Santa Clarita Diet is like Desperate Housewives meets The Walking Dead.
At least that’s how Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos described it.
The horror-comedy, which launches on the streaming service on Friday, follows suburban couple Sheila and Joel (Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant), real estate agents who have to adjust when Sheila suddenly finds herself craving only human flesh.
Here’s what critics had to say.
‘A diet that’s definitely worth keeping’
USA Today’s Robert Bianco said the show goes beyond just spoofing zombie movies.
“At heart and this show does have a surprisingly warm, beating heart Diet is a comedy about the lengths well go to protect the ones we love andpreserve a sense of normalcy, even in the most abnormal situations,” he writes. “Which may be why some of the funniest moments in Diet are those when Sheilaand Joel are arguing instandard, married-couple ways over things that married couples usually don’t face. (I hate eating so late. Yeah, well theres a lot about this thats not ideal.).”
‘A suburban sitcom with bite’
Mike Hale, of The New York Times, lauded the show’s creator Victor Fresco.
“Fresco made his name with which played fast and loose with the conventions of the office comedy. In Santa Clarita, he attacks the family sitcom with the same stylized absurdity and mock navet. And zombies.”
He added: “The first few episodes of Santa Clarita Diet suffer from an excessive amount of gore as if Mr. Fresco was afraid we wouldnt get the joke and the last third of the season flattens out as the mystery and thriller elements take over. But theres a stretch in the middle where Mr. Fresco and his writers have a lot of fun subverting the formulas of the suburban comedy. Family dinners require finesse (because Mom eats people). Abby is angry that her parents keep secrets (because Mom eats people). When told that a pedophile has moved in down the street, Sheila perks up, because shes on the lookout for undesirable people she wont feel guilty about eating.”
‘A treat for a very specific sense of humor’
Variety TV critic Sonia Saraiya called the show hilarious but noted it’s not for everyone.
“It’s treat for a very specific sense of humor and a little unpleasant for everyone else,” she wrote.
Saraiya was especially impressed by Barrymore and Olyphant.
“Both Barrymore and Olyphant commit with deadpan brilliance to the ridiculous story, playing self-conscious camp with admirable balance. Santa Clarita Diet flirts a bit with the horror genre before shifting to crime, as Joel and Sheila evolve into conspiring murderers to sate Sheilas hunger,” she writes. “Sheila, now ruled by undead desires, sometimes launches into devouring people by accident which is probably good for their overall success rate, as Joel turns out to be pretty terrible at delivering the killing stroke. (Hes a pro at cleanup, though.)”
Also, she notes: “Barrymore is particularly gifted at tempering California-girl ditziness with inscrutable spurts of stone-faced sadism, stalking unassuming strangers like a tiny tiger cub with its first prey.”
‘Surprisingly sweet for its zombie-mom trappings’
Los Angeles Times‘ Robert Lloyd was a fan of the performance by Liv Hewson, who plays Joel and Sheila’s teen daughter Abby. He also enjoyed the slew of guest stars.
“As their daughter,Abby, Liv Hewsonhas some of the dry, sardonic impudence of a 1930s film heroine; she is in some respects the glue of the series and pairs well with nerdy boy-next-door(Skyler Gisondo), who becomes the family’s guide to the paranormal,” Lloyd writes. “The lead performances are well bolstered by a retinue of guest and recurring players that includes Nathan Fillion, Natalie Morales, Portia de Rossi, Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, and “Drunk History” main man Derek Waters. Ricardo Chavira and Richard T. Jones play the sheriff’s deputy and the Santa Monica policeman, who are inconveniently neighbors on either side of the Hammonds in their perhaps metaphorical cul-de-sac. Though sometimes a cul-de-sac is just a cul-de-sac.”
‘satisfies, but doesnt nourish’
Erik Adams, of The A.V. Club, had mixed thoughts.
“At a nuts-and-bolts level, Santa Clarita Diet isnt entirely novel: In addition to those Ash Vs. Evil Dead and Stan Against Evil parallels, the show is essentially a sitcom hybridization of iZombie and The Americans,” he writes. “The main attraction, and the thing thatll pull viewers from one episode to the next, is the shows deranged energy. Olyphants been here before, with his recurring role on The Grinder, another high-concept, gag-driven sitcom populated by weirdos who spoke in droll quips and one-liners. It might not be the type of thing youll want to feast on, but Santa Clarita Diet is good for a little snack here or there.”
Issy Sampson, of The Guardian, wasn’t as impressed.
“Its unclear if the whole zombie thing is a metaphor for the pressure that society puts on women to be perfect, how theres something dark happening behind every picket fence or its just to prove that Drew Barrymore can chew on a human foot and still look adorable,” she writes. “No one is expecting Mike Leigh levels of stark realism from a sitcom in which the star of Never Been Kissed eats human flesh, but the show skates over major plot points, such as how Sheilas death happened and why no one is having a nervy b over the whole zombie thing. The show rushes along at such a fast pace she needs human flesh! Theyre buying a corpse off the morgue! They try to murder a drug dealer! that it plays out like its all a weird cheese dream. It ends up being try-hard wacky a series of half-jokes where, instead of a punchline, we get Drew grinning sweetly, because the shows whole thing is: shes cute and shes a killer! Maybe they were going to add in the witty payoffs in the edit and ran out of time.”