusive parents, drinking problems, broken relationships, and traumas, ultimately HE is the only one to blame for the bad things he does, and it takes Todd until "Horray! Todd Episode!" to even be on speaking terms with BoJack again because of how betrayed he felt about it. The lesson here is that having shitty things happen to someone does NOT make that person unaccountable, especially when their actions hurt other people.
- Over the course of four seasons, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter work hard to make their marriage work, as one is a realist worried that they will never be satisfied with life, and the other is an amazingly chipper optimist who is satisfied with literally everything. They have their ups-and-downs, but through genuine effort and their love for one another, they manage to maintain a supportive, albeit imperfect, relationship. Until the Season 4 finale, wherein Mr. Peanutbutter once again gives Diane a Grand Romantic Gesture (which he knows she doesn't like), leading to a fight where they seem to realize that it truly isn't going to work. It's a sad reality, but some people just aren't good for one another, even if they're in love.
- In "Brrap Brrap Pew Pew", Diane accidentally uses Sextina Aquafina's Twitter account to say that she's getting an abortion. She and Princess Carolyn are about to prepare a statement explaining what happened to the public, but when they discover that the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, the latter decides to fake Sextina's abortion in order to support the pro-choice movement, and actually arrange for the "procedure" to happen live to educate the public. The celebrity happily plays along, bragging about what she's going to do on talk shows and even going as far as to make a Refuge in Audacity song about abortion. At the end of the episode, Sextina actually gets pregnant for real, and she decides to keep the baby, meaning Diane and Princess Carolyn start gleefully brainstorming how to cover it up from the public. Just because you say you'd do something in a given situation, it doesn't mean you will do it when it actually happens.
- A humorous example occurs when Diane tries hallucinogenic drugs for the first time. She takes it, the music starts up, and she prepares for the hit...only for the other party goers to inform her that it's going to take a while to kick in.
- One episode is entitled, and involves around, the Fish out of Water trope. Bojack travels under the sea—which is the Bojack-world equivalent to a foreign country—for a screening of his film. Bojack's experiences reflect those that someone traveling overseas might have: he doesn't understand what anyone is saying, he doesn't have the proper currency to buy things, and while a thumbs-up means approval to him, underwater, it's treated as a middle finger.
- The episode also shows what traveling to an underwater city would actually be like. Bojack can't eat food without taking off the helmet he needs to breathe. He eventually finds himself cornered on the edge of a building, and the cement crumbles, at which point he realizes he can simply...swim. This is also played for tragedy at the end of the episode, in which Bojack writes a heartfelt apology to Kelsey for getting her fired and cutting her off afterward. He gives it to her, but she doesn't understand, because the water messed the ink up.
- Once again played for tragedy at the end of the episode. Bojack spends most of his underwater experience taking care of an abandoned seahorse baby and trying to get it back to its father. It's a very heartwarming, silent-slapstick-esque misadventure, and Bojack genuinely cares for the little guy. The second he brings the baby back home, it forgets about Bojack in favor of his father and siblings.
- Early season 5 shows how difficult the process of divorce can be, and how it can make the parties involved act indifferent, almost concerning ways. Mr. Peanutbutter, a very emotional person and usually the more empathetic of the two, still has lingering feelings for Diane but immediately enters a new relationship regardless. Diane, who struggles with letting her emotions show and asked for the divorce to begin with, has difficulty being on her own and completely breaks down once she realizes that Mr. Peanutbutter and her are truly done.
- In season 5, Hollyhock, in a fit of traumatized panic, dumps Bojack's painkillers down the drain. Said painkillers were highly addictive opioids, and in their quest to get more, the two can't just ask a doctor for more, as he dismisses them as lying.
- Reality Subtext: An odd In-Universe one, as this is a big contributor for why BoJack's script reading for the "Secretariat" movie was as good as it was.Script-Reader: When you're out there on that there race-track, what are you running from?Secretariat!BoJack: You wanna know the truth? Nothing.Script-Reader: Everyone's running from something, sugar.Secretariat!BoJack: No, I'm... I'm running from nothing. I'm terrified of nothing. People come up to me, they want my autograph, they want my picture. They think they recognize something in me, and I want to be that person that they think I am, but I'm not. They see a greatness in me, and they mistake it for goodness, but I... I know there's nothing there. As fast as I run, I can't get away from that.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
BoJack: Maybe because you're skinny and maybe 'cause you're pretty you're used to getting away with things, but I want you to know that your actions have an effect on others, and I hate you, and you are a HORRIBLE person! And you not understanding that you're not a horrible person doesn't make you any less of a horrible person!
- BoJack tries to give one to a dumb blonde girl who picks on him at a bar one night.
Sara Lynn: You sit up here in your little house and feel sorry for yourself? Ugh, guess what BoJay: in order to be a has-been, you actually have to have, y'know, been!
