After three episodes, I still have no idea how to feel about FX’s new animated series Chozen.
A Monday night FX comedy that airs following Archer, Chozen is a unique blend of cartoon comedy and hip-hop with some humor about Chozen being gay thrown in for good measure (more on that in a minute).
That’s right: Chozen is a gay, white, cartoon gangsta rapper.
That lead character — and show itself — should make for something unique, but as the mixture of staffs indicates in the trailer, this show is a lot like Eastbound and Down meets Archer.
Before you Archer fans get upset, the animation is what I’m comparing but the Eastbound and Down comparisons stand through three episodes of Chozen.
Chozen is a less likable and less realistic — it is a cartoon — version of Kenny Powers during the first three episodes. Bobby Moynihan does great voice work but Chozen’s desire to make it to the top as quickly as possible while doing drugs and chasing sex is very much like the journey of Kenny Powers.
But there are some subtle differences.
For one, Chozen is gay and his preference is men rather than Kenny womanizing while pursing his former girlfriend. Chozen’s sexual preference is not forced or used for frequent cheap pops — much like how sex can be overused for both heterosexual and homosexual characters for cheap laughs in comedic situations. While Chozen’s sexual preference is mentioned and Chozen frequently pursues sex, this character tendency doesn’t feel forced and it feels as though Chozen’s desire for sex prevents him from attaining his goals of rap superstardom.
People do stupid things for sex and Chozen is no exception. Chozen being gay was played up quite a bit in the trailer, but it doesn’t feel like that big of a part of Chozen. Chozen is — thankfully — more about revenge over a rap rival than it is about the sexuality of a white rapper and that is why Chozen has potential as a show. The storyline for revenge is feasible and Chozen’s character traits of enjoying drugs and sex sometimes prevent Chozen from achieving those goals. Pretty simple formula…
…which is why I’m still scratching my head about this show, because the main plot line and hip-hop elements of the show have been very up-and-down.
As a lifelong fan of hip-hop, I appreciate many of the jokes and, of course, rap songs that go on in Chozen but I just can’t get over how awful Chozen’s rival, Phantasm, is.
Once, or twice, during each episode Moynihan and the”Chozen crew will conjure up a fake rap song that Chozen will fantasize about while doing something else. The results of these songs are often fantastic. They’re humorous, catchy and have so many subtle one-liners and jokes in many of the songs that poke fun at hip-hop culture and other things.
When Chozen raps “Murder, Sex” in the pilot it makes fun of every hip-hop cliche in both video and song form while also adding in the element of hard-bodied dudes in bear-heads grinding up on Chozen. The whole song and video is absurd and it’s hard not to enjoy if you understand some of the ridiculous pitfalls of modern hip-hop culture.
So we have Chozen — free after spending 10 years in jail — and he’s instantly making catchy rap songs in pursuit of his rival Phantasm — who framed Chozen and put him in jail after previously being in the same rap crew.
Phantasm is now one of the biggest rap stars in the world. He’s got videos, security teams, and a pet jaguar, and everything about Phantasm pisses me off.
Voiced by Wu-Tang Clan legend Method Man, Chozen takes Meth’s trademark gravel voice and makes it sound so much worse. It sounds like a charisma-less Method Man did some PCP and had a tracheotomy before he did Phantasm’s voice work. It’s fucking miserable.
So, not only do we have an awful voiceover job at work when it comes to Phantasm, but Phantasm as a character just isn’t very realistic. As an audience, many of which are likely keen on hip-hop, we’re supposed to believe that a mediocre rapper named “Phantasm” is going to become one of the world’s biggest stars?
Many musical acts make it to the top without a lot of talent, but never with a name as awful as “Phantasm” in a genre as judgmental as hip-hop. Image and street cred are EVERYTHING in hip-hop and Phantasm doesn’t look, sound, or act like a major rap star. In the first face-to-face moment featuring Phantasm and Chozen in episode 3, Phantasm reveals that other people write his tracks and how he struggles to be creative in the studio.
Again, maybe this is being used to make it seem like Chozen has a chance at glory, but it makes Phantasm look like a cheap prop that will be good for nothing once Chozen and his friends pass him by.
It undermines Chozen and his journey to top Phantasm if everyone in the audience thinks Phantasm is whack to begin with.
This, again, draws back to Kenny Powers and his journey on Eastbound and Down. Kenny had rivals on “Eastbound and Down” but the main battle that Kenny fought was always a battle of inner demons in his quest to make it to the top. While some of Kenny’s rivals came and went during the journey, the trip to the top was always the ultimate payoff.
With how Phantasm is being set up the early part of this season, it wouldn’t surprise me if Chozen’s journey — and story arc — follows much of the same path as Kenny Powers’.
There are plenty of other fictional cartoon rappers that Chozen can go against as a rival character in the future, but this show will likely always center on Chozen doing whatever it takes to make it out of his sister’s living room and onto the covers of magazines.
While I’m not buying Phantasm as a rival and the sophomoric humor can be up-and-down, Chozen has a chance to be a decent comedy if it sticks to its formula and lets Chozen — as a character — breathe and be creative. Moynihan has a good grasp on the Chozen character already and there are a lot of different and fun ways the writers can go with how to take Chozen.
Let’s just hope the Chozen staff keeps the formula simple and lets the journey to the top guide Chozen along his path.
Chozen can be seen on FX’s website and Monday nights alongside Archer.
Image source: LA Times