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Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

'Chozen' Doesn't Do Its Voice Talent Justice

When Chozen first came on our radar, it was announced to be the first original piece of programming from FX’s all-comedy-all-the-time network, FXX. Despite initial plans, Chozen debuted last night on FX, creating even more confusion surrounding the actual purpose of FXX. Though based on the first few episodes, perhaps the network didn’t want to hedge their bets and their reputation for original programming on this mediocre animated show.

The first creation from Grant Dekernion — whose most notable credit is writer's assistant on Eastbound & Down — follows a gay, white rapper, fresh out of prison on his journey to becoming a hip-hop superstar. After being framed by his former group member Phantasm (voiced by Method Man) and spending a decade in jail, Chozen (Bobby Moynihan) returns to find redemption with his old crew, all from the comfort of his younger sister’s college dorm room.

The amount of talent and star-power attached to this show is promising. With main characters voiced by Moynihan, Kathryn Hahn, Hannibal Buress, and Nick Swardson to name a few, plus the producer endorsements from Adam Reed, Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and David Gordon Green, there appears to be little room for error. However, the first few episodes suffer from Dekernion’s inexperience, and even with an original and potentially entertaining premise in place, the amateur quality is hard to ignore.

We first meet Chozen as he’s leaving jail, writing a letter to his “special friend” still behind bars about his plan now that he’s a free man. After reconnecting with his old crew, Ricky and Crisco (Michael Peña and Hannibal Buress respectively), he premieres a new song at a college open mic night to great success. The hit goes viral thanks to a line calling out the now famous Phantasm, and rap battle lines are drawn between the former friends.

Each episode features several breakout raps, which, while an important element when considering the plot, grew tiresome. With such oversaturation, none of the songs seemed to find the sweet spot of being either really good or really funny and fell to a middle ground. The same goes with much of the writing on the show. Especially when considering this show’s lead-in, Archer, the wit just isn’t there and the jokes often fall back on vulgar observations. Perhaps I’m judging too harshly for a show in its infancy, and with any luck, some of that Adam Reed magic will rub off on Chozen to help the original concept realize its full potential.

Easily the most interesting thing about the show is its portrayal of a gay character. Turning the rap-world stereotypes of objectifying women on its head, Chozen instead has half-naked men dancing around him and uses and abuses Hunter, a nice frat boy voiced by Ike Barinholtz. It's subject matter that’s rare in comedies like this. Even when other characters seem taken off guard by his comments or choices, Chozen is completely confident and secure in everything about himself, from his sexuality to his music, and that is a refreshing point of view.

I’m not going to completely write off Chozen. It’s definitely doing something different than anything else on TV, and I always applaud originality. Bobby Moynihan’s performance could be the show’s saving grace. He has no limit of hilarious characters, and to be able to hear him focus his talents in on one in this role every week is an entertaining treat. If the writers could now just step up their game with the material they give him to voice, the show could be a hit yet.

Tags:

chozen, fx, reviews, tv