- Though not quite as intense (or justified) as later moments, Sara Lynn's towards BoJack in "Prickly Muffin" is pretty nasty:
Herb: I'm not gonna give you closure. You don't get that. You have to live with the shitty thing you did for the rest of your life. You have to know that it's never, ever going to be okay! I'm dying! I'm not gonna feel better! And I'm not gonna be your prop so you can feel better! Do you know what it was like for me? I had nobody. Everybody left! I knew all those showbiz phonies would turn on me, sure. But you? I don't care about the job! I did fine! I had a good life, but what I needed then was... a friend. And you abandoned me. And I will never forgive you for that. Now get the fuck out of my house!
- In "The Telescope", Herb gives one to BoJack in the form of a Rejected Apology.
Herb: You know what your problem is? You want to think of yourself as the good guy. Well, I know you better than anyone, and I can tell you that you're not. In fact, you'd probably sleep a lot better at night if you just admitted to yourself that you're a selfish goddamn coward who just takes whatever he wants and doesn't give a shit about who he hurts. That's you. That's BoJack Horseman.
- In "The Telescope", Herb gives another, bitterer one before BoJack leaves.
Beatrice: I just wanted to tell you that I know. I know you want to be happy, but you won't be... and I'm sorry.
- BoJack's mother Beatrice gives her son one in "Brand New Couch":
Beatrice: It's not just you, you know. Your father and I, we, well... you come by it honestly, the ugliness inside you. You were born broken, that's your birthright. And now you can fill your life with projects: your books and your movies and your little girlfriends but... that won't make you whole. You're BoJack Horseman. There's no cure for that.
- The entire Season 4 episode "Stupid Piece of Sh*t" is a voice in BoJack's head giving these to him. The big one comes at the end:Mental voice: Talk to your daughter. You're ruining her. You know that, right? No matter what, your poison is already in her. There's nothing you can do.
BoJack: That's not true!
Mental voice: Yeah, it is! You stupid piece of shit. You're a real stupid piece of shit, and everywhere you go you destroy people. 'Course your mother never loved you. What'd you expect? That's why Sarah Lynn died! That's why Charlotte will never forgive you! What're you going to do to Hollyhock? What're you going to do, asshole?!
BoJack: SHUT UP!
- Record Needle Scratch: Played straight in "Later" when Vincent arrives at the party to confess his love for Princess Carolyn and played with in "Yesterdayland" when Wanda learns that Alex has also just woken from a thirty-year coma.Radio presenter: Whoa! Sorry about that needle skip, folks. Let's start that song again from the beginning.
- Recurring Element: Many.
- Each season, BoJack loses someone he truly cared about from his past:
- In Season 1, Herb. BoJack and him were already on bad terms, due to BoJack's betrayal and the fact he never apologized or called during the twenty years that passed in the meantime and goes back to apologize when Herb is in his deathbed. After a nice visit, Herb refuses to forgive BoJack just so when he feels better about himself. After a physical fight between them, what little friendship they had left is destroyed. By season 2, Herb finally dies.
- In Season 2, Charlotte. He runs away from L.A. to talk with her after almost twenty years, only to then learn that she now has a family and is Happily Married. Even then, he still tries to get closer to her by getting closer to her daughter, this then backfires when she falls in love with him and Charlotte outright rejects him when he finally confesses. This was already bad enough, but then Charlotte caught BoJack and Penny almost having sex, resulting in her threatening to kill him if he ever got near them again.
- In Season 3, Sarah Lynn. After pushing away all friends he had left, they go together on a huge bender that takes weeks of them getting drunk and using hardcore drugs. This leads them to to an AA meeting where BoJack decides to try and make amends to everybody he hurt during the last year. It ends badly as nobody accepts the apology of a drunken BoJack who keeps getting drunken blackouts. When they finally have a heart to heart with in which they admit they truly love each other due to meeting before fame and before anyone wanting anything from them, Sarah Lynn decides to go back to college and tries again to follow a childhood dream of being an architect, and BoJack takes them to the planetarium so they can see the stars, but by then Sarah Lynn dies sleeping in his arms.
- In season 4, however, this trend is subverted. It seems that the person BoJack is going to break ties with is his mother, planning to curse her out as soon as she recognizes him. However, when she gets kicked out of her nursing home, he has to house her. After it's revealed that she was putting amphetamines in Hollyhock's coffee that ultimately hospitalized Hollyhock with the blame pinned on BoJack, BoJack decides to have her put in an even worse nursing home and then never see her again. The subversion comes when his mother recognizes him at last, and instead of cutting her off, he creates for her a pleasant image of her childhood summer home. There is also an inversion of the trend in how BoJack gains a relationship this season with Hollyhock and makes sure that it isn't ruined.
