Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This week’s choice: Death Valley (tv series)
What if someone made a tv show where camera crews followed around police officers on duty, and filmed all the crazy situations they got into? No, that’s been done. What if we made it sort of like a humorous thing then, where the cops are people that could never be real officers, who get themselves into outrageous scenarios, created by their own ridiculous identities? No, that’s also been done. Plus, coming from Spider One (Rob Zombie’s little brother) people are going to naturally expect to see some undead. And thus Death Valley was born.
This tv series focuses on the members of the Undead Task Force (UTF) who are nothing but hard working, blue-collar American peace-officers keeping their community safe from werewolves, zombies and vampires. The show’s vehicle is a mockumentary style that takes the action and drama found on COPS and blends it skillfully with the farcical and outrageous a la Reno 911. Though this comedy-horror show only ran for a single season before MTV realized there were no pregnant teenagers anywhere in the plot (so naturally it couldn’t return), Death Valley has all the essential elements of a cult favorite.
The characters throughout the course of the season develop actual relationships, which cause you to care about the perils they are placed in. There’s a huge amount of attention evident in the details of the world these characters live in, as you follow them through what often start out as daily routines. Whether police are called to break up a zombie fight (like a dog fight, but with the undead), or they are simply making routine checks with all the registered werewolves in the area (to ensure they are chained up during the coming full moon), the show takes every opportunity to make each situation both hilarious and believable.
In the beginning, being so used to cookie cutter stereotypes it’s easy to miss the solid foundations the show later builds upon. Captain Dashell always says the wrong thing at the wrong time, not out of incompetence but out of a weird social awkwardness. Officer Stubeck portrays a family man who doesn’t just play a straight face to his partner Pierce’s juvenile shenanigans, but later works to try to talk vampire prostitutes into a better way of life. Rinaldi and Johnson have their own weird love triangle, while rookie Landry makes newbie mistakes, then works hard to earn her place on the force.
Best of all, it isn’t simply the characters that develop: the clearly well thought out plot develops also. This is no undead version of Lost; you can tell there’s an actual, intended destination. There’s an established connection between zombies and vampires, and the end of the series even throws in a few wild cards to really leave you wanting more. It’s clear that the writers and creators involved in the show had both the talent and intention of making this thing successful. That makes it all the more shameful that, at least at this point, no one else has picked the project up and given it a definite future.
Despite knowing that the days and moments of hilarity are numbered, and that we may never get to see all the ideas here come to fruition, what this show accomplished in just twelve episodes makes it decidedly worth your attention.