‘Santa Clarita Diet’ has its gore and eats it, too

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant start in the new Netflix zombie show.
Photo: Netflix / Courtesy

Two and a half stars

Santa Clarita Diet Season 1 available February 3 on Netflix.

Some critics are insisting viewers should go into Santa Clarita Diet not knowing a thing about it, so here’s a spoiler-free synopsis: Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) are a married pair of real estate agents who live in the suburbs with their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson). One day, Shiela buys a new car without consulting Joel. Difficulties ensue.

Oh, yeah: One fine day, Sheila spews an “insane amount” of vomit and coughs up an unidentified organ, and her blood turns to dark sludge. “I feel like a bus station sh*t in my mouth,” she tells Joel matter-of-factly. Soon after that, she develops a taste for raw meat and, subsequently, human flesh. More difficulties ensue, especially after they realize they can’t return the car.

Santa Clarita Diet has a rock-solid pedigree; showrunner Victor Fresco also created the acclaimed comedies Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Better Off Ted, and Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer directs the first two episodes. And yet, the only thing holding together this mess—a wackadoo assortment of stock sitcom characters and scenarios, liberally drenched in blood and entrails—are Barrymore and Olyphant, both of whom look like they’re having the time of their lives. Their charming, flirty interaction—Barrymore reaping bloody chaos, Olyphant doing his best to put a sunny face on it—makes Santa Clarita Diet worthwhile. Otherwise, its taste is all too familiar.

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