July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

Sci Fi Channel (Saturdays, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

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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 a 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.

Bottom Line: Pick up this paper

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