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Chozen: TV review

FX's new animated series about a gay, white rapper takes a lot of risks that don't pay off.

Chozen premieres Monday, January 13 at 9:30pm on FX.

When it came to a close this summer, Eastbound & Down was praised for its daring portrayal of a wildly unsympathetic protagonist. Now that same production team, paired with the producers of Archer, casts its eye to the world of hip-hop, as it combines its trademark brand of comedy with an unlikely rap hero.

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Back in the day, Chozen (Bobby Moynihan)—real name Phillip Collins—an overweight, gay white rapper, was in a hip-hop group with his buddies Phantasm (Method Man), Crisco (Hannibal Buress) and Ricky (Michael Peña). Young and full of good intentions, Chozen recognizes that Phantasm is a bit loony, and after walking in on him engaging in illegal acts, threatens to call the cops. Before he can make the call, Phantasm knocks him out and surrounds his unconscious body with contraband before calling the police. Now, several years later, Chozen has been released from prison and is on a mission to revitalize his rap career and crush his nemesis, who has now become a superstar.

While on the surface, Chozen appears to be an uplifting story of redemption and its main character begins as an idealistic hero, the prison-worn Chozen is a problematic protagonist. Lewd, insensitive and not that bright, he trundles through the lives of the supporting characters selfishly taking what he wants, leaving a mess in his wake. His story of false imprisonment is an unfortunate one, but as a free man, his redemption becomes something that he appears to deserve less and less. He seems more interested in petty revenge and quick fame. Most of Chozen's rap performances are fantasy sequences where he imagines music video scenarios of scantily clad fly guys grinding against him while he's decked out in furs and chains. The music can be catchy, but it often feels too disconnected from the rest of the character and the rest of the show.

There's something to be said for Chozen's moxy. Creator Grant Dekernion dives into the material and isn't afraid to push boundaries and risk offending people when depicting the world of hip-hop and his main character's sexuality. Of course, that approach to comedy does mean that if the audience isn't laughing at your show, their blood boil is probably boiling. The reality is that this show just isn't that funny. Chozen walks a tightrope as it attempts to send up rap culture, often falling into repetition it as it veers into uncomfortable racial and sexual stereotypes. What could have been an ambitious comedy succumbs to plays for cheap laughs.

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