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With TV offering numerous series involving vampires, werewolves and/or zombies, the timing is right for a show like Death Valley. MTV already has Teen Wolf to cater to the supernatural drama fans, but DV is going with a funnier take on the genre. To draw comparisons from what’s been done already, Death Valley is a little bit Reno 911! and COPS, a little bit Shaun of the Dead and a dash of True Blood-The Vampire Diaries blend for dramatic flavor. There are also other, more original ingredients in the recipe, including some great one-liners, and a raunchy kind of humor that should appeal to those of us who are feeling lured back to MTV by promising shows like Awkward and the return of Beavis and Butt-head.
Death Valley’s cast includes Caity Lotz (Mad Men), Tania Raymonde (Lost), Bryan Callen (The Hangover), Bryce Johnson (Sleeping Dogs Lie), Texas Battle (Final Destination 3) and Charlie Sanders (Funny or Die), and follows a group of police officers who work in Los Angeles during a post-vampire/werewolf/zombie invasion. Real crime seems to have taken a backseat to capturing and occasionally killing fanged, furry or decaying people-beasts. Rather than this being a dark and dreary crime procedural involving supernatural beings, Death Valley finds the humor in the genre as these easily distracted cops attempt to do their job without getting killed. With showrunner Eric Weinberg on board, whose writing credits include Californication and Scrubs, the mixture of comedy and drama in Death Valley is not only fitting, but it also works.
From the episodes I’ve seen, those who are familiar with COPS or the Comedy Central COPS parody Reno 911 will recognize the mockumentary format in this series. Whether they’re attempting to detain a semi-transformed werewolf during a full moon, obliviously out-walking a zombie, or busting a vampire-working girl, these cops are busy and often stepping on their own feet in their attempts to keep the San Fernando Valley safe. There’s blood, gore and people do sometimes die, making the series part humor and part horror, but when given the choice to go for suspense or go for the joke, the show almost always aims for a laugh. Fortunately, it succeeds. I also find it strangely fascinating to see how the cops organize, react and refer to their work as it relates to zombies, vampires and werewolves. Funny or not, the show treats the epidemic as a real situation within the city. There are rules and things to know about these creatures and we're brought into that in a humorous way as the cops speak to each other or the camera.
For those of you who are enticed by stories involving seductive vampires, there is some of that going on in Death Valley. Beyond the humor and police attempts to fight creatures of the night, there does appear to be an actual story being told here and early on in the series, that comes in the form of the local teens and young people sneaking off to party with and possibly join the vampire community. I’m not entirely sure if this aspect of the show is an attempt to lure serious fans of the supernatural genre, or if it’s there to offset the humor and create some suspense and a serialized element to the show. Either way, it’s intriguing and I think as long as it doesn’t become the primary focus of the show, it should work well to expand the viewership.
Death Valley is laughing at something a lot of us have already been laughing at (but secretly addicted to) since True Blood premiered on HBO. It’s ok though, because the writing is funny, as are the actors and there’s just enough story to keep things interesting beyond the humor. Tune in because you love the vampire craze in film and TV these days, or tune in because you don’t. Either way, Death Valley is fun and there’s a little something there for everyone.
Death Valley premieres Monday, August 29th at 10:30/9:30c on MTV.