In February 2017, I logged onto Netflix to watch episodes of The Office I’d already watched half a dozen times, but something caught my eye. There was a banner promoting a new Netflix Original show starring Drew Barrymore and…zombies.
Santa Clarita Diet follows Joel and Sheila Hammond (played by Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore respectively). They’re a husband-wife realtor team living an ordinary life raising their snarky teenager, Abby. Their mundane lives are turned upside down, however, when Sheila dies but also becomes undead.
The following are three reasons you should watch this brilliant, smart series. Think of this short list as my effort to recruit more viewers for this show so it won’t face the same fate as other Netflix Originals (#SaveODAT).
(update: 2019/04/26 Netflix has cancelled Santa Clarita Diet😭)
1. It’s romantic
This show doesn’t focus on romance per se, but I’m a romance writer. It behooves me to mention certain elements I see as romantic.
Sheila and Joel are high school sweethearts. They have their roles in the relationship and are settled, but their marriage at the start of the series isn’t exciting by any means.Their biggest concerns include their toaster oven’s inefficiency, whether they should buy a Range Rover, and Sheila wondering if she’s as bold as Jennifer Lawrence.
However, there’s nothing like your wife dying and then coming back undead to spice things up!
Sheila’s transformation shifts their relationship dynamic. They both try to figure out which way is up. Some changes work well, but they question other changes and either ultimately accept or reject it. This process takes a lot of emotional work, but what remains steadfast is Sheila and Joel’s commitment to one another. If I didn’t shy away from holding any romantic couple (even fictional ones) up on a pedestal, they’d be #relationshipgoals.
2. (Some) male characters are great
There are several male characters in this show who are decidedly misogynistic, toxic, and even violent. But other male characters–mainly, Joel and Eric (Abby’s friend)–present a really appealing version of masculinity.
That is, Sheila (post-transformation) and Abby are bold and outspoken. They tend to take the lead and are brave in the face of danger. Joel and Eric might feel insecure at times but 1) they don’t assert their masculinity at the expense of people around them 2) they foreground the plights of the women in their lives and let their bruised egos that might want to cling onto toxic ideas of manhood take a back seat.
It’s refreshing, and a joy to watch–especially in the last few years–men behaving well.
3. It’s genuinely funny
One of the characteristics I look for in a bingeable show is that I can watch it when the sun sets. My threshold for horror is very low (back in the day, I had to stop watching the Ghost Whisperer late at night because I ended up having nightmares), but Santa Clarita Diet does a fantastic job of grappling with hard questions and gruesome situations without losing its fun.
Drew Barrymore is spontaneous and effervescent in the role of Sheila and performs physical comedy that I didn’t know I was missing in my life. Joel’s deadpan jokes and levelheaded character provides a wonderful juxtaposition to Barrymore’s Sheila. And Abby’s sarcasm and wit plays off of self-deprecating Eric’s wicked comedic timing.
Have you given this show a watch? Are you as obsessed with it as I am?