For those who follow my site, you probably recall that I try to avoid trailers and spoilers whenever possible. A few weeks ago I saw a headline in my Facebook feed mentioning Drew Barrymore’s upcoming original series developed for Netflix was a zombie show. While the zombie angle was intriguing, it somewhat bothered me as I would have preferred to discover the nature of the show on my own. In all honesty though, I probably wouldn’t have turned to a Drew Barrymore comedy on my own without knowing this, so it’s probably good that I found out the zombie twist. If not for reading the Facebook headline, I probably would have seen the preview on Netflix. I applaud myself for avoiding the trailer. It wasn’t easy as Netflix prominently featured an auto-play preview for Santa Clarita Diet and man, it was frustrating having to navigate out of that queue every time I logged into Netflix.
My husband and I began the series the weekend it debuted, diving into the first few episodes on Friday, February 4th which coincidentally happened to be my birthday and also a day I took off work. Having not seen the trailers, I had no idea it would be so funny. After now watching the entire season, I’d definitely characterize it more of a comedy, not really horror, but there is a satisfying amount of gore for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing. It’s also more character driven, which is a departure for me because most of the shows and movies I love are plot driven. As weird as this sounds, and as uncharacteristic it is for me to like this sort of show, Santa Clarita Diet succeeds as a feel-good romantic comedy.
The series focuses on Joel and Sheila, married real estate agent partners who have been together since high school. Not only does the series begin with the couple, but really the crux of the series revolves around the pair’s relationship. We don’t get much of a background on their current status (i.e. are they in a rut) because the story picks up almost immediately as Sheila succumbs to a violent sickness that defines her new undead life. It’s apparent that the couple is fiercely devoted to one another, at times falling into the monotonous rigors of married life. Yet despite their unusual situation (you know, the reanimation and the murders), the pair is incredibly relatable. They have a teen daughter, Abby, who is dealing with typical adolescent issues: school, acting out, and deflecting advances from her dorky classmate and neighbor, Eric. Their life is pretty domestic, living in a manicured neighborhood with dueling law officer neighbors on either side (yes, Eric’s dad, or stepdad to be more specific, is a neighbor and an intrusive one at that).
After Shelia’s nasty vomiting incident, she craves blood, human blood, and flesh. And she discovers it the hard way. As any devoted husband would do, Joel sticks by his wife as they learn to live with their new normal. I won’t get into the nitty gritty plot details because again, if you’re familiar with my site you know that in addition to avoiding spoilers myself, I tend to reserve spoliers in my reviews.
Overall, I really like the show but I do have three criticisms:
- The editing. I’m sure there’s a technical filming term for this, but in most scenes while the characters are talking, usually two characters, the one whose back is to the camera does not match the audio on screen. Occasionally the cut to the reverse angle to feature the speaking character is off too. It’s pretty consistent throughout the season and once I noticed, it became a bit distracting.
- The final two episodes moved too quickly, breezing through some potentially critical obstacles, and wrapping some issues up a little too perfectly. We also never really understand how Shelia becomes infected. I feel certain that a lot of these oversights were purposeful, leaving some parts of the story open with the hopes that the show would do well and get picked up for subsequent seasons.
- While Joel is a hilarious and endearing character, practically everything he says is a joke. His high energy quit wit can best be compared to Chandler from Friends. Yes Joel is entertaining and funny, but his rapid fire quips in seemingly every conversation are exacting. This is a minor criticism because as contradictory as this may sound, Joel is probably my favorite character. He’s grown on me so much I guess I’d just like to see more depth to him, some further development beyond his campy comebacks.
Ultimately, I think Santa Clarita Diet is refreshing and extremely funny, blending together comedy and gore rather seamlessly. Yes, it’s a bit outrageous but it’s definitely amusing and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Hammond family in Season 2.
Pros: Barrymore and Olyphant’s acting is great, they have wonderful on-screen chemistry and are a delight to watch as a quirky married couple. I could take or leave the Eric, the next door teen who swoons over science and Abby.
Cons: Not an entirely unique concept. The “undead partner trying to fit into society” idea has been done before.
Mash-up Status: Think Dexter meets iZombie.