“I did eat his balls.” After hearing that line of dialogue, I wanted to devour the entire first season of Netflix’s new dark comedy Santa Clarita Diet. But I had to eat dinner.
Delightfully off-kilter and hilarious, “Diet” is part suburban comedy, part romcom. And it’s all zomcom—serving up heaping helpings of glee and gore. Whether you laugh out loud or lose your lunch—your stomach is going to get a workout watching this series debuting Feb. 3.
Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as married real-estate brokers Sheila and Joel Hammond. Although blessed with decent careers, a beautiful home and a bright daughter named Abby (Liv Hewson), Sheila and Joel aren’t completely fulfilled.
She complains that she’s not bold enough, and he is too indecisive to pull the trigger on anything—including a carefully worded complaint to the manufacturer of their toaster oven.
Life quickly changes for the Hammonds when Sheila dies and becomes a zombie. (Viewers might miss her death if, like me, they are laughing too hard. Others might turn away from their screens because … gross.)
Once she gets a hankering for human flesh, Sheila gains confidence. But her newly acquired impulsiveness leads to trouble. How can she sate her hunger while living between a sheriff (Ricardo Chavira) and a cop (Richard T. Jones)?
As Joel tries to protect his family, he is forced to think on his feet and act quickly. With help from seemingly unflappable Abby and her nerdy friend, Eric (Skyler Gisondo), Joel and Sheila navigate their unusual situation.
The well-trod zombie tale is flipped on its head in “Santa Clarita Diet.” Sheila comes to life when she dies. She escapes the conformity of her suburban life and comfortably dull marriage with her need to feed. Victor Fresco, who created the dearly missed workplace comedy “Better Off Ted,” has a knack for treating the absurd as normal. He brings that sensibility to “Diet.”
And Fresco’s stars deliver his deadpan humor flawlessly. Barrymore couldn’t be more pleasant as Sheila. She’s adorable even when she’s munching on a foot or the fingers still attached to a living colleague. Olyphant plays against his tough-guy “Justified” persona, showing perfect comedic timing with facial expressions, reactions and line readings.
The writers don’t seem concerned about the moral consequences of Sheila’s new diet or Joel’s willingness to (try) to kill for her. That might make the show harder for some viewers to swallow than “iZombie.” In The CW zomedy, the zombie hero eats brains of dead people to help find their murderers.
Yet “Diet” does have heart, even if it beats irregularly. While it might seem cold how the Hammonds accept that their daily routine now involves cleaning up dead bodies, isn’t it admirable that they go to such lengths for a loved one?
“Santa Clarita Diet” isn’t for everyone. But if you chuckle at someone upchucking or believe gory goofiness can be charming, indulge. Just don’t binge while eating.