Confession time: I was pretty reluctant to watch Santa Clarita Diet. I may be a diehard zombie fan, but even I’m starting to feel the effects of 10+ years of zombie properties saturating the market. I’m glad I gave in to curiosity after seeing that so many of the people I follow on Twitter had nothing but great things to say about it.
I cannot overstate what a delight this show is. It has a unique brand of humor that reminds me of the first time I saw Arrested Development: it takes an episode or two to “get” the rhythm of the humor, but once you do it’s almost addictive.
Santa Clarita Diet is about a suburban realtor, Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore), who turns into a flesh eating zombie. Her husband, Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant), chooses to support her and assist with hunting down prey. It’s oddly romantic how willing Joel is to follow his wife down this crazy rabbit hole, but it becomes clear that these high school sweethearts share the kind of love that wouldn’t allow either of them to abandon the other to fights such a horrific fate alone.
Complicating the matter is the fact that their house is located right between two police officers, Rick (Richard T. Jones) and Dan (Ricardo Chavira) who often show up unannounced. They also have a teenage daughter named Abby (Liv Hewson) who begins acting out in response to the new family secret.
Barrymore and Olyphant have amazing chemistry, and it’s this facet that really sells the show in an age when zombie stories are so common that there’s arguably a whole a subgenre consisting of “cute blonde women who become zombies and try to hang on to their human lives.” Olyphant in particular delivers a truly showstopping performance. Joel is the moral and functional center of the family, trying to keep everyone else from flying out of orbit as life (and undeath) starts to pull them apart.
The only potential downside to this show, depending on the viewer’s constitution, is an almost awe-inspiring amount of gore. Many episodes could give The Walking Dead and various zombie feature films a run for their money. It’s always played humorously, but more squeamish viewers should be prepared to cover their eyes now and then.