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TV Review: Santa Clarita Diet, Series 1

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Santa Clarita Diet is the latest original series from Netflix, starring Drew Barrymore as a Californian realtor who wakes up one day to find that she's dead.

However, rather than focus on a post-apocalyptic, horror-filled world alá The Walking Dead, this series takes the form of a short-episode comedy where everything else is just fine and dandy.

In the very first episode, ‘So Then A Bat or a Monkey’, we join married realtors Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant) in a suburb of California, where within minutes it is clear something is very wrong with Sheila. Cue an awful lot of vomit, a lack of blood flowing through her veins and no sign of her heartbeat, and one thing is clear: Sheila is dead. However, she is still walking around, talking, smiling, having a lot of sex with her husband and, ironically, seems to have a new lease of life in her post-death phase.

As soon as episode two, ‘We Can’t Kill People!’, it becomes evident rather quickly that Sheila cannot last for long on cold cuts and mince meat, and so the couple essentially become a hit squad, only killing people for Sheila to eat whom they deem as bad people who deserve to be punished. This serves as the main conflict of the series, with Olyphant truly selling the role of the weary and worried husband whose wife has suddenly discovered a taste for the living. Essentially what the series does is take the trope of the zombie character and transpose it into a random, seemingly ‘normal’ person and their family with an extra serving of silly.

And that is the best word to describe this series: silly. While I enjoyed the fact that this show, despite being incredibly graphic at times, takes the zombie stereotype somewhere a little bit different, it often takes things too far, verging on the bad side of slapstick. However, it embraces a lot of clichés within the genre and in doing so, parodies the hell out of them. The cast help to elevate the work to no end. Drew Barrymore's happy-go-lucky charm and overzealous acting help to drive home the irony of her character’s evolution; while she may not want to harm and eat people, she also really does, struggling to supress her urges when struck with severe hunger and desperation.

Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo are perhaps the runaway stars of the show, playing the Hammonds’ daughter Abby and their neighbour’s son, Eric, respectively. In particular, the character of Eric is written wonderfully, not just being portrayed as the stereotypical nerd who likes the girl next door - including him in the show’s narrative in the way the show’s writing team does makes it feel as though he has earned his place in solving the mystery of Sheila’s change alongside the Hammond family.

While it is frustrating for the viewers as much as it is for the characters on screen, not having an origin story or an explanation as to why Sheila woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly became a zombie is also quite refreshing. It adds a sense of mystery to a series that ultimately will lead to cliff-hangers and further explanations should Netflix should green light a second outing.

While sometimes unnecessarily gory, we’ve all seen far worse in post-apocalyptic horror movies. I wouldn’t advise watching it whilst eating, especially if you are averse to the idea of Drew Barrymore biting off someone’s fingers or Timothy Olyphant killing his neighbour with a shovel, but they are not the worst things you will ever have to witness on Netflix, or anywhere else for that matter.

It is pleasant to see something dark yet full of laughs on Netflix in this particular mode, especially alongside much more serious supernatural dramas such as Stranger Things and The OA. However, while it is clear the show is a new take on the seemingly tired, commodified figure of the undead, it could have done with taking it down a notch or two in order to be truly worthy of binging.

All ten episodes of Santa Clarita Diet are available to stream on Netflix.




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