In all honesty, I kept meaning to watch MTV’s new show Death Valley but I hadn’t gotten around to it. I even downloaded the first episode for free from iTunes a couple of months ago. But I got busy and distracted. Then I noticed at NYCC there was going to be a Death Valley panel so I figured, why not? Let me just start off by saying even if this show has no class (which actually isn’t meant as a criticism or a put down, it’s just the nature of the show), MTV was kind enough to pass around very nice UTF (Undead Task Force) baseball caps. Yes I got one. And at some point, I plan on wearing it.
At Saturday’s panel there was a screening of an upcoming episode where zombies attack the police station. It was quite a ride and judging from the 13 year old kid sitting next to me, pretty great in the gory department. The kid flipped his gord every time a zombie got decapitated or sliced and diced. Sadly, I began enjoying all the zombie violence myself. It was such a satisfying episode I went home and promptly watched all six episodes available for viewing on MTV/Death Valley‘s website. Yes, I know, I’m not their target audience but there are a bunch of adult females that actually do have a sick sense of humor. Nobody appreciates us yet as an audience. That is probably a mistake but that’s another panel that will probably not see the light of day at any Comic Con any time in the near future: adult women and horror/comedy: a new market.
What works about this show is the excessive comedic gory violence, the spoof of the reality show COPS, and the parodies of the many police procedurals that take themselves and their characters so seriously, along with the fact that in Los Angeles the San Fernando Valley is a sort of open joke. It’s also well known for it’s porn industry and obviously Death Valley couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do an episode about that. No, the show is not politically correct in the least. And while as a female viewer, I do get sick of the lesbian kisses, etc. that guys seem to throw in for good measure whenever they can, they at least put in enough gratuitous sexual content that can offend both sexes so I feel it’s a bit more of an egalitarian show. For instance, in the episode we watched at NYCC, Officer Rinaldi (Tania Raymonde) tells Officer “John John” Johnson (Texas Battle) that she’ll spend the night with him if he’ll kill all the zombies. What ensues is “John John” single-handedly killing loads of zombies while the Captain (Bryan Callen) holds everyone back since he’s in “the zone.” Obviously this zone has been induced by the promise of sex with Rinaldi and it’s an exaggeration but still an example of what men will sometimes do to get laid. The best part of the scene, however, happens when one of his fellow officers hands him a root beer after his zombie killing spree. I won’t ruin it. You have to watch for yourself but it is worth the wait.
The panel itself consisted of Spider One (who conceived the show after moving to the San Fernando Valley from Hollywood), one of the Executive Producers/Writers, Eric Weinberg, and three cast members; Tania Raymonde (Officer Rinaldi), Texas Battle (Officer “John John” Johnson) and Charlie Sanders (Office Joe Stubeck). Spider One (Rob Zombie‘s brother) shot a sample pilot on a super-low budget of $500 and took that around town, pitching it and that’s what ended up getting the show a pilot order from MTV. Spider also discussed the fact that there has not been a lot of mythology written about the origins of the zombie virus and why there was a sudden influx of zombies, vampires and werewolves to the Valley a year before. He and Weinberg said that some questions will be addressed in upcoming episodes but there isn’t some giant show bible like some shows create that gives a mythology/backstory to why everything is the way it is in the narrative world of a television show.
They also said that there is a bit of improv in the show since that is Charlie Sanders background (and he still does improv on a weekly basis). Texas Battle discussed how pleased he was that he is able to appear in two television shows at once – Death Valley and Bold and the Beautiful. Tania Raymonde had to spend a great deal of time brushing off Battle’s come-ons through the entire panel. It looked like she had to endure a lot of bad behavior from many of the guys. Not a great position for any female to have to deal with. And I say that from personal experience working in the film business. It’s a bit disheartening to see it still not only goes on but even goes on in front of an audience at Comic Con! That seems to be a tradeoff, to get really bad humor on TV you have to deal with lots of sexist jokes. Sometimes they are no big deal and you aren’t offended. Most of us women do get that is part of the job but there’s a line. Jokes are fine but when stuff gets directed at you, it feels creepy. It’s no longer funny. It’s just fascinating to watch how a creative environment operates because really, there aren’t any rules. That’s not a judgement. It’s an observation.