REVIEW – Netflix’s ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ has a story with a pulse, characters with charm

This series will leave you hungry for more – just not for human flesh. I hope. And if you’re hungry for human flesh, you really should have that checked out…

Ah yes, the zombie trope. When it isn’t frowned upon, it’s being made fun of, done to death, or just having a moment – it’s a movie, television show, or a comic. And then there’s this show: The Santa Clarita Diet, which, at first blush, sounds like a show about someone trying to lose weight, but is actually another take on someone’s eating habits. I’d argue this is a show about zombies…kind of?

Enter married couple and real estate agents Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant). They’re pretty average: they live in the suburbs, have a daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson) and are still pretty into each other after about 20 years of marriage. Things get a little weird when the duo try to sell a beautiful house to a couple – only to have Sheila throw up all over the place during the showing. Not just in one spot; I’m talking about a she-covered-an-entire-bathroom vomiting episode. When the pair investigate, they find out Sheila is actually dead…and undead. What follows is how the family tries to cope with Sheila’s new state.

No one really recommended this series to me; I received an email about the show being available to stream on Netflix. I didn’t think I was going to make it past episode one, because – as I alluded to in the beginning of this piece – when I think of the ‘Santa Clarita Diet,’ I think of failed diet fads. I was actually happy to be wrong.

I’d argue this is some of the better stuff that Barrymore and Olyphant have done in recent memory. The two are convincing as a couple, are funny, and have great chemistry. They’re able to make banter about the most mundane things funny. Generally, the humour and tone of the show – a sort of dark parody on the zombie theme, works well. It’s not dull, and while it sometimes comes across as cheesy, it doesn’t have you rolling your eyes. The execution has you laughing with them, not at them. I mean, come on, listen to the way they pronounce ‘realtor,’ which has become a running gag in the series. (It’s still unclear if this was just constant accidental mispronunciation by Barrymore and Olyphant, or if they’re actually trolling viewers – and/or the grammar police.)

One major concern I’d has was that the show would be difficult to relate to or understand. I thought it was going to get a little too science-driven for my liking, but it doesn’t snub people and is straight-forward. While it gets a little nerdy in some spots, most of it is easy to follow – I’m referring namely to plot lines or devices that are imperative for Joel and Sheila taking the next step in their quest to get her better.

It’s not flawless, but it’s more proof Netflix is producing incredibly strong shows to really put cable offerings in their place. For all of its wittiness, the charm the characters have to offer, and its relative originality, I have to give the series four-and-a-half undead moments out of five. If you’re looking to finish it up before the second season airs, not to worry – you have lots of time with the next season slated to debut in 2018.

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