“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.
Answering a classified ad, the desperate Tucker ends up at the Chronicle, a disreputable rag running incredible stories about your UFOs, poltergeists and demonic household pets (Angry Siamese Twins Tell Off Sister, screams one of the paper’s sensational headlines). The amusing kicker here is that each of those stories turns out to be true, which is something Tucker discovers on his first assignment involving the Brooklyn Bloodsucker, a funky, lizard-like creature that comes out only at night (natch).
Tucker’s quirky co-workers include Grace (Rena Sofer), an aggressive reporter who was hired after several alien abductions (six, to be precise), and Pig Boy (Curtis Armstrong), a partly porcine researcher who oversees the paper’s bizarre archives. “He’s a smart guy, but a lazy pig,” says the paper’s droll editor in chief (nicely underplayed by “Homicide’s” Jon Polito).
Created by Silvio Horta (“Urban Legends”), this harmless piece of fluff moves quickly, dropping in occasional gags on the fly. “I’m sorry, the Alien Autopsy contest is over,” says a chirpy receptionist as Tucker arrives for his interview. Willett is engaging, Sofer is sassy and Polito approaches his offbeat material knowing that nothing should be taken seriously.
“The Chronicle” can be seen tonight at 9 on the Sci Fi Channel. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children). Another episode airs at 10 p.m.
By STEVEN LINAN