random review: Santa Clarita Diet [season 1]

For me, Drew Barrymore‘s presence can always be relied upon to make a dull project bearable. It brings me great glee, then, to see her in something that is not only smile-inducing but is also a Netflix Original – properties that have continued to surprise in their diversity and willingness to take risks.

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It’s probably easier to describe Santa Clarita Diet as Desperate Housewives with brain-eating, but there are neither zombie freakouts nor soapy scandals (unless you count Mary Elizabeth Ellis as a thrill seeking, booze-hiding, cucking neighbour). Yes, there are sun-drenched cul-sacs and pastel-garbed equity holders, but the comparison ends there. There’s even an interracial couple, but neither of them are white.

Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (a surprisingly, warmly zany Timothy Olyphant) are realtors in the titular Californian suburb. During an open-house, Sheila vomits up a spectacular amount of the most mustardest-coloured bile, and soon after realises that she’s developed an exclusive taste for raw meat. Instead of freaking out, Joel, their kid Abby (a Jane Levy-esque newcomer Liv Newton), and permanently-blushing boy next door Eric (Skyler Gisondo) do everything they can to understand and support her – even when she starts craving human flesh.

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I have a soft spot for this kind of sub-genre, and for me the juxtaposition of body horror and family foibles work – because there are genuinely-developed, likeable characters with their own individual arcs and infectious chemistry for the domestic threads, and genuinely disgusting carnage (sounds and all) to satisfy gore-hounds. If you find yourself feeling like you almost want to watch Modern Family, but would defer to rewatching the dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead, then this show is for you. It’s also endlessly quotable:

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Tightly-plotted over 10 half-hour episodes, the stories move quickly – sometimes too quickly – and the final episode seems to offer up its anticlimax as a one-liner afterthought. But maybe that means we’ll definitely be seeing a series 2.

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