- In season 5, Diane. She finds out about what Bojack did in New Mexico. She tries to get the truth out of him about the incident and when it doesn't happen, she humiliates him out of spite by writing it into Philbert. Later during the premiere party, both her and Bojack get into a fight about his past abusive behaviour which ends with Diane officially breaking ties with Bojack and leaving Philbert. Though it's unknown at the end of Season 5 whether or not Bojack and Diane will be friends again.
- Season 3 subtly played the theme of family: Diane meets Mr. Peanutbutter's brother and his kids, she gets pregnant, though she decides to have an abortion. In the same episode, Sextina reveals she's pregnant and wants to keep the baby, in a flashback, Princess Carolyn's boss lamented he never got to have a wife or a family, BoJack has to take care of a baby seahorse and turn him back to his father, Rutabaga and his wife have kids and Gecko holds one of the babies, Princess Carolyn talks about her mother and her childhood to BoJack and so on. Doubles as foreshadowing, as the last episode implies BoJack has a daughter he did not know about.
- Season 4's "Commence Fracking" has a theme of sex across the subplots. The A-plot is BoJack and Hollyhock tracking down all the women BoJack ever slept with (one of whom he has sex with again), the Princess Carolyn plot is about trying to have Ralph get her pregnant to the point of having sex in a cop car, and the Diane/Mr. Peanutbutter plot involves Diane not feeling satisfied until she and Mr. Peanutbutter have angry hate-sex over political disagreements. Note how Todd has almost no lines in this episode.
- Each season's eleventh episode is the darkest one. The twelfth episodes are lighter but leave a Cliffhanger except season 3 which doubles down on the sadness of the previous episode and leaves a Cliffhanger.
- Each season, BoJack loses someone he truly cared about from his past:
- Red Herring: Season 5 has one in the penultimate episode. BoJack received a ransom note saying "You did a bad thing and I'm going to tell", and the viewers know that Character Actress Margo Martindale survived and is regaining her memory. It turns out to be a promotional stunt for Philbert.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: BoJack acts as blue, with both Todd and Mr. Peanutbutter alternating as his red counterpart.
- Red Shirt: Parodied in "The Shot" when Alan, the cable repairman, is roped into taking part in a break-in by the rest of the cast, and everyone keeps saying that "one of them might not come out of this alive". Every time they do, they all stare at him. He is also wearing a red shirt. Bonus points for being a panda. Subverted. He lives.Alan: "I can't die, I'm endangered!"
- Refuge in Audacity: Averted in the show at large, but played straight in-universe when BoJack gives some choice words on Todd's rock opera:BoJack: That was, and I don't say this lightly, worse than a hundred September 11ths.
- Regretful Traitor: BoJack was this to Herb, as he was reluctant to betray his friend and felt terrible about it... but not so reluctant that he wouldn't do it, and not so terrible that he wouldn't continue to ignore Herb for twenty years afterward, until Herb was on his deathbed.
- Rejected Apology: After visiting his old friend Herb, who he had stabbed in the back when he promised to support him when he came out of the closet, BoJack apologizes to him. Herb says he doesn't accept it. BoJack's confused, so Herb clarifies: He's not going to forgive him, he's not going to give him peace of mind, and BoJack is going to have to live with the horrible thing he did for the rest of his life.
- Repeat After Me: In a Running Gag, when custom printing appears, it usually has some instructions that the printer has idiotically left in.CONGRATS DIANE AND MR. PEANUT BUTTERPEANUT BUTTER IS ONE WORD DONT WRITE ONE WORD
- The Reveal: Henrietta, the name Beatrice calls Bojack throughout season 4, was the name of Beatrice's maid, who was impregnated by Butterscotch in an extramarital affair. Butterscotch was able to talk Beatrice into asking Henrietta to get an abortion, but she ended up conceding to pay Henrietta's tuition and convincing her to give the baby up for adoption, believing this to be a compromise between Henrietta's desire to have the baby and Beatrice's wish to not let another woman be poisoned by her attachment to Butterscotch. The baby she had grew up to be Hollyhock.
- Revealing Continuity Lapse:
- Happens when we watch through flashbacks from the perspective of Beatrice Horseman, who is suffering from dementia. Most noticeably, at one point Butterscotch begs Beatrice empty handed to speak to the maid whom he has impregnated, and when he speaks of coming to his wife 'hat in hand' his hands suddenly glitch and a hat appears, as though Beatrice just remembered it was there.
- Dicussed and subverted in another case, when BoJack recounts a fan coming to him about a scene of Horsin' Around in which a coffee cup can be seen on the counter in shots of The Horse, but not of Ethan, asking whether this was done deliberately by the show's producers to make a profound statement about how even people who take part in the same event together can have entirely different experiences and memories of it. BoJack scoffs - some intern just left the cup there and nobody noticed it - but tells the fan Sure, Why Not? anyway.
