Review by Sean Boelman
Apple TV+ is constantly proving itself to be one of, if not the single best producer of original content in the streaming game. What the service lacks in library content, it makes up for with new shows that, with few exceptions, are regularly some of the best around. Central Park is one of the jewels in the service’s crown, and it is at its best yet with an extraordinary third season.
This season gives us more adventures with the Tillerman family as Central Park manager Owen goes on a series of adventures with his wife and kids. This season’s episodes feel much more self-contained than previous ones, but not for nothing. In lieu of a traditional narrative through-line, this season takes the series in several new directions and manages to succeed at every single one of them.
One of the most interesting changes in this season is the expansion of Bitsy and Helen’s arcs. Although Bitsy is still aiming to take control of Central Park, she also has some much more subtle development this time around. The ways in which this new season explores her insecurities are fascinating. And fan-favorite character Helen (voiced by Hamilton star Daveed Diggs) somehow becomes even more compelling.
Sam Richardson (The Afterparty) makes his debut in this season as the interim mayor to replace H. Jon Benjamin’s ousted character from seasons one and two, and he gets what is likely the most fun song out of any this season. Kristen Bell also returns to the series in a new role after her original role was recast after season one due to whitewashing controversy, and it’s certainly welcome to see her back.
Of course, the thing that many fans of the series love the most is its songs, and there is no shortage of catchy tunes in these thirteen new episodes. One episode in particular stands out, as it parodies K-pop stars. Not only does this episode have some of the funniest moments of the season — it also has a song that will be a total earworm (in the best way, of course).
However, the songs aren’t just catchier than ever before — they are also more substantial. One episode deals with Cole having to learn about racism, highlighted by a song in which Owen comes to terms with having to educate his young son about the horrible truth of the world. It’s one of the most moving moments you will see on the small screen this year, and Leslie Odom Jr. knocks it out of the park with his performance.
The animation style is also a highlight this season. Perhaps all of the acclaim that the show has earned in its first two seasons have allowed the creators to do something even more ambitious this time around, and it pays off. The musical numbers are gorgeously and creatively animated, leaning into the show’s sometimes surreal nature.
Central Park is without a doubt one of the best animated shows running right now, and this season proves exactly why. Fun, moving, and thoughtful, fans will love this new season and only wish that they could get to spend more time with this family without having to wait another year.
Central Park streams on Apple TV+ beginning September 9.