Binge TV Review: "Santa Clarita Diet" (2017, Netflix Original)
It's a beautiful thing to live in the day and age where the censorship whores at the major networks and slightly more liberal cable channels don't have the last word on good television. Netflix has already brought us huge hits like "Stranger Things" (don't even get me started on how much I love that shit) and "Orange is the New Black" (it's growing on me). I've got to say, though- this one is (for me) a total homerun.
I still bemoan the death of the TV sitcom as a truly viable form of entertainment. Oh sure, there are exceptions (I'm looking at you, "Modern Family"), but let's face it- the sitcom is dead. The 80's and 90's are gone. Reality is king, people are getting dumber by the minute, there's a generation that actually looks up to those Kardashian whores, & Mike Judge's "Idiocracy" is literally happening right before our eyes.
There was, however, a time when sitcoms were THE dominant form of TV entertainment. What was my major gripe in those glory days, you may ask? The answer is pretty simple.
Sitcoms were made for pussies, by pussies. Sorry but that is the brutal truth.
Sure, they were often wholesome and more often humorous. They packed a nice little lesson into a 30 minute block of your life. They gave you a family/group to care about and made it nice and safe (and often a little outlandish). The formula is a working one, for sure. Who doesn't love a good clean and safe finish with a laugh track?
But, but............where was a show with balls and a sick-ass sense of humor? Where was the black little heart of gold that so many of us crave (whether we want to admit it or not)? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Those damn censors and pussified executives.
THANK YOU, NETFLIX!!! BREAK THOSE DAMN CHAINS!!!
Make no mistake about it, folks. "Santa Clarita Diet" is a sitcom in the truest sense of the word. It meets all of the criteria. It's how it arrives at those criteria that impresses me so much. I seriously cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard at a TV show.
If you're not familiar with the premise by now (there's a lot of justified buzz on this one), it goes a little something like this: Sheila and Joel Hammond are married real estate agents in the posh suburb of Santa Clarita, California. They've got a great life and a smart, sassy teen daughter. Life is good. Life is great, in fact.......at least until Sheila dies (in spectacularly gross fashion, by the way).
The funny thing is that she doesn't actually die. Sheila is now undead and craving human flesh. She's a straight up zombie, minus the rotting problem and with all of her intelligence intact. In fact, she's better than okay. She is full of new life and energy. She's rash and impulsive and horny as an alley cat in heat. It's refreshingly vulgar with just enough tongue-in-cheek to avoid putting off the candy-asses out there.
This shit is hilarious. I wouldn't lie to you. So much of good comedy starts with having a great cast that gels and knows how to play off of each other, and the casting on this is brilliant. If they had chosen other actors I'm not sure the premise and the sheer campiness of it wouldn't fall flat.
Sheila is played by none other than the legendary (and insanely hot) Drew Barrymore ("E.T.", "Cat's Eye", "Scream"). She gets all of the good blood and guts moments, as well as getting to show off some major sex appeal. The woman has aged incredibly well (yes, I've always had a soft spot for Drew). She's the stereotype of the perky, bubbly realtor lady who goes ten different kinds of batshit. She has clearly had a blast with this part.
Her loving husband is played to dorky, Milquetoast perfection by Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood", "Justified", "The Crazies") in a role that's definitely NOT his usual badass tough guy. The laughs you get out of Sheila are almost anticipated and then delivered on with skill; Joel will surprise you with some of the quick wit and quotable one-liners he spits ("How was your night with the sex trafficker? There's something I never thought I'd say to my wife!").
Their highly intelligent and capable daughter, Abby, is played by ginger newcomer, Liv Hewson. She's going to be one to watch out for. She can be cute, sarcastic, dangerous, innocent, & utterly badass all at once. If this chick came along when I was a teen I'd have found her irresistible. She's got a real "fuck the world, I've got this" attitude that reminds me of my own little girl. Remember that name.
Rounding out your hardcore main characters is the nerd next door, Eric. Do you remember the kid who did such a fantastic job in the "better than it had any business being" remake of "National Lampoon's Vacation" as Rusty's son, James? Yep, that kid. He's dork personified in this one and a great counter to the powerhouse Abby.
Another notch in the belt of this show is the supporting cast of neighbors and victims. An adulterous neighbor (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) and her complete douchebag cop husband (Ricardo Chavira) on one side, & the black cop (Richard T. Jones) and his mousey Asian wife (Joy Osmanski) on the other side give the show some classic comic moments. "Why do we have to live between 2 cops?!"
There are also some great cameos by Thomas Lennon ("Reno 911" & "The State"), Patton Oswalt ("King of Queens", standup comic), Portia de Rossi ("Arrested Development"), Nathan Fillion ("Firefly"), Andy Richter ("Late Night with Conan O' Brien"), & Derek Waters (the man behind "Drunk History"). There is some serious comedic power in this whole cast.
It's gory. It's completely absurd in a borderline Monty Python kind of way. It almost shouldn't work, it's so damn campy. So why does it?
It's Sheila and Joel. They're high school sweethearts who've been married for over 20 years (something I know more than a little bit about) and are so believable in that role. They just slay (pun totally intended) as two people who are nuts about each other thrust into one really fucked up situation that forces them to redefine their morals and lifestyle. The most important thing at the end of each episode is their love for each other and their family. It's beautiful, man.
Cindy asked me, "Would you kill with me if I became undead and I just had to?"
I said, "Baby, I'd do it even if you just wanted to."
It's a show about true love, folks. How can you pass that up?