"Central Park" "Central Park"

Fox may regret passing on Central Park. After the broadcaster turned it down, the musical sitcom sparked a bidding war between streaming giants that Apple TV+ won. The platform launches the show today, and word is that it’s pretty good.

Co-created by Loren Bouchard, the man behind the hit Fox series Bob’s Burgers, Central Park follows the exploits of the dysfunctional Tillerman family. They live in the titular New York City park, which father Owen manages. This pits him again Bitsy, a mad old heiress who wants to turn the park into condos. Cue zany humor and Broadway-style belters aplenty.

Bouchard created and wrote the show alongside Bob’s Burgers alumna Nora Smith and Josh Gad, known as the voice of Olaf in Frozen. It was developed at 20th Century Fox Television. Animation was produced by Bento Box, which also animates Bob’s Burgers.

The first season contains ten episodes, the first two of which debut today on Apple TV+. A new episode will be rolled out every Friday, and a second season has already been commissioned. Central Park is Apple’s most high-profile animated release to date, although its Peanuts spinoff series Snoopy in Space was nominated for a Daytime Emmy last week.

Critics have received the show warmly, singling out the music for praise. Here’s what they’re saying:

Brian Tallerico raves about the show on RogerEbert.com:

Central Park is a glorious gift for comedy and musical fans and, well, everyone … With a ridiculously talented voice cast, Central Park unfolds more like a great Broadway musical, more reliant on new tunes than [Bob’s Burgers] but maintaining that show’s razor-sharp sense of humor and gigantic heart. It’s the best show on Apple TV [sic] by some stretch, and one of the best shows of 2020 anywhere. I can’t wait to see more.

After complimenting the songs, Variety’s Caroline Framke tentatively praises the scripting:

Even as the show is still honing its particular version of New York City four episodes in, its characters are generally sharp and funny enough to keep it zipping along in the meantime. If it can get a better grip on its setting and give the family comedy at its heart more room amongst everything else, Central Park could bloom into something special.

Kristen Baldwin gives the show a B+ in Entertainment Weekly, arguing that it sits well in the streamer’s catalogue:

Central Park was originally developed for Fox, but its switch to Apple TV+ is likely a blessing. This show feels less like an Animation Domination placeholder and more of a piece with the charming lit-com weirdness of a show like Dickinson. Even the poet [Emily Dickinson] herself might be tickled by a song that rhymes “son and daughter” with “dirty hot-dog water.”

Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall awards it four stars, comparing it both favorably and unfavorably with Bob’s Burgers:

The pleasures of Central Park are also inverted from what you might expect out of Bob’s Burgers. The songs are a joy, while the comedy is a bit on the thin side. Some of this owes to the heavier emphasis on plotting, and some on the fact that the regulars are all very broadly defined in the early going, when character-based comedy of the type Bouchard specializes in benefits greatly from both the writers and the audience developing a deep understanding of who everyone is and why they behave a certain way.

Writing for The A.V. Club, Shannon Miller sounds a note of caution about the cast:

The invigorating nature of said music makes most of the show’s non-melodious delivery seem a little stilted in comparison. The charm that imbues Bob’s Burgers and [Bouchard’s earlier show] Home Movies largely stems from the natural chemistry of ensembles that ooze familiarity. Central Park’s cast, despite unquestionable talent, is still settling into their individual roles as well as working with each other, so there isn’t as much organically snappy back-and-forth to enjoy just yet.