In May, Apple TV+ debuted its first original animated sitcom, “Central Park.” The show follows the Tillerman-Hunter family of Owen, Paige, Molly and Cole as they live in Edendale Castle in the middle of Central Park.
In addition to the family of four, “Central Park” follows the story of the wealthy Bitsy Brandenham, owner of the Brandenham Hotel, and her mistreated assistant, Helen. The show is narrated by a busker named Birdie, who interjects into the story when he feels it is justified.
The narrative mainly follows the Tillerman-Hunter family and their daily struggles. An underlying plotline watches Bitsy as she schemes to replace Central Park with condos and office buildings; Bitsy’s dastardly deeds add suspense and keep the family’s storylines interesting as the viewer waits for the plots to eventually merge. Each episode is a bite-size 20 minutes long, but so much happens it’s always a little surprising when the credits role.
The animation of “Central Park” should also be familiar to fans of “Bob’s Burgers,” as Loren Bouchard created both shows.
But here’s what makes “Central Park” special: It’s a musical.
“Central Park” is filled with musical numbers. Songs pop up throughout the show to explore characters’ motivations and conflicts, and it’s wonderful.
It’s a little reminiscent of “Phineas and Ferb” with a “Bob’s Burgers” flavor. The fluid animation that accompanies the music is an even greater joy to watch.
The program’s intro song, ”Central to my Heart,” sets the tone of the show. The number is sung by Birdie, voiced by Josh Gad, who is one of the co-creators on “Central Park.” Many fans will fondly recognize Gad as the voice of Olaf in Disney’s “Frozen.”
Birdie takes on his own personality as he struggles to remain a disinterested party in the plot. Indeed, he goes so far as to reveal integral points to the Tillerman-Hunter family that helps alert them to Bitsy’s plans.
Leslie Odom Jr. is one of the many former “Hamilton” cast members who makes an appearance in “Central Park.” Odom plays Owen, husband to Paige and father to Molly and Cole. Similarly to his role as Aaron Burr, Owen seeks respect and success in his role as park manager. But unlike the aforementioned infamous Founding Father, Owen is much more caring to the people around him.
Owen sings about his need to improve Central Park in “Manager to Manager,” a catchy tune that captures his desire for others to appreciate the park and rid it of garbage.
Paige Tillerman-Hunter is voiced by Kathryn Hahn, who has had small roles in both “Bob’s Burgers” and “Parks and Recreation.” Paige is a reporter for a local paper but is given insignificant assignments. She wishes to break into more important journalism and is looking for a big story to showcase her talents. Her song “Mama’s Got This” hilariously follows her chasing a lead on a developing story.
Molly, Owen and Paige’s daughter, spends most her time re-imagining herself as a superhero named “Fista-Puffs” in a sketchbook. She often fantasizes about an avid parkgoer whom she names “Kite-Boy.” In “Weirdos Make Great Superheroes,” Molly outlines her desire to help others and also shows her clumsiness.
Molly is voiced by Kristen Bell, most famously known as the voice of “Gossip Girl” (just joking — Bell is most famous for her role as Anna in the “Frozen” franchise).
It should be noted, Bell recently announced her departure from “Central Park” on her Instagram page. As Bells cites in her post, “Playing the character of Molly on Central Park shows a lack of awareness of my pervasive privilege. Casting a mixed-race character with a white actress undermines the specificity of the mixed race and Black American experience.”
Tituss Burgess plays Cole, a soft-hearted animal lover whose story line centers around Bitsy’s little dog, Champagne. Many fans will recognize Burgess from the Netlfix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as Titus Andromedon. Burgess is also known for his wonderful, buttery tenor and multiple performances on Broadway. As Cole, Burgess is hilarious and perfectly cast.
Although Burgess provides excellent vocal work throughout the entire show, my favorite song of his is “Rats.” Burgess and Hahn share a duet as Paige sets up rat traps and Cole works to set them off.
Daveed Diggs voices Helen, Bitsy’s assistant. Along with Odom, Diggs starred in “Hamilton” as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Bitsy constantly uses and abuses Helen, who is just waiting for Bitsy’s demise. So far, Helen’s greatest conflict is competing with Bitsy’s lapdog for her estate. The conflict is further explored in ”If There’s a Will.” I found the song extremely catchy, and it was the first time I recognized Diggs’ voice as Helen’s.
“Hamilton” fans will also be delighted to catch George Washington, I mean Christopher Jackson in the show. Jackson plays Glorious Gary, a local skater who clashes with Owen. Jackson and Odom join together in song again in “Do It While We Can.”
“Central Park” streams exclusively on Apple TV+, with new episodes premiering every Friday. Luckily, Apple TV+ offers a free week-long trial for new users, and a free year-long subscription to those who’ve recently purchased an Apple product. So far there are only seven episodes out, so it might be best to wait on the free trial. You can catch the complete first season on Apple TV+ on Aug. 14.