Review: Don't choose "Chozen"

FX's new animated comedy Chozen, which premiered last Monday, follows the travails of a gay white rapper. It's certainly something of an unusual premise, but is that enough to recommend it to gay viewers – or to anyone? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Chozen's title character (real name Phil), voiced by SNL's Bobby Moynihan, is the lead of a decidedly PG rap group, Phresh Phriends, that performs anti-drug songs at schools. After attempting to kick jealous fellow member Phantasm (Method Man) out of the group, Chozen is framed by Phantasm, waking up unconscious in a hotel room with “cocaine, weed, machine guns, and a passed-out ho in the corner,” and forced to serve a 10-year prison sentence. Upon his release, he moves into his sister's dorm room, and begins to plot a comeback.

In better hands, one could see this premise offering opportunities for satire of pop culture, race, and sexuality. As is, though, it's tough to see it appealing to much of anyone. Fans of the vastly smarter and wittier Archer - the show's lead-in - are unlikely to engage with Chozen's sophomoric sensibilities, or characters such as Chozen's sidekick Jimmy, a former roadie now obsessed with taking creepy snapshots of nubile young college students and posting them online.  And while I can't deem myself a hip-hop expert, the show's take on that scene strikes me as distinctly facile. Even as parodies, the musical numbers featured on the show are bland and boring.

And then there's the gay appeal - or, really, lack thereof.  To be fair, a gay protagonist in a show of this ilk is decidedly unusual, and Chozen himself is hardly a typical gay character. But the degree to which Chozen's sexual orientation is overlooked by other characters (I don't think the word "gay" is actually uttered once" is progressive in some sense, but has little to no relatability for most gay viewers.  Chozen's sexuality instead makes itself apparent via generally creepy behavior (masturbating to GI Joe: Rise of Cobra in the middle of a party; telling a hunky male attendee at said party that “I can take you any time I want”, humping a teddy bear head in a public fountain), rap-video fantasy sequences that combine the genre's typical T&A with scantily-clad muscular men, and lyrics like “I'm coming for ya, son/And when I grab the mic I'm gonna blow ya, son”. In short, at least as far as the pilot goes, its lead's homosexuality seems to have little purpose than to be “edgy” and “transgressive” (emphasis on the quotation marks).  It's ultimately a show made by straight men, for straight men.

It's possible that Chozen will improve in future episodes – according to some of the reviews from critics who have seen more of the series, later installments will feature such storylines as Chozen dating a frat boy, and speaking at the university's LGBT club. But for now, I can't recommend it to anyone. There's no intelligence, and no laughs, to be found here.

on January 19, 2014