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

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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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