TV Review: 'Death Valley'


I've got to hand it to MTV: they are no longer solely relying on the skanky "real" antics of talentless wastes-of-space to get the eyeballs. I have given up hope that the network will ever make use of that M again, but with this summer's Teen Wolf and the revival of Beavis & Butt-Head, MTV is once again watchable.

Death Valley is part of this exciting new lineup. Shot in documentary Cops-style, Death Valley follows the agents of Undead Task Force (UTF). This elite department of the LAPD focuses exclusively on apprehending zombies, vampires, werewolves, and other monsters that have taken over the San Fernando Valley. Anyone who is familiar with Los Angeles will laugh that monsters chose to make the Valley their home, but the show is not riddled with in-jokes. "Burbank" or "Chatsworth" could easily be called "Tulsa" or "Springfield;" it wouldn't matter.

The show mixes gore and laughs in equal turns. The gore is so explosive (literally), you have no choice but to laugh at it - it is cartoonish. The ensemble cast has great chemistry and pedigrees in both comedy (Bryan Callen from The Hangover) and horror (Tania Raymonde from Lost and Leatherface 3D; Texas Battle from Final Destination 3 and Wrong Turn 2). The jokes are non-stop. Most land; some don't, but you won't have to wait long for another one. I like that the camera crew often gets dragged unwittingly into situations. For example, one of the officers beats up the boom operator in order to break his wooden boom stick in half and stab a vampire (never mind the fact that most boom sticks are aluminum). 

While each of the three episodes I watched had multiple laugh-out-loud moments, I am concerned that it will get tiresome. Each episode has the same structure, and no through-line. Officers Rinaldi and John-John (Raymonde and Battle) run their beat while Stubeck and Pierce (Charlie Sanders and Bryce Johnson) go on their beat. Captain Dashall (Callen) stays at the station with rookie Kirsten (Caity Lotz) who can kick a lot more ass than the boys will give her credit. Kirsten is given an on-going undercover babysitting mission to see what kind of trouble the Captain's teenaged niece is getting herself into, but other than that, every episode feels pretty self-contained (the episodes I saw were 101, 103, and 106, and one of them did hint at carrying over a subplot from the episode before). Without a through-line, the show can become boring and it is hard for viewers to "bond" with any of the characters.

Verdict? Funny, gory, and definitely worth a half-hour of your time each week. But if you miss an episode here or there, you probably won't notice.