Showrunner: Victor Fresco
Since the early days of cinema, we have had no shortage of paranormal ‘monsters’ and villains on screen. Vampires, zombies, werewolves… we have been treated with a flurry of supernatural icons. With such a long history, it was inevitable that we would eventually begin to subvert these dark and ghoulish tropes – even to the point of sympathising with these abominable creatures. The Santa Clarita Diet does just that, flipping everything we know about the supernatural upside-down.
Mild-mannered Shelia Hammond (Drew Barrymore) is a real-estate agent who lives in Santa Clarita, an idyllic Californian suburbia. After developing a mysterious illness, Shiela develops a taste for human flesh, enlisting the help of her husband, Joel (Timothy Olyphant), in keeping a supply of her newfound dietary requirements. The cast deliver this strange premise with absolute ease, giving us one of the quirkiest and loveable television comedies in recent years. Barrymore’s talents are well-known, and she is downright likeable. This is important – our main character is not only a cannibal, but a real-estate agent, so likability can be hard to come by. Timothy Olyphant also proves a worthy lead, settling into the strangeness of the narrative while never leaping into ‘wacky’ territory.
The best part of this series is its tone. While you settle in to its quirky aesthetic, you are suddenly confronted by one of the most grotesque scenes in sitcom history. When faced with such a hyperbolic scene – bodily fluids everywhere, with an organ mixed in – you can only laugh in absolute shock. From then on, the squeaky clean atmosphere is sullied by a Lynch-esque level of gore. The weirder the show gets, the better, as it flourishes in its absurdity. The show falters most when it leans on clichés – we don’t need jokes about suburbia, since we already have a flesh-eating realtor taking up the spotlight.
As the season wears on, it becomes a lot more serialised. This fosters Netflix’s trademark binge-ability, and gives the narrative a little more room to breathe. You care about these characters, and the light-hearted tone makes the violence a lot more palatable. Shocking, strange, and subversive, Santa Clarita Diet is an impressive, fresh comedy – just do not watch it while you’re eating.