MTV's Death Valley: Shoot it in the Head!

If you were to assemble the perfect three-course dinner, what would it consist of? I know what you're going to say: Pizza, tacos and Airheads. What a perfect combination, right? All three of those things are delicious! But then fast forward to the end of the meal when you're feeling super queasy and that's when you realize maybe those things don't go together very well at all. And not only that, but it turns out the pizza was made of Play-Doh, the tacos were full of cat food and the Airheads were just old pipe cleaners. You'd be mad, right? How could someone take a no-brainer and then get everything so wrong? What a terrible restaurant this is! Reader, that's how I felt by the end of MTV's Death Valley, an ambitious mash-up of cop shows, supernatural horror and mockumentary-style comedy that somehow managed to get all three genres completely wrong and then try to pass them off as dinner.

Death Valley's premise makes no sense.

Here's all you need to know about the premise of Death Valley: It takes place two years after a zombie outbreak in the San Fernando Valley (which somehow also involves an outbreak of vampires and werewolves?). The LAPD has assigned SIX very young and unprofessional police officers to apprehend all the monsters in the city. Six officers. And these officers don't go out hunting for these roving murderers, they just kick back and wait for monster-related 911 calls to come in. That's how this society runs. So basically what I'm saying is, if you want to watch this show, you have to punch your sense of disbelief right in the face, wrestle it to the ground and then lock it in the basement. Nothing, not one moment, of this show ever makes sense or has an internal logic of any kind. Which I guess MIGHT work if you're just making an absurd comedy about monsters, like say, Comedy Central's Ugly Americans. Unfortunately Death Valley also thinks it's scary.

Death Valley is not scary.

This show clearly thinks it's not necessary to lay out the specifics of this monster infestation, but all that does is place us directly in the low-stakes world of Nobody Cares. Why bother making a monster show when you're so clearly disinterested in the background, motivations, or details of the various creatures? What are the rules? What do they want? Is there anything at all surprising about them? Sure the monster makeup is pretty decent and I guess it's sort of scary that some of the vampires have joined street gangs (tough times), but otherwise this show has truly nothing to say about supernatural creatures other than they are fun to murder.

Death Valley has the worst executed mockumentary format in TV history.

This show's mockumentary angle is a confusing failure from the get-go. So there's allegedly a camera crew following the cops around, except the show is filmed in a traditional single-camera style, with medium shots, close-ups and the boom guy is an on-camera character? What is the point of this? Who still needs a mockumentary format in 2011? It's been done and done WELL. Move onto something easier to pull off! Only once or twice do the cops even speak to the camera, which is kind of the point of a mockumentary–So that characters can reveal their inner thoughts to the camera. Also, the production values are really high for a supposed two-person documentary crew. Death Valley is a very cinematic show, as though MTV mandated that it look expensive whether or not it makes sense for the central conceit. Anyway, do the people behind Death Valley realize they can achieve a gritty documentary vibe without it actually being one? Friday Night Lights provided a five-season master class on this subject.

Death Valley isn't funny.

Sure, humor is relative, I get that. But a good way to gauge the quality of a show's comedic merit is by its originality. Death Valley loses points right off the bat for lifting the format of Reno 911, right down to an opening scene in the debriefing room and a captain who makes inappropriate sexual comments to the other men. Later it wrings laughs out of some of the hackiest jokes since last night's Tonight Show monologue–A Glee reference! Cell phone porno! A cop who likes donuts! People getting diarrhea! It probably goes without saying that none of the characters are terribly unique or memorable, and that's ultimately the biggest drag when it comes to new shows. No matter how brilliant (or ludicrous) a series' premise is, our initial interest in that show's premise invariably wears off leaving only our interest in the characters to draw us back. I do not want to come back to these characters!

