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Primetime Picks… 5/29/20

May 29 Posted by in Features | Comments

Today Apple TV+ launches the new animated musical comedy Central Park, from Loren Bouchard, who also created Bob’s Burgers. Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton) is the park manager for New York City’s Central Park. He loves flowers and nature in general, and is devoted to his job. However, he finds that not everyone seems to care about the park as much as he does. He and his family live in Edendale Castle, a home adjacent to the park, though not actually a castle as the name implies. Owen’s wife Paige (Kathryn Hahn, I Know This Much Is True) works for a small weekly newspaper, What’s New New York?. She is eager to branch out into covering hard news, and not just the puff pieces her editor usually assigns to her. The Tillermans have two children. Cole (Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is a kind-hearted animal lover, while older sister Molly (Kristen Bell, Frozen, The Good Place) likes to draw comic books. The heroine of Molly’s comics is an idealized version of herself—Fista-Puffs can rewind time 5 seconds at a time, and her hair turns into giant fists to take down the bad guys. She often teams up with the handsome Kite Boy—who is based on a boy she often fantasizes about after exchanging just a few words in the park.

Living in the penthouse of a hotel overlooking Central Park is the evil Bitsy (Stanley Tucci, BoJack Horseman, Feud: Bette and Joan), a wealthy hotel heiress who only really loves her dog, Shampagne. Bitsy has come up with a secret scheme to buy Central Park and turn it into condos. Her loyal maid, Helen (Daveed Diggs, Hamilton, Snowpiercer), puts up with Bitsy’s poor treatment in hopes that one day she will inherit a fortune.

Leading the viewers through this story, and serving as narrator, is troubadour Birdie (Josh Gad, Frozen, Avenue 5). Birdie is a musician who hangs out in the park, and often breaks the fourth wall to make puns and comment on what’s happening (or going to happen) in each episode.

It’s hard not to compare this series to Bob’s Burgers. The Tillermans have a very similar family dynamic as the Belchers—son Cole is a lot like Gene Belcher, with a love of food and making sarcastic comments, and while the Tillermans only have one daughter, Molly is an amalgam of the boy-crazy Tina Belcher and the wilder, scheming Louise. The series does a nice job of balancing a serialized storyline with fun adventures and story-of-the-week arcs. Like with Bob’s Burgers, there are both stories involving the entire family at home, as well as multiple side adventures involving various combinations of the kids and parents.

While episodes of Bob’s Burgers contain a musical number here and there (or in the credits), Central Park is much more of a proper musical, with the characters breaking into song at least 4-5 times per episode. The original songs run the gamut of musical styles, but are always thoroughly entertaining and catchy, with smart, witty lyrics and amazing performances by the show’s talented cast, all of whom have musical theater backgrounds. I especially enjoyed an amazing contrasting duet in episode 4 where Paige is singing about setting rat traps while Cole is singing about deactivating them to save his potential furry friend. The musical numbers don’t feel like a quick afterthought—they feel fully produced and enhance each episode’s storylines.

Apple TV+ has released the first two episodes today, and additional episodes will be released on Fridays. This is such a delightful show and I highly recommend checking it out—especially for those who are already fans of Bob’s Burgers. The first season will be 13 episodes, and a second season has already been ordered, so there’s plenty of musical goodness to come.

Tonight, I’ll also be watching/recording Space Force and The Graham Norton Show.