These impressions contain spoilers for the first episode of Santa Clarita Diet.
Yep, another Netflix show had dropped. Just when you thought you were catching up here comes Santa Clarita Diet. Starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as an ordinary real estate duo until Barrymore comes down with a case of the undead.
More a serial comedy than a sitcom, the episodes are a tight 30 minutes. To tell the truth it’s a relief from Netflix’s one hour offerings. It doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and packs much more in because of it.
Now considering this one’s essentially about a zombie, Santa Clarita Diet doesn’t shy away from the blood and guts – it’s not all the time but when there is, there’s a lot, and it can be jarring. It’s done in humour but like me you may want to shield your eyes when Drew Barrymore devours human flesh.
S01E01 – So Then a Bat or a Monkey
Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Olyphant) are both realtors in the town of Santa Clarita. They live with their daughter Abby. With little warning Sheila comes down with an illness. She throws up (a lot) during an open home in front of their clients. She bleeds black ooze instead of blood, and her heart stops beating. Besides all that she is full of life and starts acting on all her impulses.
Seeing doctors is fruitless. They consult with their dorky teenage neighbour who declares Sheila as both dead and undead. In true zombie lore fashion we don’t know (yet) what caused it. Nathan Fillion guest stars as a douchey new realtor (note, not lovably douchey like on Castle or Firefly), who gets all handsy on Sheila at a bar. She escapes the situation. The next morning he won’t take no for an answer and Sheila bites off his fingers before devouring the rest of him. All at once I was both horrified and pleased. Go Sheila, but also, eughhh I can’t watch this! Spoiler, I keep watching.
Everything about this episode is perfect. The comedic timing. It’s all so… juicy. Timothy Olyphant is amazing at comedy. Just those facial expressions alone. Like Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm you’d be forgiven for thinking of these actors as only drama and all the time drama. The same goes for Olyphant’s deadpan Sheriff Bullock on Deadwood (I’ve yet to check out Justified fyi). Drew Barrymore is a little more restrained by the concept in that she’s enthusiastic about everything, but does prove the perfect foil to Olyphant, who only wants to continue their normal existence.
The blend of fantasy and the everyday is sublime. There’s a whole subplot about Olyphant and his feud with an electric toaster oven! And to be clear it’s not George Romero or Walking Dead zombies. Not even close. The zombiness brings much more than just eating people, Sheila also buys a Range Rover they can’t afford.
Living between a sheriff and a cop is ripe for comedy and tension. In a Dexter, Breaking Bad type situation, you know what they’re doing is wrong, but you still want to see them succeed. Lucky we have TV huh?
Verdict: Despite the gore I am very much into Santa Clarita Diet’s brand of humour. I’m going to sink my teeth into this one.
Where to watch: Netflix