“Chozen,” the new adults-only cartoon on FX, borrows its animation style and proclivity for the inappropriate from its funnier sibling “Archer.” Bobby Moynihan (a “Saturday Night Live” cast member) voices the title character here — a white rap artist who just finished a prison sentence and is seeking to reclaim his stardom with a misguided sense of street cred.
A decade earlier, Chozen was in a teen-friendly rap group until a bandmate who turned rival (Cliff “Method Man” Smith as Phantasm) framed him for crimes he didn’t commit.
Behind bars, Chozen discovers that he’s gay — or, at the very least, he discovers that he’s a thuggish hybrid of a hip-hopper and bear. In his songs, he raps about the big-house pleasures of rough, anonymous encounters with unwilling partners.
The first several episodes of “Chozen” (which premieres Monday night) would have a viewer believe there is nothing funnier than jokes about prison rape. “Chozen” is far from alone in this. Prison rape is an unfortunately acceptable, and hackneyed, punch line across the landscape of American comedy; worse still, it’s a reprehensible feature of criminal justice in our culture, which revels in dropped-soap jeers directed at the newly incarcerated.
I’d be willing to let “Chozen” have its laughs there if it would more quickly move onto its better traits and smarter jokes. The show has a clever satirical premise at its center, in which Chozen must reconcile his warped ideas about gender and success with the warped ideas of gender and success in the rap-music industry at large. (Where Phantasm is surrounded by women in thong bikinis, Chozen surrounds himself with nearly naked men wearing bear masks. The exploitation is artistically hollow, in either act.)
With nowhere else to go while he delusionally waits for his Internet videos to go viral, Chozen moves into his college-age sister’s apartment and hangs out on campus, where he intimidates the student body with his awkward bravado and outrageous sexual identity. Which again leads us back to far too many rape jokes.
None of this will come as a surprise to fans of “Archer,” the profane secret-agent spoof (beginning its fifth season Monday night) that crosses just about any line you care to draw concerning sex, drugs and violent imagery. But where “Archer” sort of stylishly crosses it, “Chozen” clumsily trips and falls.
“Chozen”, 30 minutes, premieres Monday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on FX.