Sunday, May 31, 2020

REVIEW: 'Central Park' - Owen Makes Amends with a Skater While Cole Helps Molly Feel Heroic in 'Skater's Circle'

AppleTV+'s Central Park - Episode 1.02 "Skater's Circle"

Bitsy pitches her plan to buy the park. Owen deals with a mini-mugging in Skater's Circle.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of AppleTV+'s Central Park.

"Skater's Circle" was written by Halsted Sullivan and directed by Corey Barnes

After two episodes, some patterns are already starting to emerge. First, the original songs are the most infectious and joyous moments of the entire show. And second, Birdie is a completely unnecessary and structurally odd character. These points almost stand in contrast to one another. The first showcases just how unique and enjoyable the series is. Those musical moments help the show come alive in ways that inform characters and stories in meaningful ways. It allows the cast to show off their vocal abilities. Plus, each one highlights a different genre in ways that reveal just how creative the writers have to be as well. With Birdie though, it immediately makes it clear that the creative team is relying on a tired structure that has to spell things out to the audience over and over again. Birdie exists in order to say which things are important. The viewer should be wise enough to know that something that seems innocuous when it is first introduced has to be important at some point. At 25 minutes per episode, there should only be the essential details to make the overall story work. Yes, some of those moments just exist in order to play for the comedy. However, that enhances the audience's understanding of who these characters are, what makes them funny and what we should want for them in the future. With Birdie, it consistently feels like a character who offers an outside perspective that is always getting in the way of what should be happening in the moment. He operates with insight that can only come from someone outside of the narrative and its current place in time. It's frustrating because it feels like one big tease. The audience should understand that Paige reporting from the meeting at City Hall will be important at some point. It's amusing because of how dry and boring it is. And yet, essential and potentially life-changing decisions are being made. When Paige understands the gravity of the situation, she immediately knows that her family's security in the park could be in question. That is scary. That works so well as a moment. And yet, the impact of it is diluted because it is teased by Birdie so much. He first says that this meeting will become important even though Paige falls asleep during it. And then, he talks about the dread Owen will soon feel after listening to his voicemail. He does all of this while also joyously singing along after Owen successfully makes peace with Glorious Gary and gets the skaters back into the park. That celebration is short-lived because of everything else going on in the world. The audience should be able to see that without Birdie having to remind us a minute after it happened. Similarly, Bitsy is played as the over-the-top businesswoman who has no empathy for the people who live below her in the park. The show aims for more complexity here with the suggestion that she struggles to be taken seriously amongst investors as well. And yet, everything still comes together for her. She is still able to put together this tantalizing offer to buy the park and turn it into a massive real estate project. That is her ambition. Nothing serious ultimately stands in her way. All it took was one call in order to put the funding up for a debate. That is precarious because the Tillerman family places their livelihood within the park. They are still around Bitsy's world as well. Molly and Cole want to break into her apartment to reunite with Shampagne. Cole needs the clarity that the dog misses him just as much as he does. He ultimately gets that even though he never makes it up to the penthouse again. Molly wants to feel like a superhero by offering her brother exactly what he needs in this moment. The end result is unexpected. It's not what either of them had hoped for as the outcome. But it's still rewarding for them. It boosts their self-esteem and helps them feel confident when they return to the park and see their father trying his best to skate around. Again, all the elements are present in order to make this a stand-out animated comedy. "Weirdos Make Great Superheroes" is an amazing song provided by Sara Bareilles. It immediately signals that Molly feels awkward in the world and escapes to her fantasy world to cope. She can be heroic too though which is an endearing journey. That's the profound impact of everything coming together for that collective goal. But the narrative is a little too focused on teasing things of importance instead of offering those concise moments of clear and amusing character work to make it all worth it in the end.