- Rewatch Bonus: Once we learn who Henrietta is (Beatrice and Butterscotch's maid who Butterscotch got pregnant with Hollyhock), the way Beatrice treats Bojack all season (who she refers to as Henrietta) makes more sense and gains context and even subtext (such as "You're unfit to be a parent, Henrietta).
- The music video for "Prickly Muffin" in Season 1, episode 3 is partially set in a planetarium - where Sarah Lynn dies in season 3.
- Ridiculous Procrastinator: BoJack with his memoir. The first episode mentions that he hasn't written a word, even after being given a year and a half to, and will look for an excuse not to work any time he's shown attempting to. Granted, it's mostly because he's too ashamed to admit how bad his life has been and is only writing it so people will like him again.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Hank Hippopopalous' scandal involving his former assistants is very similar to Bill Cosby's own rape allegations, the media and much of the public's (initial) "would not, could not" response to the allegations and the media's Unfortunate Implications-laden response to Diane and its attempts to brush it off. The major difference was that, while never incarcerated (thus far), it's permanently ruined his public image.
- Near the end of season five, the show acknowledges the wave of sexual abuse and harassment allegations and lawsuits that finally came to light in early 2018. In one plot line, BoJack chokes his costar Gina on set while high on painkillers and footage is leaked to the public. When he sees the footage, not having remembered it happening, he is so horrified that he tells her he wants to tell the truth to the media. Gina does not forgive BoJack for the incident, but she demands that he lie about it, stating that this show is her big break and that she is finally getting the recognition she has been seeking for years and she does not want her career ended or overshadowed by his dispicable actions, which somewhat echoes the reasons many of the Me Too movements victims cited for not coming forward with allegations earlier. In another plot line which is a more direct correlation to these events, women begin to come forward with their allegations against the sex robot Todd built to satisfy Emily and executive of What Time Is It Right Now.com, Henry Fondle.
- The Rival: Vanessa Gekko is Princess Carolyn's. Mr. Peanutbutter is BoJack's but it's mostly one-sided since the former considers the latter his friend, however they did engage in many petty competitions in order to impress Diane in "Our A Story is a D Story."
- Rock Bottom: By the end of Season 3, Bojack has alienated nearly everyone who cares about him.
- Rousing Speech: At the end of "Out to Sea", the jogger stands over a wheezing, out-of-breath BoJack to deliver the season's inspirational final lines:Jogger: It gets easier.
Jogger: Every day, it gets a little easier.
Jogger: But you gotta do it every day. That's the hard part. But it does get easier.
(The jogger runs off)
- Rule of Funny: Though the show typically subverts the standard sitcom formula, every now and then they'll play it dead straight for the fun of it. For example, Season 2's "Chickens" has BoJack convinced that a helpful tow-man will be along any second, and will be happy to settle for an autograph in exchange for his help. Kelsey calls him out on this, only to have the tower pull up and recognize both BoJack and her, requesting a couple autographs in exchange for his help.
- Rule of Symbolism: There's a lot of drowning symbolism in this series: notable examples include BoJack's painting in his office, his falling into the pool in his intro, and Sarah Lynn's painting of Hamlet's Ophelia.
- Running Gag:
""I would love to take down Hippopopalous and finally topple the acropolis of monstrous hypocrisy that ensconces us."
- Honeydew melon being positioned as "a garbage fruit".
- Several episodes per season feature a character relaying information as an elaborate tongue twister. One example:
Banner for Diane's birthday:Happy Birthday Diane and use a pretty font.
- Any time someone has a banner made for an event, their instructions are printed on it too.
Radio Host: Good morning, Hollywood! It's a beautiful sunny morning in 2007!
- Season Two introduces a poor bird whose only role is to get slammed by doors opening, causing a flurry of feathers to appear.
- Whenever there's a flashback to an earlier decade, there will always be blatant reminders of the era: a pan across the city, with store names being topical remarks about the time period; a stereotypical-sounding pop/rock song of the era, with lyrics reminding the viewer of the era; and the characters repeatedly declaring what year it is and making references to things that were popular in that particular year or decade.
Princess Carolyn: Oh my God, 2007? Is that what time it is? I gotta get my Uggs on and get to work!
- Printers using Repeat After Me for every T-shirt, banner and announcement.
- Each season, Diane's ringtone is played by a different personality from NPR: Ira Glass in season one, Sarah Koenig in season two, Terry Gross (with Jonathan Lethem) in season three, and Robert Siegel (with Audie Cornish) in season four.
- Ruritania: The war-torn totalitarian nation of Cordovia.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Don't Stop Dancing" from Season 5 describes BoJack's state of mind rather well.
- Santa Ambiguity: In "Sabrina's Christmas Wish", Todd asks if Santa exists after watching a Santa-centered episode of "Horsin' Around" and Bojack replies that they were on cocaine.
