Signalling its intentions by splashing a high volume of bright green vomit all across the pastel colour palette and routine of middle-class suburbia, Santa Clarita Diet revels in and is a refreshing juxtaposition. A stylised affair, the show is complemented by some excellent comedy timing, and, while the horror imagery may be on the sparse side for some, when it appears, it’s viscera à gogo.
This is not necessarily what you may expect from a Drew Barrymore vehicle, but here she shines as Sheila, one half of a husband-and-wife realtor duo, who with no warning becomes a member of the undead. Shooting her many one-liners with relish, the actress brings a cheery, brimming energy to her freshly liberated zombie, with a delightful deadpan accenting the visual gags. Timothy Olyphant is also very good as husband Joel, a campy live wire in his panic as he struggles to control Sheila and maintain a semblance of normality. The pair’s rapport makes for as convincing a couple as is possible in this high concept; important for the underlying thread of a marriage under the stress of unforeseen changes. However, while Santa Clarita Diet is certainly aware of this and the inherent satire of Sheila’s lack of impulse control in a well-to-do setting, the emphasis is very much quick-fire sitcom. Often, this would feel a missed opportunity; it’s to the writers’ credit that the show is absorbing all the same.
Unusually glossed over is an explanation for Sheila’s change — although there are hints this will become more clear in a second season — which leaves her and Joel free to concentrate on how to solve the predicament of this new requirement for fresh human meat. The result is relentless on an episodic basis, which is expertly balanced with a measured pace across the series as a whole.
3 February 2017