Picks and Pans Review: The Beast

updated 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

Show of the week


What would you get if you crossed CNN with Big Brother? That's roughly the premise of this flawed but provocative new drama series, which gets a six-episode run beginning June 13.

At the upstart World News Service reporters gather information and put it on TV in the usual way while omnipresent cameras cover all the behind-the-scenes moves for viewing over the Internet. The owner of this 24-hour operation (known as The Beast because of its ravenous appetite for material) is Jackson Burns (Frank Langella), a visionary hustler whose rap varies from idealistic ("I want them to see us struggle with the truth") to deeply cynical ("The camera is God and demands a performance").

The pilot offers a compelling if ambiguous take on the timely question of whether to televise an execution, and the cool confidence of Langella's portrayal compensates for Jason Gedrick's posturing as a leather-jacketed outlaw journalist. But by episode 3, when a gunman menaces Burns live on WNS, you may wish The Beast fed less on melodrama.

Bottom Line: More good news than bad

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