- Santa's Existence Clause: In the "Horsin' Around" Christmas special, BoJack tries to get Sabrina to believe in Santa Claus, telling her that he'll bring her anything she wants. Unfortunately, what Sabrina wants is her dead parents back. BoJack struggles to let her down easily without destroying her belief in Christmas. On Christmas morning, Sabrina finds a letter under the tree supposedly written by her parents, but this isn't enough for her. After she storms off, BoJack is forced to tell her that Santa isn't real, but what Santa represents is still something worth believing in. At the end of the episode, BoJack reveals that he didn't write the letter and neither did the other kids. The special ends with a familiar jolly laugh. (Todd needs to have this plot point explained to him.)
- Satire and Switch: As part of the Decon-Recon Switch, the series began as a darker take on sitcom tropes from the beginning, with the Hollywoo(d) satire being fairly standard, lax and somewhat derivative, making it seem like another regular adult cartoon back when it premiered in 2014. Halfway the 1st season, the show switched gears from general satire to dramatic character study, with the refocus toward the damaged Hollywoo(d) characters coloring the satire moving forward, making it sharper and more vicious.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: One of the Netflix extras has BoJack trying out for other Netflix roles. One of them has him auditioning for Orange Is the New Black, only to leave when he finds that the role he's auditioning for is for the Larry story.
- Seldom-Seen Species: A common staple among the background animals, who range from as commonplace as cats and dogs to as obscure as pronghorns and barracudas.
- "Prickly Muffin" features some very specific primates (including bush babies and cous cous) and a veritable rainbow of lemurs (including ringed, black-and-white-ruffed, red-ruffed, mouse, and what looks multiple sifakas.)
- Yolanda is an axolotl, which aren't often seen in fiction.
- Self-Deprecation: Terminally ill Herb invites BoJack and Diane inside:"Please, come in. You're letting out the cancer."
- On a meta note, Garry Marshall, a director known for hacky, clichéd, overly sentimental movies plays Abe, a director who turns Secretariat into a hacky, clichéd, overly sentimental movie.
- Sarah Lynn believing that Diane's character is just "Asian Daria, with the glasses and the jacket, and her whole 'blah' thing."
- Cuddlywhiskers showing up in the middle of "That's Too Much, Man!" and explaining that it was a poor choice to use "a disjointed blackout structure with the one flashback in the middle" as a structure for the episode.
- "Commence Fracking" attempts to set up another long flashback sequence to 1999 akin to those in "The Telescope" and "The Bojack Horseman Show" only for Hollyhock to stop it by saying "I don't need a long story, just get to the point". If you look at the buildings in the background, the traditional Reference Overdosed humor is replaced◊ with generic messages like "It's another flashback!" and "Relevant billboard".
- Severely Specialized Store: "Halloween in January".
- Sex with the Ex:
- BoJack and Princess Carolyn engage in this early on but move on quickly.
- BoJack, again, with the president of his fan club, who he is only visiting to get more information on who Hollyhocks mother might be
- After their divorce, Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter do this a few times
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Wanda tells a joke that at first glance seems to be this. In the joke, contractor's story ends with him at the edge of insanity, with the only relief being getting rid of the bag of munch. Not only is his story not given a proper conclusion, the joke in itself fails to get a punchline, as BoJack notes. Until the next one...
- Ship Tease: Bojack and Diane have this early in the show, with some of it returning in season 4. Notably, season 4 shows them having grown to be very comfortable in each other's presence and conversing more easily than with anyone else, meanwhile, Diane continues to have marital problems with Mr. Peanutbutter. It remains to be seen if her and Bojack's Ship Tease is leading to anything.
- Comes back in season five after Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter get divorced. Diane and BoJack get drunk at his house and she notes how strange it is that this is the first time theyve both been single at the same time, though she quickly backtracks, calling the thought and BoJack gross, though she doesnt seem to mean it
- Show Within a Show: Horsin' Around, Mr. Peanutbutter's House, Excess Hollywoo, and MSNBSea.
- Sibling Yin-Yang/Polar Opposite Twins: Mr. Peanutbutter's House featured two twin sisters: Zelda and Zoe who were adopted by the titular dog. Zelda was a happy-go-lucky extrovert while Zoe was a cynical introvert. Their character traits spawn an in-universe meme: "Are you a Zelda or a Zoe?"
- Signs of Disrepair: After the "D" from the iconic Hollywood sign is stolen (and later destroyed), the region is renamed "Hollywoo".
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Bojack barely hides his contempt for Mr. Peanutbutter, but despite himself they also form something of Vitriolic Best Buds due to Mr. Peanutbutter's refusal to admit anything is wrong.
- Tom Jumbo-Grumbo and Randy of MSNBSea have this dynamic, though Tom immediately sets it aside when Randy collapses in Season 4.
