Roush Review: Mirth and Music in ‘Central Park’ Season 2

Central Park Season 2
APPLE TV +

Anyone who’s ever been to New York City knows Central Park is a great place to visit. But the enchantingly tuneful and sweet-souled animated comedy Central Park, now in its second season (and already renewed for a third), will make you want to live there. As long as you can bunk with the Tillermans, the endearingly eccentric family that occupies an on-site castle while devoted dad Owen (Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.) tends to the sprawling grounds.

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Peering through their windows as he keeps us breathlessly abreast of the family’s activities and what’s up with those who are plotting against them, is the overeager and bumbling busker Birdie (Frozen’s Josh Gad, who cocreated the series with Bob’s Burgers veterans). He sets the magically whimsical tone for a show that specializes in anthems of self-acceptance: “You’re never alone if the back that you’ve got is your own,” learns young Molly (Emmy Raver-Lampman, replacing Kristen Bell), a budding cartoonist who tolerates her sensitive kid brother, Cole (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess), and tries to live up to the example of her competitive reporter mom, Paige (WandaVision’s Kathryn Hahn).

With multiple original songs per episode — contributors this season include They Might Be Giants, Rufus Wainwright and Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron MitchellCentral Park is the most creative TV musical since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and sometimes just as surprising.

Mere minutes into the new season, Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs delivers a hilariously infectious rap extolling the virtues of suburban Weehawken, New Jersey (“Livin’ high upon the Palisades, everybody be flockin’ to Weehawken”). It’s a rare upbeat moment for his character of the wraithlike Helen, deadpan assistant to the show’s archnemesis, Bitsy Brandenham (Stanley Tucci, a riot).

This toxic high-society troll, who’s half bouffant and all venom, has a twisted dream: to purchase, privatize and monetize Central Park, displacing the too-good-for-their-own-good Tillermans as a bonus. We know this grotesque Grinch will never succeed, but it’s a hoot watching her try.

It’s even more of a blast to listen for guest voices: TV veterans (Henry Winkler, Ed Asner), Broadway greats (Patti LuPone) and rising talents (Amber Ruffin). Who can blame them for wanting to get in on the fun?

Central Park, Season 2 Premiere, Friday, June 25, Apple TV+