Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Death Valley should die

     What can be said about the new MTV series Death Valley? Not a lot that's good, unfortunately. It is not set in Death Valley, if that's what you're wondering. Rather, it takes place near Hollywood, and follows cops on the UTF (Undead Task Force) who deal with zombies, werewolves, and vampires.

     Yep, that's right, the supernatural featured on many, many, many books, television shows, and movies right now. There is no attempt to explain why these creatures are in this area. Apparently, they've only been publically known for a year, and there is a high concentration of them near Hollywood. Perhaps they came to get revenge on the people who exploit them? That doesn't quite ring true, since they seem to have already become completely integrated into society within that first year, already taking jobs as prostitutes and the like.

     Basically, Death Valley is Reno 9-1-1, but with far more gross gore than necessary, and far fewer laughs. This is a bad combination. Too little gore on a series like this, no problem. But without enough funny to keep viewers tuning in, there doesn't seem to be much hope for a lengthy run. At least in "Pilot," the premise seems like a one note gag that will wear thin very quickly. Only time will tell if this assertion is true, or Death Valley will go somewhere.

     The cast isn't bad. Comic Bryan Callen (MADtv, Oz) leads the crew. John-John (Texas Battle, The Bold and the Beautiful) is appropriately doughnut-obsessed, much to the chagrin of his partner, Rinaldo (Tania Raymonde, Lost). Partners Stubeck (Charlie Sanders, Cedar Rapids) and Billy (Bryce Johnson, Pretty Little Liars) are inept, but come closest to echoing the more successful characters in Reno. Newcomer Kirsten (Caity Lotz, Mad Men) is much more prepared, though inexperienced and undervalued by her teammates.

     In "Pilot," Rinaldo and John-John go to a doughnut shop to confront a zombie. John-John is filling a box with pastries, and thus distracted, allows a sound guy to get bitten. Then they beat the poor man to death with a baseball bat so he doesn't turn. Stubeck and Billy arrest a frequent offender, and end up killing her pimp in the process. Billy is kidnapped in revenge, and Stubeck must trade the dead vampire's body to get his partner back. All fairly standard, but the execution and material is substandard, and thus, the plots fall flat.

     What Death Valley needs is better writing, plain and simple. These actors can handle the humor, but they must be given something to work with. Unless it's just a bad editing job, that falls to the guys who come up with the dialogue. In this, Death Valley is a failure. Or at least the first episode is.

     Death Valley airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. ET on MTV.

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