There's been a lot of talk of making America great again this year, but not a lot of facts from He Who Would Engreaten It about what exactly is wrong. It's not like Donald Trump is House M.D.—how can you treat a sick patient if you can't accurately identify the symptoms? Thankfully, one handy graph has given us the means to start discussing the important issues that plague our fragile democracy, namely: why are so many people watching Fuller House and not watching BoJack Horseman?!?
— Ben Yakas (@yenbakas) October 10, 2016
Netflix has long been secretive about its streaming numbers, although many have tried to bust open the viewing statistics using their own matrixes. (Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos has previously called these attempts "remarkably inaccurate.") Business Insider cited the app SymphonyAM to extrapolate the chart above, which shows the most popular Netflix original shows and how many viewers they had during their respective premiere dates plus the five following days.
There's lots of interesting takeaways here: it's heartening that the excellent Orange Is The New Black, one of the first original Netflix hits, remains one of its most popular shows. Luke Cage, the latest Marvel Netflix show which premiered just a few weeks ago, had a fantastic debut. But even the Marvel properties, the insanely popular summertime '80s throwback Stranger Things, and the Kevin Spacey juggernaut House Of Cards don't come close to Fuller House numbers.
Now, there are some reasonable explanations as to the otherwise inexplicable success of Fuller House, a show with a cumulative score of 35 out of 100 on Metacritic (which means it's about as critically acclaimed as a modern Adam Sandler movie). It's a reboot/sequel to a name-brand television product, a TGIF mainstay which has gained a renewed sense of importance thanks to the toxic mix of '90s nostalgia and BuzzFeed listicles. It's also a family-friendly show, which means it has the capacity for a wider audience—Netflix has poured a lot of money and effort into boosting their kid programming in recent years. And on top of all that, with 192 episodes, the show was considered a beast in syndication, indicating it had lots of potential for the revival.
BoJack Horseman happens to be the perfect yin to Fuller House's yang, both seemingly born from the same thought exercise: what happens two decades after you have great success with a dumbed-down, family-friendly network TV show? After all, BoJack's claim to fame, Horsin' Around, was based on Full House, only with anthropomorphic animals and much more visible cocaine problems. (To bring the comparison even closer together, BoJack included a Fuller House-inspired storyline about reviving Horsin' Around in season three.)
While Fuller House has continued the fictional journey of its titular family whose house is so very full, throwing in guest appearances by some of the original stars (even John Stamos needs a new pool house), BoJack instead aims for something much more ambitious, much funnier, and much more bittersweet. It is as interested in its painstakingly set-up visual gags and puns as it is in the inner life of its characters, and their struggles to live with depression in all its various forms.
It is a challenging show, one that uses its Hollywoo satire sheen and animated hijinks as the sugar to get audiences to gulp down a deeply-felt meditation on depression and self-sabotage. And it wasn't helped by the fact that some critics dismissed it in the early going as a second-rate "Adult Swim-style late-night cartoon."
But of course, getting adults to watch animated shows and take them seriously, even in a post-Simpsons and South Park TV landscape, is still a difficult sell. BoJack also has been saddled with the 'difficult' tag (watch "Out At Sea" and try not to hate the lead character), which doesn't mesh well with the increased craving for comfort TV at the end of the day. And maybe people just really want to laugh at something obvious and consistent, as opposed to engaging with something challenging and weird (after all, are sitcoms even funny anymore?). So perhaps the success of Fuller House is not as inexplicable as it first seemed.
Either way, the problems of the world are far too vast for any one megalomaniac, or one premium streaming network, to solve, but we can all do our part making the world a little better by encouraging our friends and relatives to watch BoJack Horseman. Any questions?