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'Death Valley' Showrunner: 'We're More Rock 'n' Roll' Than 'Walking Dead,' 'True Blood'

Eric Weinberg says MTV's horror-comedy series "feels, looks and sounds" different than other supernatural-themed fare.

While The Walking Dead, True Blood and MTV’s Teen Wolf continue to attract viewers with supernatural fare including zombies, werewolves and vampires, MTV prepares to take a comedic look at the genre with Death Valley.

Premiering Monday night, the half-hour scripted horror-comedy revolves around the Undead Task Force, a new division of the LAPD that captures the vampires, zombies and werewolves that roam the San Fernando Valley while being filmed by a documentary crew and, according to showrunner Eric Weinberg, is different than all the other supernatural fare out there.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Weinberg to discuss how Death Valley fits into MTV’s brand, merging horror and comedy and if the series will take shots at True Blood and company.

THR: Death Valley feels like Reno 911 meets The Walking Dead and True Blood with dash of Teen Wolf for good measure. What makes Death Valley different?
Eric Weinberg:
That's not a bad way to look at it (laughs). Our show's very different. I'm not taking anything away from those other shows: Walking Dead is really cool; True Blood is really cool. Our show is feels, looks and sounds different; it's a different kind of show. We blend comedy and horror because Walking Dead and True Blood aren't going for comedy. It's just a different approach to it. I feel like there's room for all of them right now. We're not going to try to out-mythologize Walking Dead; we're not going to try to out-sexy True Blood. We're more rock ’n’ roll and we're funnier.

THR: How does Death Valley fit in to MTV’s continued push into original scripted fare?
Weinberg:
The thing MTV does extremely well is they have the habit of reinventing themselves and taking chances. It may not at first blush seem like it's the perfect home but then you think about it and realize that MTV has this habit of reinventing of taking chances, and they did that with this show. I'm not sure MTV knew quite what to make of it other than they liked it, which I say as a giant compliment to MTV. It wasn't part of a corporate strategy, it was basically a reaction of, “We like the show, we'll figure it out.”

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THR: What about the project interested you? Were you a big horror fan?
Weinberg:
No I'm not. It's funny, I have pockets in my childhood of everything from The Blob, The Exorcist and Damian to The Omen that I liked and then I came back recently to stuff like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead and Wreck. I really was into those and sort of came back to that pretty recently. In between and as a writer, I've been more into Scrubs and Californication and doing half-hour comedy.

We’ve got a bunch of people who have a little different kind of expertise to bring. The approach has been, “Let's go full tilt in both directions.” In other words, when it's horrific let's be horrific as much as we can do on TV at 10:30 p.m.; when it's supposed to be comedic, let's be funny. There are changes in tone as you go along from minute to minute and hopefully second to second when the tone shifts and catches you off-guard. I think that that appealed to all of us.

THR’s MTV coverage

THR: Any kind of plans to spoof True Blood or other genre fare?
Weinberg:
I could see having some fun [with that] down the road. I would also never want to be perceived as taking a shot at anybody; they don't deserve that. When they do anything that warrants taking a shot, then of course, but those shows have been really solid in their own right. We're just getting the audience at this point starting to be aware of who we are. I don't think the time has come for us to start to parody other shows that are pretty well-established.  

THR: Are you worried about an oversaturation with the supernatural genre?
Weinberg:
I would be worried if there was a show that sounds like it was in the comedy-horror territory because that's a show that's very much doing what we're doing. I think that we're in a different ballgame; I don't think we're playing the same game. I haven’t seen anything on air right now that is totally similar to what we're doing. I think we are doing a show that's not just different for MTV, I think it's different than what's out there period, on any network.

Death Valley premieres Monday, Aug. 29 at 10:30 p.m. on MTV. Check out an exclusive clip from Episode 103, “Blood Vessels,” above.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com
Twitter: @Snoodit