Series Review: Santa Clarita Diet

Overview:  Californian suburban dweller, real estate agent, wife, and mom (not exactly in that order) doesn’t feel so good one day.  After a copious amount of vomit during a  viewing of an apartment she discovers that she is a zombie. What follows are her madcap adventures trying to stay fed, dealing with her new and increased libido, and keeping her family intact.  She is helped by her supportive if freaked out husband, her daughter and her daughter’s ‘friend’ and possible romantic interest, a geeky next door neighbor boy.

The Good:  Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant make a great bickering but loving couple who are ‘working through this’ and will do anything for each other.  He makes her spaghetti and meatballs entirely out of people!  She works hard to not eat him!

The humor is light and gory at the same time.  It’s like Pushing Daisies in terms of the whimsy and fast-dialogue (do we have Gilmore Girls to thank for that?) and showing bickering as love.  However, it’s much more horror focused in terms of gore shown and language used.  Still, there’s that air of nonchalance with which things happen.  Drew Barrymore’s character vomits, a lot, and then she’s a zombie.  There’s an attempt at a possible back story to the zombieness in ancient Serbian pictures found on a wall, but no real follow-through, and that’s okay, it’s not about that.  It’s about how a family adapts when one partner changes, either through illness or something else.

And perhaps this could be some sort of allegory about how you deal with a dying family member when the grossness of the human body is suddenly front and center in a relationship.  You struggle to love the new person living with you.  You change yourself and do things you never thought you would, or could do.  You underestimate your children’s ability to accept you and they find out, get mad, and act out.  Your body starts to deteriorate and you hide it because you can’t even face it yourself.

Also – great cameos.  Nathan Fillion.  Portia De Rossi.  Patton Oswalt.  Far too underutilized (although there’s hope for more Portia) but great shining moments.

The Bad:  There are some jabs at suburban life, but not really.  It’s not as biting in skewering that lifestyle as other shows can or have been.  Some of the side characters just become annoying and wasted talent – such as Mary Elizabeth Ellis (the Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who is reduced to that bored wife of an obnoxious cop.  None of the side characters really rise above their caricature this first season, which is too bad.  While there are some fun jabs (the drug dealer who wants to sing folk songs)  they aren’t sustained.

There isn’t a lot of movement, either.  While my attention was kept the entire series and I didn’t even notice I was five episodes in until I realized I had to go to a meeting, it started with her being a zombie and ended with not much more understanding of why or what it meant.  There is an opening for it, with the husband exploring hopes for a treatment for his wife and the beginning of deterioration in Drew Barrymore’s character’s body, but it gets dropped early and then picked up at the end in what appears just a bid for the second season continuation.

The Female:  Drew Barrymore is the lead and demands a lot of attention.  Her sexuality is also front and center, although it is attributed to her being undead and stressed multiple times that it’s not her normal libido.  She has female friends she talks too in her neighbors, who are not developed.  One just wants to sleep around with everyone, another wants to follow John Legend on tour.  She also has her daughter who is learning to be ‘strong’ and that ‘strong’ doesn’t just mean knowing karate, as so many in show biz define ‘strong’ women.  There are conversations between mother and daughter that are not about men, so that’s good and it passes the Bechdel Test (two women, who talk to one another, and not about a man).  There are also some great comments about Drew doing all the killing, with her husband, after his first kill talking about how men can do it too.

Overall this is fun fluff, not groundbreaking, but good to satisfy the casual horror fan or those who want something to veg out to for a few hours.

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