It’s hard to figure out exactly how to classify a show like Santa Clarita Diet — zombie farce? Suburban satire? Meat cute? — but surprisingly easy to buy the conceit that an uptight Southern California Realtor named Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) wakes up one day, barfs like Linda Blair after a three-day bender, and develops a sudden, ravenous appetite for human flesh. And even that her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and teenage daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) roll with these new developments as well as they do; you get the sense they’d react about the same if Sheila suddenly announced she was getting really into Kabbalah, or had decided to try Paleo (which, technically, is sort of true — it’s just the source of all that raw protein that’s problematic).
The first couple episodes spend too much time filling in the outlines of the plot with awkward exposition — the Hammonds’ neighbors on both sides just happen to be a cop and sheriff! Surely that won’t come into play! — but finds a better, more relaxed rhythm as it goes on. A lot of that credit goes to Olyphant, whose pot-smoking, endearingly devoted Joel gets some of the script’s best lines. And Barrymore has fun with her transformation from sensible mom to YOLO queen of the neighborhood, following her id wherever it leads — whether that means jumping Joel for porn-star morning sex, taking on Abby’s priggish school principal, or disemboweling the shady rival (Nathan Fillion, going full oily-bohunk) unwise enough to snake one of her real estate listings.
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Diet‘s giddy, bloody hyperreality requires a decent tolerance for gore, and a pretty deep commitment to the randomness of the whole concept. Whether that can even be sustained over more than one season is a big zom-com question mark. But even as its tone veers wildly the show sticks with it, toeing an unlikely line between David Lynch and Desperate Housewives…then literally eats that toe, which is pretty fun. B+
Santa Clarita Diet is streaming on Netflix.