- Between BoJack and his publicist, Ana, in Season 3, as it started out by having him fire her — which only served to turn her on because nobody asserts themselves with her.
- In Season 4, this is how Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane resolve their increasingly loud arguments by having hot, passionate sex right after screaming at each other.
- Sleeper Hit: The show filmed in the fifth season "Philbert" shows the Troubled Production every step of the way, and is hard to determine if it's supposed to be Stylistic Suck or Stealth Parody, and few have any real hope in the end result. The show ends up a critical smash, and quickly renewed for a second season.
- Sliding Scale of Parent-Shaming in Fiction: Bojack's parents are routinely shown to be abusive towards him or neglectful at best, and while Bojack is shown not to be Hollyhock's father, Bojack isn't exactly the greatest father figure to the young women in his life either. Some of the "advice" he gave to Sarah Lynn during their time on Horsin' Around could easily explain facets of her character.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: BoJack Horseman is cynically optimistic. It has a lot of heart-wrenching moments that are hard to get through but provides enough insightfulness to help its message is such a conflicting and difficult world to deal with. The show's ultimate message is that love and happiness are attainable, but not easily.
- The first three seasons are just slightly more optimistic than a show like Rick and Morty. However, the fourth season is where it establishes the show as a great mixture of both cynicism and optimism. It shows that life is no sitcom but theres still some amazing things to have in life.
- Season 5 does get Darker and Edgier than the surprisingly more colorful season 4 but it still keeps its balance in understanding the harshness of reality but keeping in the hopefulness and heartwarming moments of life.
- Slow Clap: Quentin Tarantulino, being a tarantula, is able to start and escalate one on his own.
- Small Name, Big Ego: BoJack shifts between thinking he's a great actor who's just misunderstood to outright loathing himself.
- Snap Back: Averted, as the overall show is about BoJack learning to keep responsibilities and live with the consequences of his actions.
- So Bad, It's Good: In-universe, Emily tells BoJack how she loves "The BoJack Horseman Show" because of how bad it is and repeatedly affirms that she enjoys it ironically and not sincerely, to BoJack's frustration.
- The Sociopath: While the show's themes (depression, happiness, life, fame, futility, cruelty) and its characters thrive on White and Grey Morality at best (rarely) and Grey and Grey Morality at worst (mostly), quite a lot fits the criteria to the point of occasionally shifting its stance to Black and Grey Morality.
- Hank Hippopopalous, a stand-in for Bill Cosby, David Letterman and every Hollywood scumbag with godhood delusion and narcissism, has an affable vibe and calm demeanor toward everyone which doesn't stop him from revealing in private how stuck in his own orbit he is. Even then, that's just the tip of his depravity with his mask covering a complete lack of regard toward anyone not in his circle of connections or whoever dares stand in his way. It can go further with his well-webbed self denial of his cruel actions even if he's quite conscious about the pain he causes: long as he has a career, he can do as he pleases and no one else has to get hurt...if they stay in line and don't threaten his livehood. Mostly a high-functioning case, Hank's nastier side can show up when there are people who aren't buying into his personal truth in which he'll resort to give them a warning through thin-veiled threats and personally parading his victim as a coated good gesture.
- Esteemed Character Actress Margo Martindale zig-zags through this profile, as she would do, really: She meets most of the criteria to qualify, except she's far too calculating and cautious to count. Her hysterical fits and desire for cheap thrills, even with how she intentionally screws up every mission she has just for the sake of seeing violence erupt, does see her tip-toe through the edges. There's also her twisted sense of empathy and "warrior" honor. Plus, she's hilarious.
- The father and son of the chicken slaughterhouse Gentle Farms (chicken themselves) have their own takes: the patriarch is superficially charming, has a good sense of acceptable behavior and has no qualms over his farm's business, grooming his kid to follow his every command and carry on the family business, even in shooting trespassers. The son, a budding example, has normalized this and sees nothing wrong with this behavior, even if he sometimes questions if it's good or moral to do so.
- Joseph Sugarman, patriarch of the Sugarman family, Beatrice's father, Butterscotch's boss and BoJack's grandfather, is the living embodiment of the Standard '50s Father; that is, a complete evisceration of the trope: his deep belief in old-fashioned values has made him devoid of any sort of empathy for his family, describing emotions as "woman's feelings" and happy that he may suppress his. This is not going into how easily he shown to be willing to harm his family and abuse them emotionally and physically if he deemed necessary or to keep them safe (e.g. his wife Honey's lobotomy, conditioning Beatrice to occupy a woman's place in society and destroying her psyche in any way he could, giving Bea reasons to harm her son BoJack turning him into the screwed-up horse seen in the present.)
- Something Completely Different: Various episodes scattered around play with unusual storytelling methods.
