Central Park Review: Dissonant Chords

Central Park is an animated musical from the creators of Bob’s Burgers set in the eponymous park in New York City. It largely centers on the manager and his family, the Tillermans, while they work to foil, sometimes unknowingly, the underhanded plans of a hotel heiress that wants to turn the park into a bunch of condos. Also, Josh Gad voices a busker narrator. To say it’s a bit of a strange beast might be an understatement.

Once you get past the odd premise, it’s a largely enjoyable experience. The music is downright infectious, if not all bangers, and the cast is stacked. This thing includes Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, and Stanley Tucci. While I have only seen four of the show’s episodes, each of them sing at one point or another, with the Tillerman family (Odom Jr., Hahn, Bell, and Burgess) doing most of the heavy lifting.

But if you’re looking for an instant repeat of Bob’s Burgers’ success, however, you’ll likely be left wanting. It’s not that there’s no chemistry here, but the non-singing bits fail to reach the heights of pretty much every song in the show. This could simply be due to the fact that the characters haven’t really had enough time to gel together into a cohesive whole, or it could be a fundamental problem with the show, and there’s really no telling which it is at this point.

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(Photo: Apple TV+)

There’s also some general weirdness with the casting that I’m still not sure how I feel about, despite watching the four episodes available to me a couple of times. First off, Bell voices Molly, the mixed daughter of Odom Jr.’s Owen and Hahn’s Paige. So, there’s that. Also, Diggs and Tucci both voice women, and though Tucci is a pitch-perfect fit for the character, it’s worth noting that Central Park seems to have four major characters that are women, and only two are voiced by women. The latter is the same sort of casting problem that Bob’s Burgers has received sideways looks for in the past while the former is an entirely new dilemma on top of what is arguably a repeated mistake.

All told, the show is just… fine. This could potentially explain why it ended up on Apple TV+ after being passed on by Fox in the first place. It doesn’t quite nail the mainstream appeal that seems necessary to fit into the television landscape, but as an animated show on a nascent streaming service? It’s not bad. And the fact that the songs themselves are quite good -- I still find myself humming snippets days after viewing the episodes -- bumps up that rating a not-insignificant amount, but it’s still not quite enough to earn a ringing endorsement. There are worse ways to spend your time, but the other side of that coin is that there are also better ways, too.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Central Park is set to premiere on Apple TV+ on May 29th.