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Writing for TV: BoJack Horseman Pilot

Dark and grittiness can go a long way in making a fantastic television series, with some not knowing where the line is for making a comedy with serious subject matter. Although BoJack Horseman is an animated series, it’s challenging to find a more successful animated show dealing with heavy subject matter with a lot of humor.

Considering screenwriters of all levels should look at successful shows like BoJack Horseman to see what makes them successful, let’s do precisely that. Besides looking at the series entirely, we’ll take a closer examination at the series’ pilot, as pilots are significant for getting someone interested in a show and selling the show in the first place.

Photo credit: TV Club - The AV Club

Characters and Their Traits

Ask yourself why a character is a way they are? When it comes to BoJack Horseman, one can look at BoJack on the outside as an alcoholic past his prime. Still, upon deeper analysis, multiple layers leave the audience wanting more.

Besides BoJack, just about every character has an impressive quality to them that makes them interesting and compelling, whether it’s in a bad or good way. Characters are significant with the script of anything, especially when it comes to a television series.

If you don’t have great characters that’ll immediately compel someone who is reading your script, then the entire script is dead in the water. No one wants to watch a television series with weak characters, so make sure your characters are strong, just like they are in BoJack Horseman.

Love-Hate Relationship With The Protagonist

Not every script needs to have a love-hate relationship with the protagonist like BoJack does, but right from the beginning, we tend to root while simultaneously be annoyed with BoJack. Still, we find an odd sense of charm with his character, even when he makes mistakes and does something entirely dumb.

Having a love-hate relationship with a character can go a long way in the longevity of a show as we hope that character ends up the side where we’re rooting for them more, instead of wondering why they did something we hate.

BoJack Horseman does an excellent job at having us love and hate BoJack throughout the entire show. Even with the whacky characters and exciting world BoJack Horseman is set in, we still have a sense of relatability with the wild actions of BoJack.

Relatability (Even if it Seems Impossible)

Directly above, we mentioned the importance of relatability and how it can be a great tool in a script. Even if that relatability seems impossible, BoJack Horseman does an excellent job demonstrating how any human can relate to an animated former sit-com star horse.

As complicated as it might seem to make your main protagonist impossible to have some sort of relation to, BoJack understands there’s a fine line between doing things we’d never dream of doing and understanding why a character does something in a particular way.

Variety of Characters

With BoJack, we’re immediately introduced to a wide range of characters such as BoJack, Diane Nguyen, Princess Carolyn, Todd, Diane, and Mr. Peanutbutter, all of which are vastly different from one another, yet we all have a natural love and appreciation for all of these characters.

Having a wide range of characters is vital in case someone can’t root for BoJack right away, they can turn to another character they love that makes the show worthwhile for them. Plus, a great main character is only as great as the rest of the characters around them.

Something is Always At Stake (Conflict)

If you look at BoJack Horseman’s substance, it may seem confusing how a story about an alcoholic wealthy character can have conflict in it. It’s not like BoJack is homeless or not financially stable, as he lives in a nice place and can afford to house Todd.

Still, the script makes sure there’s something always at stake. Whether it’s BoJack disagreeing with other characters, his decision-making, or something else entirely, all of it continually goes on so that conflict is a continual moment in the show. After all, conflict makes a show, and BoJack Horseman completely understands this.

Setting Up For Future Episodes

Besides crafting an excellent pilot script, novice screenwriters tend to have an issue coming up with enough ideas for future episodes, meaning they don’t how to set-up for future episodes. BoJack Horseman’s pilot does an excellent job at setting up future episodes as we see BoJack’s house party and his involvement with Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter.

That small conflict alone can allow us to see and infer what’ll potentially go down in future episodes. It doesn’t spoil it enough where we can guess what happens, but it allows a set-up for the audience to want more. Leaving the audience to want more is always ideal for a great television pilot script.


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