- "Fish Out Of Water" has dialogue in the intro but spends all its time underwater and with a bubble helmet Bojack is unable to communicate with anyone, relying pretty much exclusively on visuals, action and music to tell the story.
- "That's Too Much, Man" is Bojack and Sarah Lynn going on a month-long drug bender, with Bojack blacking out for long portions of the actual story.
- "Stop the Presses" features an elaborate Framing Device of a newspaper marketer learning a long, elaborate story of why Bojack wants to cancel his paper, slowly turning into a therapy session.
- "Time's Arrow" fills in a lot of gaps in the Horseman/Sugarman family history, filtered through her dementia. It has surreal, even horror-like elements as she remembers events, characters decades apart switch places or have their faces scribbled out like a cartoon.
- "Free Churro" has a few background noises and a brief intro, but is functionally an episode-long monologue at Beatrice Horseman's funeral, taking place in the same location and reuses the same dozen or so camera angles. Will Arnett is the only credited voice actor.
- "INT: SUB" has a Framing Device where two therapists share stories about their patients, changing the superficial characteristics of the cast but otherwise explaining all the secrets revealed in their sessions. This includes a Special Edition Title for "Bobo the Angsty Zebra" and gets even weirder when the story ends up including the other therapists.
- "The Showstopper" has Bojack's painkiller addiction catch up to him and he starts blurring the lines between the show "Philbert" and his real life, he doesn't realize exactly which is which until the end.
- Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: Horses can't vomit. Then again they also can't talk.
- Species Surname:
- BoJack Horseman and Pinky Penguin.
- Subverted with Vanessa Gekko who is a human and Cameron Crow who is a raven, plus Matthew Fox (a wolf) and Scott Wolf (a fox).
- Speed Sex: BoJack's total lack of staying power is something of a running gag.
- Stage Mom:
Sarah's Mother: Sweetheart, Mommy didn't do what Mommy did to that "Star Search" producer so that you could be an architect.
- Sarah Lynn had an extreme one.
Beatrice Horseman: You want your mommy to love you? Then you go out there, and you do the only thing you're good for, which is singing the god-damned lollipop song!
- And BoJack wasn't fit to help Sarah Lynn due to his having experienced this trope with his own mother, even if it was to a lesser degree.
- Standard Snippet: "Pictures At An Exhibition — Promenade" plays during Princess Carolyn's Imagine Spot when she imagines living in one of the paintings at the discount art store.
- Start My Own: During Season 2, Princess Carolyn and Rutabaga plan on leaving Vigor and starting their own agency. Then when their affair collapses, Rutabaga signing everything to Princess is used against him as she shuts him out of the company.
- Start of Darkness: Diane implies that BoJack's troubles come at least partially from his own parents, that play a sort of Greater-Scope Villain through the first seasons. Beatrice mentions in season 2 that the bad things BoJack goes through aren't exclusive of him, and that the Horseman family is virtually cursed. This is expanded in "The Old Sugarman Place" and "Time's Arrow" in season 4, which shows the story that led to Beatrice and Butterscotch's bitterness and resentment towards BoJack, particularly Beatrice's past and her own Abusive Parents, with her brother's death causing her mother to go insane and get lobotomized by her father and a series of events that left her traumatized including getting scarlet fever. An accidental pregnancy causes them to run away together and marry but they grow resentful of each other and dump their bitterness on BoJack.
- Status Quo Is God: Deconstructed as part of the show's primary theme, and the concept of Negative Continuity is functionally non-existent. There is a lot of continuity from episode to episode (various damages to Bojack's house remain for most of the season before getting repaired) and relationships change and evolve over time, but despite how monumental some events get some changes are reversed to keep the general structure of the show. It also deconstructs the way this trope normally works in sitcoms, by showing how miserable and frustrating it can actually be to live a life where major changes never stick and you have to keep relearning the same lessons.
- Todd becomes a millionaire, but accidentally tips his entire fortune at a restaurant just a short while later.
- Bojack's depression: happiness is fleeting for him, and so despite his many successes, he will always return to being miserable. Truth in Television, unfortunately.
- At Beatrice Horseman's funeral Bojack mentions that being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold is extremely difficult and depressing, as you can never tell if your apologies will be accepted and it requires you to make that effort on a regular basis. He also refers to an episode of "Horsin' Around" where a Season Finale had one of the orphans with a chance to reunite with their birth mother, he bemoans that such a Happy Ending would be impossible because the show was still ongoing and it HAD to become a Downer Ending since "There's always more show."
- Stealth Pun: After she quits Vigor with Rutabaga, Princess Carolyn starts VIM, making the two talent agencies VIM and Vigor.
- This comes back in Season 4, when Charlie Witherspoon tells PC about how he wanted to merge the two agencies into one agency called Vimgor.
- Tina, the bear nurse, could also be known as a Care Bear.
