31 Days of the Undead: Santa Clarita Diet | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

31 Days of the Undead: Santa Clarita Diet

In honor of Romero Lives!, the city's month-long George A. Romero tribute, Pittsburgh City Paper presents 31 Days of the Undead, a series of reviews and essays about zombie media. Look for new posts going up every day from now through Oct. 31.

Santa Clarita Diet (2017-2019)
click to enlarge There's human meat in that cooler. - PHOTO: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX
Photo: Saeed Adyani / Netflix
There's human meat in that cooler.
Something about zombie movies has never really appealed to me. Aside from the fact that they can be violent and scary, I just never really feel like I “get” zombies. I missed the memo. I just woke up one day and suddenly everyone loved zombies. It’s like when suddenly vampires were everywhere and I was like, "Wait I’m not interested in vampires as a concept, I just love Twilight."

Enter Santa Clarita Diet, a Netflix show that was canceled earlier this year after three seasons. The premise of the show is simple: A nice, normal realtor suddenly becomes undead, and her nice, normal family has to figure out how to save – and feed – her without attention to their nice suburban lives.

Sheila (Drew Barrymore) is part of a real estate duo with her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant). They live and work in the sunny, picturesque, and slightly Stepford-y suburbs of L.A. with their teenage daughter. Their lives are perfectly fine, maybe even a little boring, until Sheila gets sick in the middle of a real estate showing and throws up a truly shocking amount of vomit. Soon, other weird things start happening, like Sheila getting a taste for raw beef (and raw human), her finger falling off, or not bleeding when cut. As Joel and his daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) realize Sheila might not be dead, but she’s certainly not alive, they have to find a way to save her before she starts eating innocent people.
click to enlarge Burying a body, as one does. - PHOTO: SAEED ADYANI / NETFLIX
Photo: Saeed Adyani / Netflix
Burying a body, as one does.
Over the course of the show, the scenarios devolve into more and more harebrained schemes: chaining Sheila in the basement so she doesn’t hurt anyone, renting a storage unit to store human meat, embarking on a desperate quest to acquire Serbian bile to concoct a cure.

Part of what makes Santa Clarita Diet such a fun ride is that instead of making Sheila’s undeadness something dark, sad, and scary, it becomes a tonic for her mid-life slump. She feels more energetic, telling friends it’s due to her new high-protein diet. She has a stronger hunger for sex, reinvigorating her relationship with Joel, which began when they were in high school. Aside from the danger it causes her family, she likes being undead and feels it’s allowed her to be her true self.

Barrymore, who’s made a career off of the bubbliness of her personality, gets to play to her strengths while also warping them into something deranged. Olyphant, who is most recently known for playing cowboy types in Justified and Deadwood, gets to play the role that seems most natural to him: a hot and chill stoner husband/dad.

While it was an enjoyable show, it’s unnecessary to be sad about its cancelation. It’s the exact kind of show that should only run for a couple seasons, or else it risks becoming too jumbled and forced. The plot is not built for longevity, but it was fun while it lasted.

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