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Television review: 'Ridiculousness' and 'Death Valley'

Among MTV's new series are a younger skewing of 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and a satire of a police unit that hunts vampires, werewolves and zombies.

August 29, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Sterling Steelo Brim, left, Rob Dyrdek and Chanel West Coast of "Ridiculousness."
Sterling Steelo Brim, left, Rob Dyrdek and Chanel West Coast of "Ridiculousness." (Kristian Dowling / PictureGroup )

Even after the weekend's Video Music Awards, MTV continues to celebrate its 30th birthday and to push for new relevance with two shows premiering Monday.

"Ridiculousness," hosted by Rob Dyrdek, is a rip-off of "America's Funniest Home Videos" and skewed to a younger, hipper demographic. So instead of toddlers running headfirst into dishwashers (always hilarious), it's young men on skateboards and pogo sticks doing tricks that end badly, often with deleterious effects to their reproductive organs. (There's an entire segment devoted to NutFlix).

It is difficult to imagine a need for such a thing, what with YouTube and "Tosh.0" on Comedy Central, but Dyrdek, whom you may remember from "Rob and Big," declares that the show is chock-full of "Internet gold." As is, of course, the Internet, but without Dyrdek's commentary, or the obliging laughter and grimaces of co-hosts Chanel West Coast and Sterling "Steelo" Brim.

"Death Valley" is far more promising. It's a horror-satire revolving around a vampire/zombie/werewolf takeover of the San Fernando Valley and the members of the police department's Undead Task Force (UTF) who battle it. The show is a multi-platform sendup — of the recent monster obsession, of reality TV (a film crew is following the UTF), of cop shows and, of course, of the Valley.

With a pedigree one would find only on MTV (the idea came from Spider One, founder of the band Powerman 5000, and was written by Julie Kellman Reading and Austin Reading, who have produced, among other things, the various "Scream Awards" on Spike), "Death Valley" looks and sounds like it was made by a bunch of smart, nerdy high school sophomores who somehow persuaded a few actual actors to participate. Certainly, the blood and gore — magenta, sticky, probably medicinally sweet — appear to have been purchased directly off the back page of a Tales from the Crypt comic book.

But that's part of the fun. The setting of "Death Valley" is land of the "Super 8" fantasy, home to Steven Spielberg and the porn industry, where a video camera is a birthright. Here, a zombie/vampire/werewolf takeover is just another local situation, along with fire season, earthquakes, meth labs and prostitution.

The members of the UTF hilariously mirror the inevitable cop show cast: the loudmouthed, by-the-book Joe Stubeck ("Funny or Die's" Charlie Sanders) bickers with his bad-joke-telling, "lighten up a little" partner Billy Pierce (Bryce Johnson); the super-hot but sensible Carla Rinaldi (Tania Raymonde, from "Lost") rolls her eyes at her overly studly partner John "John-John" Johnson (Texas Battle), and comely rookie Kirsten Landry (Caity Lotz) desperately tries to prove herself. They are overseen by the tough-talking Captain Frank Dashell (Bryan Callen), who at one point warns his team during a heat wave to hydrate because if one of them dies it better be because they've been attacked by a vampire, werewolf or zombie "and not from heat stroke."

While the camera crew following the officers pukes and screams as it takes down variations of the goopy gross undead, the "just the facts, ma'am" members of the UTF trade lame quips, pilfer doughnuts, rebel against protocol and try to make themselves look good. The result is goofy, gory and a lot of fun.

Unlike "Teen Wolf," MTV's other new monster show, "Death Valley" does not take itself too seriously or seriously at all — everyone involved seems to be having a good time, and as a result so do we.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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