Central Park is a new show on Apple TV+. An animated comedy from Loren Bouchard and Josh Gad about a family who live in Central Park in New York. It’s a funny and delightful show, like Bouchard’s beloved animated hit Bob’s Burgers, however, Central Park has quite a few misfires.
The main characters of the show are the Tillerman/Hunter family, who as mentioned before, live in Central Park in an old mansion. This is because the father, Owen Tillerman (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.) works as the park manager. There is his wife Paige Hunter (voiced by Kathryn Hahn), a journalist always striving for the best story and loving mother to their two kids, Molly (voiced by Kirsten Bell and later Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Cole (voiced by Tituss Burgess). There is also a busker named Birdie, the show’s narrator. Main antagonists to the family is wealthy business entrepreneur Bitsy Brandenham (voiced by Stanley Tucci) who is set on destroying central park and replacing it with condos and her assistant, though more treated like a maid, Helen (voiced by Daveed Diggs) who is dead set on somehow inheriting Bitsy’s money.
So what is there to know about this show?
First of all, when a creator with a hit project tries something new, it’s sad but true that the new project is usually in the previous project’s shadow. So undoubtedly, Central Park will be compared to Bob’s Burgers. However, I do have to give credit to the creators for trying something new, even if it doesn’t pay off. It’s better than churning out something we’ve seen before.
And Central Park does that, it is very different from Bob’s Burgers. For one, it follows a linear story, not standalone episodes like Bob’s Burgers do. Also, as mentioned with Birdie, the show has a narrator who breaks the fourth wall constantly. It’s main difference though, is that Central Park is a musical.
There are at least four songs per episode, full blown production musicals. Bob’s Burgers would occasionally break into song, but it was rare and often short quick moments and the singing itself is comedic. With Central Park, many characters have their own songs, detailing the episode’s story. You can really see how much passion went into the songs and the singing.
However, it is sad to say that I feel the musicals sometimes get in the way of character development. I would like to think though that since it is the first season I wouldn’t judge it too harshly, but in the 10 episodes, I feel like there isn’t much to know about the characters beyond the established character developments.
Owen is passionate about the park, but can be a nervous wreck.
Paige is headstrong to get what she wants and a nurturing figure.
Molly loves drawing graphic novel stories and has a little crush who she often draws
Cole loves animals
I do hope their personalities are fleshed out in later seasons and perhaps dial the musicals back a little? Maybe only 2 musicals rather than 4?
In terms of visuals, again Central Park really tries to deviate from Bob’s Burgers, while still keeping to their signature animation style. The family itself looks different, they are mixed race and a family of four not five like the Belchers. Character designs are also more detailed. In Bob’s burgers, the belchers are a very simplistic family, in terms of designs. Block coloured outfits, rounded shapes and very still hair, rarely moving.
However the Central Park family, while still keeping to their classic animation style of no chins and droop nose, have more detail. Cole has stripped clothing, and Molly has a lot of drawn detail on her dungarees. But she and her dad also have a lot of texture in their hair which is really visible in the art style. It might not move a whole lot but you can imagine a different texture.
Of course the team has to now animate a real city. In Bob’s Burgers, Wanda Wharf is fictional and can be whatever the animators need, but now, they have to animate New York. I’ve never been to New York, but watching New York I can feel the magnitude of the city and the park which are also characters to the show.
Again, not wanting to judge too much since Central Park is still on their first season, but it does not have a wider range of secondary characters as Bob’s Burgers does. Bob’s Burgers is able to have a lot of supporting characters, especially based on location, such as Teddy and Mort as regulares at Bob’s Burgers, Jimmy Jr, Zeke, Tammy and other friends of the belcher kids mostly seen at the school. Extended family, neighbours, Bob’s Burgers really opened it’s up doors to a large cast.
With Central Park, there are not really many others to see but the main family, Bitsy and Helen, and the narrator. We do see the dad’s second in command at work, and the daughter’s love interest. But other than that, there are not really other secondary characters to dive into. With the exception of the Mayor, who is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin is a welcome surprise to Bob’s Burgers fans, as he is the voice of Bob Belcher.
There is still a lot going on with this show I have not been able to cover, but I think there is a lot of potential in this show. No matter the problems I saw, I still kept watching and hoped it would be better. Season 1 is always an experiment, and I think there is plenty of room for the show to really blossom.
Prishant is a creative writer and storyteller based in London UK. She is passionate about LGBT issues, film, TV and fashion. When she is not writing, you can find her collecting notebooks too perfect to use, watching horror movies and discovering random historical facts for fun. She also has two cats who rule her life.