Santa Clarita Diet Season 1 Review: Not exactly lifeless

Chad White

Santa Clarita Diet
Season 1
Netflix

We are not killing people!

Netflix’s comedy offerings thus far have been mostly hit or miss (and largely miss). The Ranch is a dull sitcom with a decent cast. On the other hand, One Day at a Time is a stellar show with a few unknowns and a couple of big names. More often than not, though, the streamer has struggled to land a comedy that was developed strictly for its platform (in this case, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not an original having been created for NBC prior). But Santa Clarita Diet marks a fresh single camera comedy.

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as a husband and wife realtor team. During a showing, Barrymore’s Sheila vomits profusely and winds up dead. It’s at that point that Olyphant’s Joel and their daughter, Abby -- played by the young Liv Hewson – have to start catering to their undead mother’s new whims, which is mainly eating people. All of this is done in their middle Californian suburban home with the help of the neighbor kid, Eric (Skyler Gisondo).

Of course, they break the first rule and end up killing people but, where the story could take one turn, it goes down an entirely different lane. Joel insists that they won’t kill people and then almost immediately reneges to only kill bad people. But even that plan goes awry. There’s always a nice twist to keep things spicy. The writing from creator Victor Fresco isn’t necessarily high quality – Barrymore in particular gets some cheesy or out there lines – but it sets a tone and hits the mark. Santa Clarita Diet is wacky but not cartoony. It’s sloppy and charming all at once. It can even gross out someone if they’re not too careful. And director Ruben Fleischer who helmed the first two episodes and is an executive producer has had time with zombie based comedy thanks to Zombieland so he helps set a high bar for the mood his following directors should aim to hit.

The supporting cast should not go unnoticed with the likes of Tom Lennon, Ricardo Chavria, DeObia Oparei, Natalie Morales, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and more doing great work with the characters (plus the latter two make this a Grinder reunion, which is nice). There’s a hint of over acting much like other zomcom, iZombie. Like it’s contemporary, thankfully, Diet’s characters really fit well into the world.

On a negative front, the show barley leaves time for things to ruminate. It’s great that Sheila isn’t a full zombie but a cure is nowhere in sight. The story also runs at an expedited rate given its 10 episode length. That’s just too short for any show in today’s television world. A full 13 episode first season could’ve tied things up nicely, allowed for characters to be explored and the story to breathe properly. With that being said, the finale does nothing to satisfy the viewer. However, this reviewer prefers full stories in seasons and not cliffhangers.

Should you watch Santa Clarita Diet?

Hulu has Difficult People. Now, Netflix has Santa Clarita Diet. A stellar cast carries a very funny show, bringing new life into a dead genre (zombies; not comedy). Watch it.