When I first heard of the Sci Fi Channel series The Chronicle, I
thought of a throwaway gag during the movie Men in Black. Tommy
Lee Jones tells Will Smith he's going to check the news, then buys some tabloids.
Smith questions his choices, and Jones tells him they have the best investigative
reporters in the world.
The Chronicle is a show about those reporters. That hooked me. It's a
clever idea: all the monsters and aliens and freaks that tabloid papers like
Weekly World News and The Globe cover are all real. But often,
there are a million miles between concept and execution.
Chad Willett is Tucker Burns, the lead guy on the show and our window to the
world of the Chronicle: in the pilot, he gets a reporter job there. He
was blacklisted by mainstream newspapers after an "incident." He considers
the Chronicle beneath him, but changes his mind after the pilot episode.
There's a lot of foreshadowing of the "incident," then he finally
reveals what it was. He was the victim of a sorority girl lie that got a teacher
fired. That's it. Now, many (oh, so very many) sorority girls I have known are
capable of causing abject suffering and misery - but as the basis of a character's
entire motivation? It would be one thing if they used that as a punchline, but
it's treated with deadly seriousness.
It turns out that it's not just Tucker; the whole Chronicle staff works
there because of being shunned by the mainstream, so now Tucker feels like he
belongs. Willett is affable and nice-seeming as Tucker. That's the point of
him, as the hero of the piece. Here, that's also the problem. He's generic.
Rena Sofer plays the female lead Grace. She's got a better sob story, multiple
alien abductions. So far she hasn't been given much to do. Hopefully
she isn't designed as just someone to look at.
The rest of the cast is serviceable in their roles, with the only standout being
Curtis Armstrong as Pig Boy (but he's still Booger from Revenge of the Nerds
in our hearts). He's the only one in the cast who seems truly into playing
an odd character to match the odd setting. And by that, I mean that there's
nothing very meaty in the personalities of these characters, nothing for them
to do except react. Some of these characters could just as well be on something
like The Practice. I feel like the only one who should be a "normal"
character in an odd setting is Tucker.
The writing of the show really left me wanting. The mythology established for
the show is neat, but it doesn't go any further. The jokes seem meant to be
hilarious, but they're not. The situations seem meant to be over the top, but
they're not. This show is about weirdoes investigating weird things, but it
isn't weird enough.
Sci Fi used to air another comedy / action / weirdness show called Good vs.
Evil. It was quickly canceled. That show must have been too stylistic, too
weird, and too funny, because Sci Fi pulled back the reins when they tried comedy-action-weirdness
again on The Chronicle.
The show has just been renewed by Sci Fi, to give it a full season's worth of
episodes. Good for it. I'd watch it again, to see if it gets its legs underneath
it. So far, the show is just okay. Hundreds, nay, thousands, of shows with worse
concepts and casts than this have been mediocre. With what The Chronicle
has going for it, I expected more.