Notes From New York Comic Con: MTV’s Death Valley Panel

19 Oct

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.

3 Responses to “Notes From New York Comic Con: MTV’s Death Valley Panel”

  1. Eric Weinberg October 22, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    As the showrunner for “Death Valley” who was there not only at the Comic-Con panel, but also for every minute of filming of the show, I have to say that what’s “disheartening” is you making unfounded, public accusations based on some good-natured teasing in an open forum. About Tania Raymonde, you say, “it looked like she had to endure A LOT of bad behavior from MANY of the guys.” (CAPS added for emphasis.) Really? Because to me it looked like she had to endure a little harmless flirting from her co-star and friend, Texas Battle. You also say that it’s “fascinating to watch how a creative environment operates because really, there aren’t any rules.” Actually, there are rules. And if anyone in a position of authority felt that rules — or even common decency and respect — weren’t being obeyed, believe me it would be addressed. Your comments are not only irresponsible and insulting, they’re patently unfair to each of the actors and to myself. What’s offensive here is not a cast and crew having some fun with each other, it’s you drawing conclusions and making statements about all sorts of things you can’t possibly know. And you should know better than to do that.

    • romistepovich October 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

      First of all Eric, I actually like the show and stand by my comments. I know all about good-natured teasing and obviously you do as well. And the only rules that really exist, as we both know, are the rules if someone gets pissed off and complains. I find it fascinating that you are responding to me, a lone female blogger who just pointed out what I observed. And I have to laugh at your common decency remark as the show doesn’t have any. But that’s what I said is so great about it in my other post. But of course, you probably didn’t bother reading that as you are more worried about what I said. And Eric… I don’t have to be present on the set and in the writer’s room to know human nature. I know exactly what I observed as a female audience member. I have to laugh that you are trying to intimidate me on my own blog! I’m quite flattered actually that you would take the time to respond to something you feel was unfair and biased. Because seriously, who am I? I can’t finance your next pilot. I can’t help you get any of your screenplays financed. You can go on telling yourself that all of that was just good natured fun. And you will probably believe it. You do whatever you need to, that’s no concern of mine. But I can tell you this much: if I were Tania at that panel, I would have been smiling just like she was smiling and reassuring you guys that no I wasn’t offended. I would have said that blogger woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Because I’d want to keep my job and not rock the boat. Most importantly, I’d want to feel like I hadn’t rocked the boat because then working with you might be awkward and maybe you’d give my characters less lines and screen time. I’ve been in her position before and it sucks. Because although you’d like to think it’s a compliment, you do get sick of hearing that crap. And don’t tell me what I know or don’t know. You actually have no clue what I do know. Now, I suggest you simply take the note and move on. Obviously you needed a much kinder and gentler way of someone saying things to you. I figured you had enough experience to just figure I was blowing a lot of hot air. Now, viewing your response, I feel like I was on the nose. Of course, that’s just my interpretation of your very public lashing.

  2. Kieran Turner October 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Wow. Way to go, Romi. I was not at this panel, but, as a minority, I have been in similar situations where rude, uncomfortable things have been said in the workplace, and I have to smile and nod and most of all, keep quiet, because I need the job. And I guarantee that none of those people who made the comments could ever get it through their thick skulls that what they were doing was anything more than just a little harmless joking. It would have been nice if Eric Weinberg had taken from your post that something he and his male cast had done made someone uncomfortable and even quietly decided the next time not to encourage it or to shut it down without having to embarrass Ms. Raymonde. At the very least, that it made a female audience member uncomfortable enough to publicly discuss it should have been enough for him to at least apologize, even if he didn’t mean it, since apparently he’s pretty good at condoning behavior from people that they don’t really mean.

    One wonders had the panel been making Jewish jokes throughout, would Mr. Weinberg have been so cavalier. Oh, right, it’s his show. He doesn’t have to worry about being fired or downsized.

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