Honey, I Ate the Neighbors

Author’s Note: This is the first review in a series of Netflix reviews. You’ll find these under ‘Netflix’ in the categories tab–NOT TV shows.

I’m going to say what every reviewer is thinking–Drew Barrymore is no one’s favorite actress. She has a few cutesy blockbusters (see 50 First Dates and Never Been Kissed), but she isn’t a classic. Santa Clarita Diet, a Netflix original, nearly puts her back on the map…at least for now. Unlike Netflix’s other original, Girlboss, which premiered around the same time period, SCD will be back for another season (yay!).

The first, and only, season of the seemingly underground hit follows a boring, suburban family through their day-to-day life, before the head of household mother Sheila, portrayed by Barrymore, becomes part of the undead. Every episode is essentially a continuation of the family’s trials and tribulations towards finding a cure, and it is just as laughable as it is interesting.

While comedy does typically bring people together, I’m going to include a note here: DO NOT WATCH THIS WITH THE KIDS.

I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but this show is not appropriate for anyone under the age of at least sixteen, maturity dependent. The show contains adult language, situations, and more than anything, sexual content. So watch out, and use your best judgment before allowing this show to go on your family’s Netflix queue.

With that out of the way, character analysis is a big reason that this show is so enjoyable overall. Joel, Sheila’s husband, is surprisingly okay with Sheila’s condition, which is exactly what makes him a likable character. Rather than giving into comedy’s traditional “reasonable” character persona, Joel portrays devotion rather than insensitivity. His confusion and frantic personality make him entertaining to watch without becoming irritating, and most comedies fail to hold main characters to that standard (wait for it, this show struggles at times, too). This is Timothy Olyphant’s first role that actually matters, and he makes it work. This is one character that I am excited to see more of in the coming seasons.

For the first time in what feels like forever in the comedy television world, the supporting roles matter just as much in Clarita as the main roles do. The most important pair is the dream team, Sheila and Joel’s daughter Abby and the nerdy teenage neighbor, Eric.

Unfortunately, while important, both roles meet a stereotype that studios find necessary to meet the standard comedy agenda. Abby is the typical angst-y teen that hates school and wants to rebel against her parents; I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here, however, because towards the second half of the season, her compassion for her mother’s ‘condition’ begins to show. Skyler Gisondo portrays Eric, and if you recognize him, it’s because he plays the, once again, geeky son in the remake of Vacation. In SCD, he isn’t the most memorable character, but his awkward charm will leave you rooting for his and Abby’s first kiss. Even with their respective stereotypes, I fell for the characterization by both actors, and I will certainly be shipping Erbby (??) in the coming seasons.

I decided to leave our main character for last on this one, because Drew Barrymore makes being a zombie look like a walk in the park–in the best way. Stuck somewhere between sheer recklessness and a fear of harming the people she loves, Sheila does everything in her power to still be the greatest mother, and wife, that she can. Not only will her drive make you fall in love with her, but I had no idea that Barrymore was capable of such a sarcastic comedic style. While some scenes could be considered cheesy, Clarita isn’t a show built upon slapstick comedy, and Drew manages to enforce the mature sarcasm that the show thrives upon. Her characterization of the persona that does it all–parenting, working, being a zombie–is spot on, and I am certain that the show would be nothing without her charm, in and out of her home.

If you are a sucker for cinematography and setting, you may be disappointed with this one. The setting is its own stereotype, think Desperate Housewives suburban scope, and the cinematography isn’t anything to write home about. The true winners for this series are the creator and producer, Victor Fresco, who is also credited with producing the comedy My Name is Earl. If you enjoy good, comedic writing, this one is for you.

Santa Clarita Diet may never become one of the most popular Netflix originals, but you can bet that it will be one of the most humorous; while I wouldn’t call it one of the greats, I can safely say that this show is one worth taking a bite out of.

Grade: B+



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