Santa Clarita Diet
Cast - Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant
Rating - 2/5
From pretty much its opening scene, there is something not quite right about Netflix’s new show, Santa Clarita Diet.
Initially, it was difficult to put a finger on it; perhaps it was the over-chipper tone – odd for a show about cannibalism - or maybe it was the fact that the cannibal’s husband Timothy Olyphant seemed to be channelling Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, but for some strange reason, with a sinister twist. Or maybe we’re over thinking it; maybe the answer is less complicated, something as simple and unassuming as the sight of Drew Barrymore, as rare as the Sasquatch as it is these days.
But no, upon careful consideration – by which I mean quickly downing another couple of episodes – the truth, as they say, revealed itself: The show just isn’t that good. In fact, the only reason it took three whole episodes to arrive at this epiphany was simply because Netflix has had quite the impressive run of late, and for them to have produced a… rotting corpse of a show (more on that later), was disorienting.
It’s about a family of three living in the Santa Clarita ‘burbs near LA. This has virtually nothing to do with the show’s plot, other than to highlight the fact that our central family belongs to a certain airheaded, real-housewivesy, Californian, middle class, which we should care about because… Reasons.
The mum and dad are played by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, both fantastic performers who are more than capable of delivering even when the material they’re working with isn’t particularly great – which is sort of what happens here, only they don’t really deliver. They’re never on the same page, even when they’re just a regular couple, and especially when Barrymore turns into a zombie in severe need of brains.
The faults are easy to identify. In its attempts to be ‘raw’ (pardon the pun) and ‘edgy’, and its ingenious ploy to offer audiences both broad sitcom laughs and niche genre thrills, Santa Clarita Diet has somehow managed to bungle everything, squeezed uncomfortably as it is between constantly clashing tones.
Think of it as the unholy marriage of a third-tier Modern Family ripoff and the sixth season of Dexter. Remember the sixth season of Dexter? Yes, I thought so.
Fans of zombie fiction will appreciate the difficult time we have trying to instill gravitas into a genre that is essentially about brain-eating dead bodies. No matter how passionately you argue that the subtext in Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later makes them towering classics, to anyone whose only exposure to the genre is Santa Clarita Diet, they’ll just be dumb movies in which a bunch of people get eaten in increasingly gruesome ways.
But at the very least, the ‘food’ in Santa Clarita Diet is played by some moderately well known stars. So there’s that. If the thought of Drew Barrymore chewing the innards of Nathan Fillion makes you giggle, then this is your show.