“The Choe Show” is that square peg that doesn’t fit into any TV category and is packed with surreal surprises.
The new four-episode series, premiering Friday (June 25) on FX, is hosted by renowned artist/provocateur David Choe. It’s a mixture of celebrity psychotherapy, dadaism and comedy that adds up to a genre-busting experience the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else on the tube.
In the opener, Choe, 45, notes that he’s paying for “The Choe Show” himself, not surprising after he made an estimated $200 million by selling his Facebook stock when the company went public in 2012. (He would’ve earned $1.3 billion had he sold the stock now, t’s wryly noted.)
So not for Choe a fancy studio or hotel suite in which to interview his guests. He bought his boyhood home, the site of many childhood traumas — he describes his born-again mother as a “Sith Lord, manipulative, cunning — a liar” — and it’s from that bizarrely furnished/decorated locale that celebs including Kat Von D, porn star Asa Akira (with whom he also does a podcast), Will Arnett, Steve-O, musician Denzel Curry and Rainn Wilson talk to Choe (sometimes from painted wheelchairs) as he paints their portraits while they reveal their innermost thoughts, secrets and shame. There’s role-playing (Wilson dons a black wig to play Choe’s mother) and tears are shed, by the guests and by Choe. It’s simultaneously weird and compelling and, yes, cathartic for all concerned — like an acid-flashback episode of “Dr. Phil.”
The discussions between Choe and his guests are punctuated around the edges with dreamy quick-cut re-enactments overlaid with a pop-art-style veneer to add some context. And there are absolutely no barriers, particularly in Choe’s interview with the pregnant Akira. That segment is conducted in her home and is rife with f-bombs and frank sexual talk, so you might want to steer clear if you’re on the prudish side.
Choe is no stranger to the camera — he appeared in episodes of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and HBO’s “Vice” — and he’s an engaging, agreeable conversationalist who’s able to extract unexpected emotions from his guests (“To my surprise he went deep with me,” he says of Arnett) while not flinching from his own demons, including a porn addiction. “I’m an addict. An out-of-control addict,” he says, before adding that he’s “almost positive I got sexually abused” at the age of 4 when he was sent to live elsewhere by his cash-strapped parents. He and Akira call each other liars without a hint of anger or judgment while agreeing that “everyone lies” (particularly, as Akira says, when it comes to “super-f–king ugly” babies).
Each episode is roughly a half-hour long and flies by quickly courtesy of the many eye-catching distractions and the interplay between Choe and his guests. There are a few surprise cameos I’m not supposed to tell you about, but rest assured you won’t be bored by “The Choe Show,” with each episode next-day streaming on FX on Hulu if that’s your preference.