I write soap opera news for a living, having been a “General Hospital” fan since I was a wee lad in 1981. So it should come as no surprise that throughout the decades I’ve followed the actors to other shows and films they’ve been in. James Patrick Stuart is one such actor, and many fans may not know that he played Dr. Zee on the short-lived sequel series to the original “Battlestar Galactica” show called “Galactica 1980.” Currently he plays Valentin Cassadine on “General Hospital.’ He’s the prodigy of the dearly missed Chad Stuart who was part of the pop sensation duo, Chad and Jeremy. Astute fans, such as myself, were introduced to the duo when they appeared on the “Batman” TV series back in 1966, and became lifelong followers of their music. So that’s what drew me to his new show, “The Villains of Valley View” on Disney+. The wife and I had put it on our list because of Stuart, and we watched all the episodes that have so far been released with our 6-year-old grandson who thoroughly enjoys it as well.
The premise is simple, but refreshingly unique: in a world where superheroes exist, a family of raucous supervillains who run afoul of the League of Villains, must hide by pretending to be a normal family in a suburban Texas town called Valley View. The Maddens are comprised of the father, criminal super genius Vic (Stuart) aka Kraniac; the mother with lightning powers Eva (Lucy Davis) aka Surge; their super strong oldest son Jake (Reed Horstmann) aka Chaos; middle daughter Amy (Isabella Pappas) aka Havoc who has sonic-based powers; and youngest son Colby (Malachi Barton) aka Flashform who can not only shapeshift into anything, but continues to gain new powers all the time, and may be something known as “the chosen one.” Amy reluctantly befriends the neighbor girl Hartley (Kayden Muller-Janssen) whose mother, Celia (Patricia Belcher), is their irascible and nosy landlady. She’s a standout character because her surly demeanor and thinly veiled adult innuendos and double entendre are hilarious. Making matters worse for the Maddens, Celia chooses to enter their home whenever she wants, and watch their TV or eat their food. As Jake struggles to become a good person, hijinks abound as the rest grapple with containing their criminal urges so that they don’t blow their cover, otherwise, if their location were to be revealed, villains and heroes alike would seek them out – and the former would kill them.
Hartley quickly learns about the family’s identities but keeps their secret, and she struggles at first to become friends with Amy who would rather not have to be pleasant to people. She’s sort of an Alfred to their goofy, but criminal Batmen, and tries to reign in Amy’s bad girl tendencies. Along the way the Maddens encounter a superhero named Starling (Mariah Iman Wilson) who had once saved Chaos’ life, and the two find themselves attracted to each other which is a no-no for both superheroes and supervillains in general. They even tangle a few other villains who’ve uncovered their location, and would like nothing more to expose and destroy them. Then there’s the goofy, nerdy high school classmate Milo (Isaiah C. Morgan) who has an interest in superheroes and a few surprising tricks up his sleeve, but no friends. And Alec Mapa plays the obnoxious and unwitting principal, Mr. Tennyson, whose by-the-books approach to everything often threatens the family’s secret.
The show was created by Bryan Moore and Chris Peterson who also wrote for “That 70s Show,” and created the Disney series “Lab Rats” in 2012. It follows a similar formula to “Wizards of Waverly Place” from 2007, where a very comparable family hides the fact that they are wizards. However, on that show the parents try to teach their kids to be good people, while here Vic and Eva try to teach them how not to get caught doing naughty things. They have great chemistry as a couple and each makes hilarious mistakes, and their parenting skills are very questionable. Vic is always inventing things with disastrous consequences, and for an evil genius, he comes across as a lovable buffoon. He even creates a cool lair beneath the house that is accessed by pulling a decorative banana on the kitchen table which slides the refrigerator aside to reveal the entrance. What kid – or kid at heart – doesn’t dream of having a secret lair? The jokes are snappy with many blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments throughout, and as I mentioned before, keep an ear out for witty one-liners Celia, that’ll make you say, “Wait. Did she just say that?” In one episode, Colby tells Celia that there’s a ghost in the house to conceal the fact that he used his invisibility power, to which Celia responds, “I swear, you accidentally bulldoze one house full of drifters and they never let you forget it.” The family is thoroughly relatable as the wife and I often see ourselves in Vic and Ava (minus the criminal activities).
Next to Vic/Kraniac, everyone has their own struggles. Ava, having electricity powers, is constantly having to deal with clothes and hair sticking to things because the dry Texas air causes static electricity. Amy struggles to pretend to be polite to people, although it’s much funnier when she just speaks her mind. Jake is dealing with not only being the butt of his siblings’ jokes, but also his “West Side Story”-like relationship with Starling. And up until they moved to Valley View, Colby was disappointed that his powers never manifested, and he never got to be a villain. But now that they have, they keep coming in droves, and are sometimes out of control. In one episode, he shapeshifts into Celia’s sweater and is forced to be worn by her with hilarious consequences. While Disney claims this show is marketed to younger children, the sci-fi concepts as well as the fact that the main characters are villains make it very enjoyable for viewers of all ages. And the storyline does have an arc as things change and evolve for the Maddens, especially Colby’s journey as the supposed “chosen one.” What that means remains a mystery and it’ll be great fun watching it play out throughout the series. Following this family as they adapt and evolve is most definitely worth the ride. I laugh out loud often through each episode, and highly recommend it, whether or not you have kids!