By Prutha S. Patel (@PSPatel)
It’s a bit difficult not to initially think about The CW’s iZombie when first watching Netflix’s latest original, Santa Clarita Diet. The similarities, that of zombified women both attempting to continue living their normal lives, only to be prevented from doing just that because - well, they’re zombies - ultimately stop right there. While iZombie can at times be described in a more procedural way since the episodes of that show primarily deal with solving crimes, Santa Clarita Diet deals more so with a family simply attempting to hold it together after the dark revelation that a loved one has become a zombie. As most families would do, right?
Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet stars Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as Sheila and Joel Hammond, two real estate agents in Santa Clarita, CA, (they’ve even got the cute cliché signs to stick in front of their listing properties), and Liv Hewson as their daughter, Abby. The show does quick work of setting up the stereotypical family dynamic in suburbia with plenty of jokes to go around for each of the key players. The season introduces us to their neighbors, all of whom who have dirty laundry of their own, the crushes, and in general, the people we just know are going to be trouble. Of note, something that really added to overall fun were the guest appearances featured over the ten episodes making up the first season. You won’t find spoilers in that regard mentioned here (or even what characters they appeared as), but rest assured: it’s great fun!
With the help of the Hammonds’ neighbor, Eric (Skyler Gisando), who conveniently happens to be extremely active on online paranormal activity forums (and who also has a major crush on Abby), the Hammonds learn a bit more about what's happening to Sheila. As much as one can learn from essentially self-diagnosing using online forums that is. Not only do they learn about her new diet but also some of the new personality traits that have been triggered by her zombie status, it quickly becomes apparent that their lives will never ever be the same. In order to make sure that Sheila doesn’t ever go "full feral zombie" (something they still don’t know if or even when it’ll happen), Joel and Sheila after much deliberation decide that they need to figure out a way to keep Sheila fed. A true example of, “easier said than done,” with many of the episodes diving into the ethical dilemma the Hammonds now face, as well as the trial and error process for the hefty task of maintaining Sheila's new Santa Clarita diet. Alongside these uhhh...extracurricular activities...the show also made a great point in showing a unique struggle between Joel and Sheila when it came to the hopes of a cure: while Joel is gung ho about finding one, Sheila is a bit unsure about whether she even wants to go back to her old self (or personality).
Overall, what was perhaps most refreshing about the show was that it didn’t feel like yet another show about a horror genre staple we’ve already been introduced to numerous times before. What sets Santa Clarita Diet apart from the rest of the zombie show pack is that it’s about the family at the center of the zombie problem. As they attempt to maintain their status quo, the horror-comedy manages to balance its act by featuring plenty of scenes that trigger warm fuzzy feelings with those eliciting sheer disgust moments later. Be that as it may, it’s about a family, the Hammonds, who harbor a deathly secret from the rest of the world and are simply attempting to survive in a down market. The show switches it up a bit by not strictly focusing on how a loved one's need to grub on some human flesh affects that particular person, but also the repercussions for the family members who are privy to that information too.
-- It's entertaining to watch Timothy Olyphant (Joel Hammond) in a comedic role like this, it really wasn’t that long ago that he was playing a rugged US Marshall on Justified.
-- Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo)’s character and how he had such an extensive knowledge base as to what was happening to Sheila was brilliant. He’s almost like a stand in for any zombie/horror fan.
-- This is officially another vote for more wonderful guest appearances in the potential season 2.
-- Did it work? Did IT work? Let's hope we get more of the show to find out!
Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix US