Season: 1 Episode: 2 Network: MTV
US Air Date: 5 September 2011 UK Air Date: 6 February 2012
Starring: Bryan Callen, Charlie Sanders, Bryce Johnson, Caity Lotz, Tania Raymonde, Texas Battle
Writer: Eric Weinberg
Director: Eric Appel
Following on from its patchwork mess of an opening episode, MTV’s Death Valley has briskly found its tone and set its pace.
Benefiting from one writer rather than two, echoes of Scrubs are at their most booming in ‘Help Us To Help You’, which repeats plot devices and dynamics that co-creator Eric Weinberg honed over his four years on the medical comedy/drama.
Even the title instantly conjours up the spectral voice of the abrasive John C McGinley blaring “Help me to help you, help me to help you” at the browbeaten Zach Braff.
Captain Frank Dashell (Entourage’s Bryan Callen) is on the surface at least a weird combination between abusive misanthrope Doctor Cox and the PR-focused shark-man Doctor Kelso, while Bryce Johnson (Officer Billy Pierce) and Charlie Sanders (Officer Joe Stubeck) occasionally draw from the same moral dichotomy as Turk and JD – the naïve one and the self-serving cynic, who learn from each other and grow as people and barf – but the setting and characters are distinct enough to see Death Valley’s identity grow noticeably, even one episode later.
The horror versus slapstick fistfight that cluttered up our introduction to the LAPD’s Undead Task Force has settled down to a straight satire of cheap, COPS-style police shows, complete with Dog The Bounty Hunter-like moralising, albeit with vampire hookers trading sex for blood, and kids kneecapping zombies for giggles.
Our cops are weary, cynical and desensitised by a world in which zombie bites are treated by death, and policing the undead is part pest-control and part vice, and almost always involves dealing with idiots and dispensing violence.
We’re still waiting to see whether any sort of over-arcing storyline is going to make itself felt, but now it’s found a dynamic, the absence of any sort of driving narrative doesn’t feel like the creative deadweight it was last episode.
Undercutting the great and good used to be the hallmark of MTV’s original programming, and Death Valley is starting to do for the hand-wringing, forehead-furrowing world of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story, what Beavis & Butthead once did for Metallica.