Days after this year’s Emmy nominations were announced, it’s still stunning that the third season of “BoJack Horseman” was overlooked by TV Academy members for Best Animated Series.
Except for a well-earned voice acting nomination for Kristen Schaal, whose performance as the tragic Sarah Lynn was heartbreaking, the Netflix animated series went unrecognized. Given that “BoJack” was the best show of 2016, live-action or otherwise, this is just a bit frustrating.
Consider what’s fascinating about the Outstanding Animated Series category: the fact that the name does not specify what genre the show might be, beyond animated. The five nominees this year — “Archer,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Elena and the Secret of Avalor,” “The Simpsons” and “South Park” — are all some variation of comedy (“Archer” leans more towards the action side of things, while “Elena” is targeted towards the Disney princess set), but it’s not required that they adhere to a comedy mindset.
Which theoretically should have worked to “BoJack’s” advantage, as the show isn’t just full of insanely wonderful comedic beats, but some significant drama and tragedy – including a season finale that pushed the show to a new level of darkness.
When IndieWire spoke to creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg during the awards season cycle, he said that he’d never thought about the name of the category in that way. “I don’t think it does [make a difference] necessarily,” he said, “because I think it’s all just people voting on how they want to vote anyway. I don’t think they’re really paying attention to the language of the name of the category… I think it’ll just be like are we enough people’s favorite show? And if so, they’ll vote for us.”
But he did acknowledge that “one of the very exciting things about making ‘BoJack’ is that it can be anything. And that it can be a comedy, but it can also be heartbreaking, and it can also be very cynical but it can also be very sincere. Every season we do, we find more and more ways to explore and new areas to roam around in.”
This week, Bob-Waksberg is taking the news in stride, tweeting out his support for Schaal yesterday:
Emmy nominee @kristenschaaled is an incredible talent and a delightful person. So proud of her work on BoJack. SHE DESERVES EVERYTHING.
— Raphael Bob-Waksberg (@RaphaelBW) July 13, 2017
But we also know from speaking with Bob-Waksberg that his relationship with awards is as complicated as his series, something reflected in the third season as BoJack hits the awards season circuit, promoting his prestige biopic “Secretariat.” Over the course of the season, BoJack descends into the madness of self-promotion in the pursuit of a trophy, in a way that tears apart every one of his significant relationships and leaves him very much alone.
“One of the things we had a lot of fun with was the Oscar race and the character of Ana Spanakopita, kind of this bewitching kind of temptation in his ear, to be his most self-confident, self-aggrandizing me-first kinda guy,” Bob-Waksberg said. “In the first two seasons, we see him try to move away from that and try to be a better person — we surround him with positive influences, and people who are trying to make him better, and help him towards his journey of self discovery. It was really fun in season three to be like, ‘What if we brought in an influence that kinda did the opposite?’ That pulled him back to his basic urges, and kind of let that run amuck with him, and saw how that kind of poisoned him and influenced him against a lot of people who had been trying to help him and cared about him.”
Bob-Waksberg seems to have avoided those same kind of negative influences, remaining relatively zen about the awards season process. “I’m happy when people like the show and when people talk about the show, so I think awards are just another way for people to hear about the show and hear, ‘Oh, that show’s good? Yeah, I’ll check it out if this body of people says that it’s worth checking out,'” he said. “I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot here talking about awards shows because, ‘Yes, please. Consider us. Give us your gold, so that we may love ourselves and feel worthy, in its shining reflection.’ But I think you could watch the season of ‘BoJack’ and you would kind of get a sense of how I really feel about all of this.”
This year’s omission doesn’t necessarily mean that “BoJack” will never break into the Emmys race — FX’s “Archer” went similarly unrecognized for its first four seasons before breaking into the Best Animated Series race in 2014 (and eventually winning in 2016). But it’s still disappointing for fans of the series. Looking back at Season 3…
…it’s hard to imagine this series not being recognized in any category, though Bob-Waksberg liked the category they pursued. “I am very honored to be considered in the Best Animation category,” he said, “because I think there are a lot of exciting things happening in animation right now. And so it’s kind of fun that, yeah, it’s not necessarily comedy. What a wide, vast world to explore. It could be anything.”
“BoJack Horseman” Season 4 premieres September 8 on Netflix.