During the first episode of the Netflix original show “Santa Clarita Diet,” viewers have the pleasure of witnessing actress Drew Barrymore violently projectile vomit her own organs as she becomes an undead being. Barrymore plays Sheila in this horror-comedy show. Sheila is married to Joel, who is played by Timothy Olyphant. Sheila and Joel’s daughter Abby, played by Liv Hewson, is the final member of the family that lives in a suburb of Los Angeles. Joel and Sheila are the perfect partners-in-crime, serving as a successful duo of real estate agents. The trio is a completely normal Santa Clarita family, and they strive to retain this sense of normalcy even as it becomes necessary for Sheila to consume human flesh, which means she and Joel must find victims to kill. However, since Joel and Sheila are moral people, they only target criminals, such as their jerk co-worker Gary, who is played by Nathan Fillion in a guest role.
The show does a great job of portraying Sheila’s situation in an almost normal way, downplaying the situation by contrasting it with the overall sense of regularity that comes from the backdrop of Joel and Sheila’s lives. Sheila is essentially a zombie, although according to the nerdy teenage Eric next door, that word should not be used since “it’s inherently negative.” While Joel and Sheila brush their teeth and discuss the potential victims for Sheila to go after, Sheila interrupts the conversation to point out that she is “so glad that this is not one of those diseases that dries your skin out.”
Most of the characters are very nonchalant about everything. The one exception is Joel, who most of the time serves as the voice of reason in comparison to his wife. After being changed into a zombie, Sheila has a higher libido and is more energetic and impulsive as zombies have poor impulse control and are dictated by their id. This causes Joel to feel a bit emasculated, a consistent theme throughout the show. That being said running jokes made throughout the show seem overplayed and tiring at times, such as Sheila’s insatiable sexual appetite and Joel’s internal struggles with being perceived as a “p***y” since he has trouble with carrying out murders.
In addition, in downplaying the horror aspect of Sheila’s situation, the only part that reminds viewers that this show is indeed supposed to be gruesome is the gore that is generously displayed every time Sheila consumes a victim. In each episode, blood will certainly gush and paint the screen red, and fingers and internal organs will be fiercely crunched and chewed. For some viewers, the over- the-top gore can definitely be off-putting and a bit dramatic. It is undoubtedly a downside of the show. Personally, I believe a lot more dimension could be added to the plot if the horror aspect was elaborated on in different ways, such as further exploration into the long-term consequences of Sheila’s condition and what it means for the family’s future together.
Ultimately, the sitcom reveals the power of love, demonstrating the lengths to which people will go for each other. The family dynamic is sassy and fun, and the relationship between Joel and Sheila’s daughter Abby and next door neighbor Eric is entertaining and sweet. Additionally, all of the actors on the show have great chemistry together, which makes watching the interactions between the characters all the more engrossing. The show’s episodes are thirty minutes each, which is perfect for this show since a longer format would make binge- watching episodes unbearable. Overall, “Santa Clarita Diet” is stellar to watch if one is searching for a low-commitment, off-beat show with a quirky sense of humor.