This is a spoiler-free review of Central Park‘s first four episodes.
The elements for a successful show are all in Apple TV+’s animated series Central Park. The show is the brainchild of Loren Bouchard, the creator and executive producer behind the ever-popular Bob’s Burgers, and comedian Josh Gad. The voice cast boasts several big names like Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, Stanley Tucci, Kathryn Hahn, and Leslie Odom, Jr.—all of whom happen to be funny some serious vocal chops. And they do a lot of singing because Central Park is a full-on musical comedy.
The sitcom follows the Owen Tillerman (Odom, Jr.), the manager of the caretaker team of New York City’s Central Park. He lives on the premises with his journalist wife Paige (Hahn), animal-loving son Cole (Burgess), and creative daughter Molly (Bell). But the Tillermans aren’t simply a Belcher family remix. They bring their own colorful, unique personalities and brand of humor, playing off of each other well. Cartoon kids often rival (or exceed) their parents in terms of being engaging, interesting characters. But Owen and Paige are giving their kids stiff competition as potential fan favorites.
Central Park’s trailer introduced Birdie (Gad), the (mostly) omnipotent singing narrator who actually plays a larger role within the narrative. Birdie’s chatty expositions teeter on the edge of over-explaining developments that should naturally reveal themselves in dialogue. But Gad gives the character a cheerful charm every time he’s onscreen.
The show sets up a simple motivation for its crabby antagonist Bitsy Bradenham (Tucci). The heiress wants to turn Central Park’s lush grounds into a ton of condominiums. So she starts stirring up random trouble that makes Owen’s daily life a ball of stress. Bitsy and her deadpan assistant Helen (Diggs) make the best duo (so far) in the series, although they don’t get as much screen time as they deserve.
The first four episodes obviously can only go so deep into these characters, but they all bring something special that’s worth watching. There’s also a couple of potentially recurring characters who add to the endless cycle of one-liners, life advice, and fun.
The Central Park characters are great, but the real reason to watch is for the songs. The musical numbers are absolute BOPS with catchy lyrics that lodge themselves into your brain. (Is it too early to ask for a playlist?) It’s not easy to interweave song and dance breaks that don’t feel cumbersome and annoying, but this show makes it happen. Each character gets their share of tunes that fit their respective traits and situations well.
Central Park does have a few clunky moments, particularly in the first two episodes. For example, there’s one scene between Bitsy and Helen with odd dialogue and a joke that seems overly juvenile, even for a cartoon comedy. However, it takes time to establish a tone and flow while building up the characters. Humor, like many things, is subjective so certain responses and quips will land with some while making others cringe.
The series starts to find its footing in its third and fourth episodes. There is some solid comedic fodder with a swanky event, awkward interactions, kid drama, and Bitsy meddling, to Owen’s chagrin. These adventures hint at the show’s potential to become a new animated staple. And there’s time to build the audience because there are already two 26-episode seasons in the works.
Overall, this musical comedy is an irreverent, silly, and music-laden misadventure about the life and times of the Tillerman family. Catch Central Park when it hits Apple TV+ on May 29th.
Featured Image: Apple TV+