Santa Clarita Diet is, for want of a better description, an American middle class remake of Terry & June (not a compliment) meets gross-out teen comedy with lashings of bloody horror thrown into the mix. In short, something to offend or repulse everyone, but for me it’s definitely the cheesy jokes and toe-curling Hollywood vision of family life worthy of the 70s that give me the eebie-jeebies, much as Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows really failed to update old jokes successfully.
The twee family values stay even when all else is perverted. All the issues relate to everyday events like marital differences of opinion, keeping up with the Joneses, grounding misbehaving teenagers, new cars, hiding bodies then eating them, an obscure Serbian book on undead… oh, and mum being undead, in spite of looking slim and beautiful with perfect hair and complexion.
In fact she still looks like Drew Barrymore rather than your usual zombie cliches while trying to continue her respectable married life with an inanely grinning husband Joel, played by Timothy Oliphant as a sort of goofy latter-day Dick van Dyke, or maybe Dick York to Barrymore’s Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched, with a sizeable portion of ham acting on the side.
Barrymore’s Sheila Hammond has an eye-rolling daughter in the person of Liv Hewson, whose friendship with the practical don’t-turn-a-hair neighbour’s son called Eric, played by the improbably named Skyler Gisondo. That said, she does have a few bodily dysfunctional issues, much as Streep and Hawn did in Death Becomes Her. Nothing major, just toes dropping off and eyeball misplaced. Such is life in Santa Clarita, apparently. We’ll get through it, ho ho ho.
For gross-out read unfeasibly large quantities of vomit, appearing very early in episode 1 so you know what to expect. For that matter, sloppy deconstructed bodies start appearing from the top too, not to mention Ms Barrymore munching thoughtfully on fingers and necks of living victims, just so you know what to expect.
This is the stuff of horror films past, so a good part of the “horror-comedy” label relates to knowing nods and winks saying… “of course this is what we used to creep into the cinemas to be shocked by when we were teens, but we’re oh so grown up about splattish horror we can chortle to our socks about it now.”
In televisual terms, this is a souped-up Addams Family on speed for a generation desensitised by horror movies, while still trying to stay cute. I appreciate this sort of series appeals to a certain kind of person, though I can’t for the life of me identify what sort of person that would be. For me the equation is simple: it doesn’t work, it isn’t funny and you wouldn’t want to watch it with a tray of dinner in front of you. Doubtless it will be a vast hit and go on to run for 8 series now…