Death Valley was brought to us by a former Scrubs producer and boasts recognizable faces in Mad TV's Bryan Callen as the buffoonish captain and Lost's Tania Raymonde as an unconvincing Vasquez-like tough girl. But in the series premiere, the two main characters were actually a pair of frat bro police officers who exchange banter about Choco Tacos and porno when not having one-liner competitions in the line of fire. Ugh, these characters are like something out of every zero-budget webseries on the internet–You know the kind where every character appears 23 and dudes are only funny to the extent that they can still look badass? Super boring.

Death Valley can probably become good if it wants to.

All my complaints aside, Death Valley has enough going for it that it might be able to right the ship should it ever decide to. Drop the mockumentary angle completely. Serialize the storylines, introduce recurring nemeses, make it more like a monster version of The Wire! Make the zombies, vampires and werewolves somehow unique from the old cliches. Be funny without undercutting the constant threat of horror. Give the heroes inner lives and personal problems. You know, BASIC STUFF.

I realize this is a show aimed at children, but MTV knows how to turn out surprisingly decent scripted programming if Awkward. and Teen Wolf are any indication. You can do it, MTV! Please don't feed us pipe cleaners for dinner! Not again.

 

What did you think of the Death Valley premiere?

Comments (28)
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If every show was like Breaking Bad TV would be a bit dry.
I thought this show was good for a laugh and hope it gets renewed for another season.
Also I think Mr Peterson is a total pompous windbag.
Chees!
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Your precociousness impresses me, padawan. First of all it's MTV - to expect anything from them is not only naive but downright retarded and it's actually to your discredit that you're stupid, not to theirs that they disappointed you. Now the part where I insult you like all the IMDB trolling self-proclaimed film students who apparently dream of the Malton dick. You're looking way too far into it. Shut up, and watch it. Not only that but half of your accusations are invalid - they speak to the camera all the time. The characters all have consistent and unique idiosyncrasies, The plot makes as much sense as it's going to. There wasn't a zombie outbreak, the vampires control them, and sent them. Also you've apparently never seen, talked to, or had to be involved with the police. They don't go around looking for criminals. They sit on their asses until one bounds by them making a mistake - the only ones who don't are detectives. I'd beseech you to go back to your creative writing or,any writing, courses, assuming you ever took any, and to read some books so you can re-analyze story-telling. Every single book/movie/tv show in your lifetime has started you out in the middle of a situation without a 30 page prologue to prepare you. It's how real stories are told when you have the luxury of film and don't have to rely on your audience's imagination. Chief.
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wtf is wrong with you its not a fact mythology series ffs its a tv show version of shaun of the dead or zombie land with vampires and cops



its hilarious its like family guy ugly americans and rob zombie put in a blender and it tastes great



its funny but also serious enough without being a gore fest or snooze fest



wtf are you a big sweaty nerd or something dah



well said lilfrankieman



i love comedys coz i love ta laugh and this is funny



just wish there was a scotsman and a jamacan character team
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It's Torchwood with monsters and I for one love it.



For those who want a more campy The Walking Dead or an actually smart Vampire Diaries: this is the show.
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Nothing redeeming about this show at all? Worst in tv history? You sound like a classic couch potato reviewer: cynical and angry, unable to see past your own opinion long enough to provide some intelligent insight or offer a critical review. This isn't a review, it's you telling the world how to do their job. Why don't you make a show and tell us how it's done! Make the greatest piece of television the world as ever seen! You can do it! Please, don't deprive us of your genius and unique creativity, it would be a crime against TV audiences everywhere.



