Pets can be a blessing and can bring a lot of joy into your life. Pets can also be jerks that wake you up at 3 in the morning for no real reason. My cat Pumpkin falls into the latter category today as I was awoken by him pulling the blanket off me so he had a better shot of smacking my arm to get my attention. Best I can tell he was hungry – because he’s always hungry – and if he can see the bottom of his food bowl he somehow thinks his life is in mortal danger from starvation. Unfortunately, once I was awake, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I tossed and turned for a while and finally conceded that a return to slumber was going to a long shot, so I decided to check out the first two episodes of Netflix’s new horror-comedy Santa Clarita Diet. The show had just debuted at midnight, so it seemed apropos to give it a try. It should be noted that Pumpkin fell right back to sleep.
My interest in Santa Clarita Diet was piqued once that cast was announced, since I generally find Drew Barrymore adorable and fun and Timothy Olyphant is always great (and swoon worthy). A few weeks before the premiere, the details of the show were revealed and they definitely contained some interesting info: while Barrymore and Olyphant play married couple that work together as realtors, the big reveal is that Barrymore’s Shelia is a zombie. Yeah – I didn’t see that coming either. I was a bit surprised that they shared this info about the show before it debuted – that would have been one hell of a twist – but perhaps they wanted to make sure that people knew what exactly they were getting into when they watched the show. Plus, in the words of Zoolander’s Mugatu, zombies are “so hot right now” so they may have wanted to tap into that particular fandom. Shelia is initially able to sustain herself on raw meat, but once she tastes human flesh there is no turning back. She, Joel, their teenaged daughter Abby (Liv Hewson), and their teenaged neighbor Eric (Skyler Gisondo) must keep Shelia’s secret and figure out how to keep her satiated. A lot of fun guest stars and recurring characters also turn up; only two episodes in and there are appearances by Nathan Fillion, Andy Richter, Patton Oswalt, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis.
The cast pedigree is great, though so far the show’s writing hasn’t quite lived up to its promise. Admittedly, I watched a small sample size of episodes and it was 4 am so I may not have been in peak consumption mode for a new series, but Santa Clarita Diet didn’t necessarily blow me away. While the premise is certainly unusual, the jokes haven’t been all that groundbreaking or edgy. Comedies notoriously take some time to get their footing – worlds have to be established and characters fleshed out (ha!) – so I’m not ready to write the show off despite my initial first impression. There is definitely promise and the show is created by Vince Fresco who is responsible for the criminally underrated Better Off Ted, so I’m hoping that the deeper into the series I get, the more that I’ll enjoy it. This is the kind of wacky role that I think Barrymore could have a lot of fun with and though Olyphant was tremendous as the lead in the dramas Deadwood and Justified, his comedic chops often get overlooked. He was a pleasant surprise on The Grinder and I think that Santa Clarita Diet could provide him with a platform to show his range. I refuse to believe that this many talented people got together for a lackluster show, so I’m hoping that the series settles into its groove after its premise has been established. The first season is only 10 episodes and runs around 30 minutes per episode, so I have no problem taking a flyer on this show and see where it takes me. There are worse way to spend five hours than looking at Timothy Olyphant.
So I’m cautiously optimistic about Santa Clarita Diet; I don’t know that it will be the next big thing for Netflix, but I think it could be a fun little diversion. If over the top gore isn’t your thing, you may have some issues with the series. So far, there’s a lot of bodily fluids on display. I’m personally a little over the zombie craze, but Santa Clarita Diet does offer an interesting spin on the premise. Pairing that with a great cast, the series can hopefully live up to expectations. Perhaps watching it after a full night’s sleep will help.
The entire first season of Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix.