Donald Stern (Jon Polito), editor of the World Chronicle, isn’t about to weigh down his New York City-based supermarket tabloid with what the establishment considers real news. “If people want to be bored, they can read the Times,” he tells Tucker Burns (Chad Willett), a new reporter trained in respectable journalism at Columbia University. So the front page screams, “There’s Demon in My Toilet” and “Angry Siamese Triplets Tell Off Sister.” But as Tucker discovers to his surprise, Chronicle stories tend to be true. The premise of The Chronicle holds such promise—evoking fond memories of the ’70s cult series Kolchak: The Night Stalker—that I confess an inclination to accentuate the positive. And in fact there’s lots to enjoy in the July 14 pilot, including the assignment meeting (“Brooklyn bloodsucker—who wants it?” the editor snaps) and a hair-raising elevator ride to the Chronicle archives, where Donald introduces Tucker to Sal (Curtis Armstrong), the strangely porcine research assistant. “One of our reporters found him in a sty,” the boss explains. It figures. Aggressive reporter Grace Hall (Rena Sofer)—a former alien abductee—and jazzed-up photographer Wes Freewald (Reno Wilson) make good foils for the skeptical Tucker. But the show needs to guard against needlessly convoluted plotting (as seen in the July 21 episode) that will only distract viewers from the funny central conflict between Tucker’s mind-set and the Chronicle’s mission.
All the News That’s Fit to Destroy Mankind: At one point in “Men in Black,” Tommy Lee Jones buys a fistful of tabloid newspapers and informs Will Smith that they represent the only journalism that can be trusted. From that throwaway line comes “The Chronicle,” a new series on the Sci-Fi Channel debuting at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Originally developed at NBC as “News From the Edge,” “The Chronicle” follows a beleaguered aspiring journalist named Tucker Burns (Chad Willett) who can only get a job with the tabloid that provides the series with its title. The rundown tenement in which the paper is housed belies the technology within its walls; the staff includes the reincarnation of Mother Teresa, a pig-boy in the research department and a UFO abductee/ace reporter (Rena Sofer) who scores interviews, however unrevealing, with the Antichrist.
“The Chronicle,” a spry new Sci Fi Channel series about a tacky tabloid covering out-of-this-world phenomena, is the daffiest diversion of the summer.
Lifting bits and pieces from “Men in Black” and “The X-Files,” this cheesy yet breezy adventure is light, frivolous, farfetched fun with enough throwaway lines to fill the funnies. The cynical protagonist here is Tucker Burns (Chad Willett), a lean, likable Columbia School of Journalism grad in dire need of a job.
In this darkly comic series, all of those Weekly World News-esque tales of alien visitations and Elvis sightings are the stuff that Pulitzers are made of—at least they would be if the Man weren’t keeping a lid on them. Explains creator Silvio Horta (Urban Legends), “We’d seen the X-Files routine done many times, and I thought, ‘We’ve established that the truth is out there, so let’s have some fun with it.'” In keeping with that sci-fi standby, The Chronicle’s reporters include a skeptic named Tucker Burns (Chad Willett) and dyed-in-the-wool believer Grace Hall (Ed’s Rena Sofer), while the huffy editor in chief (Jon Polito) and the snout-nosed archivist “Pig Boy” (Revenge of the Nerds vet Curtis Armstrong) provide the comic relief. Among The Chronicle’s future stories: “I See Dead Fat People,” about a house built on the ashes of a weight-loss clinic, and “What Gobbles Beneath,” featuring a “tumor monster” that kills cell-phone users. The show’s very un-tabloidy choice thus far has been to avoid celebrity-based plotlines, but, says Horta, “you never know. Britney Spears is not human, so…”