SANTA CLARITA DIET
Series Created by Victor Fresco
Series Directed by Mark Buckland, Ruben Fleisher, Tamra Davis, Ken Kwapis, Dean Parisot, Steve Pink, Lynn Shelton, and Craig Zisk
Written by Victor Fresco, Clay Graham, Aaron Brownstein, Leila Cohan Miccio, Simon Ganz, Chadd Gindi, Michael A. Ross, Ben Smith, and Sarah Walker
Series Music by John Debney and Josh Debney
Cinematography by Todd McMullen
Series Film Editing by Andrew Doerfer, Lawrence A. Maddow, Steve Sprung, and Shawn Paper
Series Casting by Jill Anthony, Gillian O’Neill, and Jill Anthony Thomas
Filmed on location in Santa Clarita, California, USA, exteriors at 27528 N Weeping Willow Drive, Santa Clarita California, USA
Santa Clarita Diet premiered on Netflix on 3 February 2017 and I didn’t binge it until 4 March? What a fool I’ve been! Perhaps I can save you from throwing away ten precious hours of your life the way I have done; if you have work or school or volunteering to do tomorrow call in sick tomorrow. Do it this way: “I’m sure I’m fine but the CDC is sending a chopper– Wait! No! I didn’t tell anyone!” drop the phone, kick it a couple times, make more whimpering sounds than normal, and hang up. If you’ve used that one before, good for you.
Let’s try a different tack: “We only have a few weeks to finish the new lowland gorilla habitat. It’s going to be dedicated to Harambe, that poor gorilla that was shot.” Be prepared with the actual date, 28 May 2016, and to accuse the person of hating such beautiful, gentle animals. If all else fails, leave your boss’ office/cubicle shouting, “You’re sick! Showing me that ‘Lemon Party’ video? I’m suing!” This works for either sex and everyone in the department can storm out in disgust, after clearing their cache and history.
Meet at an agreed upon home to order anything with sloppy red sauce — maybe some strawberry Mr. Wiggle and tripe — and binge watch. While you’re collecting unemployment, say totally worth it.
Most people were unaware that Carried Fisher was the most sought-after script doctor in the movie business for thirty years (including the Star Wars prequels). Few know that Barrymore is one of the most canny in the entertainment business, snapping up books and stories before they even have time to hit the market and turning them into winning projects. In other words, she knows how to pick ’em. In this case, the project picked her; the writers had her in mind when they wrote the part of Sheila. Santa Clarita Diet should be another sharp career move for Barrymore.
Joel (Olyphant) and Sheila, adorable couple and realtor team, and their feisty daughter Abby (Hewson, best thing in Before I Fall) are living a normal, mostly happy life that most would envy. They live in a lovely, charming house on a lovely, charming street with love– No. The neighbours can be a bit odd. Deputy Dan (Chavira) is insanely jealous of LAPD officer Rick (Jones) and won’t stop with what he thinks are witty jabs that Rick easily deflects. He interrogates Joel and Sheila about every detail he has seen while spying on them. Dan is just so easy to despise. Needle adults. Make the couple next door wish your were dead. Risk your life insulting a fit, muscular cop who could destroy you. You’re an asshole. He’s worse. He says things to his great stepson, Eric (Gisondo, Vacation), designed to make him feel weak, inadequate, and destined to die a virgin. The Hammonds are so lucky to live in between the two officers and their slightly off-kilter wives. Isn’t that always the way for the only normal family on the street?
At least, they were normal. Things have taken a turn towards the…abnormal of late.
(Normal being a relative term. I saw a story on the news highlighting the downhome, normal folks who still supported President Trump. One man had wanted to be a cowboy. Instead, he dressed like one and held chuck wagon races. So normal. Chuck. What brought that up?)
The wheels started to come off the Range Rover while Joel and Sheila are showing another lovely, charming house to one of those couples who just will not make up their minds when Sheila interrupts the tour in spectacular, if nauseous, fashion. As Joel attempts to swan the couple and their real estate agent through every feature they’ve already seen, accompanied by some impressive vocals from Barrymore, the audience gets its first golden glimpse of what is going to be one of the best features of a fabulous show.
Olyphant not only gets the best lines, he is fantastic at comedy. Aside from some guest roles on shows such as the American version of The Office and Samantha Who? he’s known for his dramatic, sometimes downright evil, parts. On Santa Clarita, he’s the one trying to maintain some measure of sanity, even as it runs away from him at lightspeed. His wife and his daughter going wild at the same time — one quite happily, the other more angry by the hour. (They’re both pretty pissed at Abby’s principal, played by the incomparable Thomas Lennon.) But, unlike other shows where a man’s wife is, um, undead, he adores her and they will do whatever they have to to keep their family together. Whatever good people like them would have to do, but in the most moral way. Of course, that gets tricky.
Luckily, they have their own personal monster expert right next door in Eric, who has been in love with Abby since they were children. He knows his zombie lore and it isn’t all promising. He and Joel continue to search for a cure, just in case Sheila starts trying to eat her own family. That would make for some tense holiday dinners, with everyone armed. Or no one armed or legged.
Episodes have laugh out loud moments and moments some people may actually find too nauseous to watch. Better to cover your eyes until you know the scene is over. Not that there is intense focus on keeping things realistic, blood- and guts-wise; that’s not the aim of Santa Clarita Diet, laughter is and it succeeds admirably at that goal. It’s looking at how a family with that particular wrinkle would keep the rest of their lives going on their lovely, charming house with their lovely, charming– Well, you’ll learn more about their neighbours and the goodish people of Santa Clarita in good time.
Drew Barrymore headlining a project? No brainer. And, no, she does not eat anyone’s brains. But with the team of Barrymore, Olyphant, and creator Victor Fresco, and actors like Portia de Rossi, Natalie Morales, Patton Oswalt, Nathan Fillion, and Patricia Beicher– I’d start clearing space for Emmys now. Everyone involved in the project, especially craft services (lord, love ’em), can start measuring, putting the perfect piece together — just not the hurdal — get back to filming season two while we sit here and grow Joaquin Phoenix pubic beards.