- Princess Carolyn grew up in a household where her mother (and subsequently herself) worked as maids - making them housecats.
- Stock Scream: A Wilhelm Scream is heard in the first episode when a Penguin Publishing employee jumps out of a window.
- A rare non-human example happens in "Time's Arrow" when Beatrice vomits on Corbyn Creamerman (who is a goat) he lets out an infamous goat scream.
- Straight Gay: Herb. The discovery of his sexuality led to him being blacklisted.
- Strictly Formula: Not the episodes themselves, but each season follows a strict pattern of events:
- A season-long arc is established;
- Things go mostly okay for several episodes;
- Then the tenth episode sets up something monumental.
- In the 11th episode, Bojack will do something utterly horrid, ending with him at his emotional lowest, only to get a little bit of hope back by the end of the twelfth episode.
- All of the smaller plot threads wrap up, with new ones being set up for the next season.
- Somewhere in the middle of it all is a single f-bomb for when BoJack ruins a relationship beyond repair.
- Season 4 surprisingly bucks the trend. Episode 11 is largely a dementia-triggered flashback to various parts of Beatrice's life, showing the events that turned her into the bitter woman that contributed so heavily to BoJack's trauma; at the very end, she becomes lucid enough to recognize her son again, but instead of chewing her out like he'd wanted to, BoJack chooses to comfort her instead. Throughout the season, BoJack shows signs of character development, slowly patching up his relationships with the rest of the main cast and even performing some genuinely selfless actions. He doesn't even wreck any new ones this time around. The big incident is really only his fault through negligence, with someone else actively behind it; the victim also doesn't blame him for what happened and is willing to remain friends afterwards. Finally, the Precision F-Strike is used offhandedly when BoJack is planning something that doesn't end up happening.
- Stylistic Suck:
- The Horsin' Around Christmas Special throws in every lame pun, gimmick and sitcom plot device imaginable. And it is hilarious!
- There's also the BoJack Horseman website. It is, put lightly, a horribly outdated eyesore filled with self-complimentary lies, parodying amateur-created sites that were found on Geocities and Angelfire. Since it is supposed to have been made by BoJack in-character, however, it fits.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: When Princess Carolyn is on a (bad) date with an albino rhinoceros who is also a gynecologist.Princess Carolyn: Not if you were the last albino rhino gyno on Earth!Date: Well, I'm the only albino rhino gyno I know. Should we get some wine?Princess Carolyn: Oh great, you're also a wine addict.
- Sunglasses at Night: Officer Meow-Meow Fuzzyface in "Chickens" in order to pull a Horatio-esque one-liner. Lampshaded by Todd.Todd: Why was he wearing sunglasses at night?
- Superior Successor: BoJack, flaws aside, often comes across as this compared to his other peers.
- To Secretariat. Low as he can fall, BoJack just refuses to be kicked to the ground and simply take the easy way out and keeps trying to see any kind of silver lining, unlike his hero who allowed his bottled emotions to drain him out of any will to live.
- To the whole Sugarman/Horseman family:
- Beatrice's horrid childhood, rebellious young life and subsequent lack of wealth left her jaded, volatile and self-serving without any concern toward those around her other than the injustices she endured as a result of giving all of herself to her son without any regards for personal choices. BoJack does have a sense of dissatisfaction about the way his life headed and has caused many clusterfucks worthy of being lynched, but has enough sense to know how damaging these are. Recently, he's gotten better at acknowledging his mistakes and mending them, something Beatrice could never figure out how to do.
- Butterscotch's sense of idealism was broken by being cast out of the life he thought was promised him: the Beat generation dismissed his ideas and his sense of hurt pride made him an uncompromising man whose prose never got better as a result. BoJack has a desire to achieve greatness but has had enough experiences to know how unfulfilled hanging on to aspirations leave you, so he's learned to curb those flights of fancy.
- Honey Sugarman's feisty and fun-loving nature was traded with her future grandson's depression and mood-swings caused by her son CrackerJack's death. Eventually, such despair consummed her to the point where she agreed to a lobotomy to live in ignorant bliss away from pain. BoJack due to living in the modern era has access to help and while not willing to go to therapy has shown a bigger commitment to fixing himself.
- Joseph Sugarman, BoJack's grandparent, was a kind, accessible person...at least for the time of 1940. Still, the inability to understand deeper emotions or any sort of nuance from anyone made him a horribly pragmatic person. With the condonation from society, Joseph drifted into outright abuse toward his family through a warped sense of righteousness. BoJack is abrasive, unapologetic and brutally honest, which makes society dismiss his more noble qualities. Nevertheless, BoJack shows a keen understanding of his friends and loved ones' psyche and when push come to shove, he can be there for them.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Keep Drivin'" from Season 3 currently provides the page quote.
- Sweater Girl: Joseph Sugarman's secretary is said to be this in the 1940s flashbacks.