90% of new fall programming is really bad, no question about it. But this is hardly the worst offender, and you missed the point of the show - it's a commentary on the cop show/character stereotypes and the horror genre. You took it at face value? You really thought it was supposed to be serious? You missed the boat. Hang up your laptop and find another career.
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And this review is the reason why tv.com has bad reviewers along with buddytv
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ITS FUNNY THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS. If you could watch boring falling skies this should keep you interested
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Falling skies wasn't....b....okay it kind of was sometimes. It's just that they took way too long developing any episode plots that were more complicated than "This sucks guys. This so sucks. But don't we look cool all walking around with guns in public? Sigh, the world would be so much cooler." and by the time they did, the show was on hiatus for 9 or 10 months until this summer.
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Dont be ridiculous Barry. How does this review ruin TV for everyone? How can you say "if you dont like the show dont watch it" when this was the very first episode? How can you by now not have figured out that reviews are not a guideline you ignorant fool.You cant be serious......
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This is the kind of review that ruins TV for everyone. If you don't like the show, don't watch it. But some of us thought it was a riot.
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I actually quite liked it. I thought it was interesting and really funny. I'll definitly keep watching it.
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I watched 5 minutes and I stopped it was horrible a hot mess
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watched 15 minutes and shut it off, didn't find it the least bit entertaining. just stupid.
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This article is funny.. I never heard of this show, and I certainly won't be tuning in now... it sounds like 'Death Valley' is targeted at 15 year old stoners who are eating cold pop tarts and smoking out of a Wilfred-style bong.. Just sayin....
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hmmm. I don't think this is meant to be anything more than a disposable good time. I didn't get the impression that they were going for a serious take on the already crowded "monster" genre. It felt like an irreverant good time to me.

You're reviewing one episode so how do you know that they aren't going to "serialize the storyline" or introduce a "recurring nemeses?" I think you should probably watch at least a few episodes before making a review like this. You're a TV reviewer Price. You should know this, it's you know, BASIC STUFF.
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I find it funny that you expected this to be some sort of serious show? From the trailers they had been showing you could tell is was just going to be a stupid humor type show. This show was not meant to be taken seriously. Not the slightest.
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What's wrong with American TV and bleeping out swearing?

Are you all 10 years old and get so easily offended?

Why can't you put real words on TV?
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wow they really attacked this show...for one I wasn't expecting anything serious to me it's Reno 911 but with a supernatural twist.

I actually found some parts to be funny and I laughed...its really stupid as hell, but that is actually what it was made to be like. At least that is the feeling I got when I watched it.

So to the guy reviewing...get a sense of humor. Choco Taco
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Wow someone takes life too seriously. So sad. It's supposed to be a comedy. You are trying to figure out logic here? Most zombie movies don't have any logic here as do monster movies. The monsters roam around and kill people. The End



This is a refreshing change from the "oh here are the monsters, let's all be frightened, and let them kills us off in predictable fashion" cliche used in a million zombie movies.



Mockumentaries as well are pretty new at least for most viewers. Talking to the camera crew isn't a taboo for a mockumentary, directors do it a lot to the audience. You might want to research stuff like that before claiming it's true.



This show is fun. It doesn't take itself seriously, and it's clearly meant to be a parody of all the monster features we've seen.



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I didn't make it 10 minutes before I had to turn this garbage off.
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wow

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Well, I'm glad I never heard of this. No opportunity to get disappointed.
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i didn't think it was THAT bad but it left more to be desired. the concept was nice, and they don't need to explain why it happened. the mockumentary thing is a played out concept so i'm glad they didn't play that up too much. it could be much better but i'll probably keep watching it, atleast for now



there's no way this show can be worse than Skins or I Just Want My Pants Back though
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I didn't watch the show, so I'm not sure, but on the third picture down, the bottles of water have nothing but a cross on them. Have they started mass producing holy water, with an ordained priest at every bottling plant to bless the water? What's next, complimentary silver bullets with your happy meal?
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I dont know, I didn't love it but I also didn't hate it. I don't think its going for serious, serialized tv. You do have to suspend belief but I think its just a crazy show about monsters and bad/idiotic cops ala reno 911, like you said. Comedy is the aim and that's still a bit iffy. Might watch one or two more to see if it hooks me.
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This article is thousands of times better than what the show seems to be.
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This show is just horrible. It's not good as a comedy or a horror show, it fails to deliver in either category. It will make you cringe, but not because of fear, because of how douchey the lines in it are.
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My standards are so low, I'm just happy the vampires don't sparkle.
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