If you had asked me what I thought a Drew Barrymore comedy series might look like, Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet would be just about exactly what I’d expect: silly, goofy unreality with a slightly dark twist (my initial reaction to the series announcement still feels spot on). Really, there are only two three surprises about this ZomCom that we mightn’t have seen coming:
- It’s not on network television.
- The writing and the “comedy” veer between terrible and boring, inducing more sympathetic smiling than actual laughs.
- And this one’s the biggest shock of them all: Timothy Olyphant can’t save it.
Oh Raylan, you deserve so much better than this!
Created and written by Victor Fresco (Better Off Ted, My Name Is Earl), Santa Clarita’s extremely thin premise — realtor, Sheila Hammond (Barrymore) discovers she is inexplicably undead, resulting in a need for immediate and major changes in the Hammond household — reads more like Desperate Housewives (and boasting one of that series’ stars, Ricardo Chavira) than anything you’ve come to expect from a Netflix original. As for her new health problem and accompanying dietary needs, that plays out about as difficult as being vegan in an average California town; no worries, the family that murders bad guys together stays together, and deteriorating body parts are either hidden, or popped back into place. See, Honey! We can do this! With Olyphant’s superior comedic talent dancing in and around Barrymore’s stilted-though-earnest line readings, it feels like there could be a better show hidden somewhere underneath the attempted gross outs and cheap gags, but for now we’re left disappointed and often flat-out bored. Well, except for all the gawking …
It feels terrible to rip on Drew Barrymore, who many of us have loved and rooted for since watching her childhood movies, but try as we might, it’s impossible to see past an extremely affable actress who’s trying so very hard to throw every bit of enthusiasm she has into any line that might have a dream to one day, truly be funny. But, that’s just it; they’re lines and Barrymore repeats them as if reading from SNL cue cards — rarely does anything more come across; in her pauses, it’s as though she’s waiting to hear our nonexistent laughter. If wanting to be funny were the meter for actuality, Barrymore might be able to squeeze out a hit, but as it stands, getting through the entirety of Clarita‘s ten short episodes feels more like a chore. Buoyed here and there by clear camaraderie and the talents of her two main co-stars, Olyphant and standout, Liv Hewson (who plays daughter, Abby),
there’s still not enough glue to hold things together. A few episodes in, it felt like Charlie Brown’s teacher was “wah wah wah-ing” in between my longing glances at Olyphant (who, with each added grey hair, only seems to become more attractive), and mentally tuning out until the next cartoonish victim chase. And, that’s exactly what SCD feels like; mindless Tom and Jerry-ish distraction that lulls into a stupor, more than it’s amusing or fun.
Unless, maybe you …
There are a couple good cameos, including an excellent turn by Nathan Fillion (in a winking Justified nod, H/T Nadine), and Abby’s exploits with her friend Eric (played to nerdy perfection by Skyler Gisondo) are a cute aside, but none of it adds up to a show I’d want to keep watching. If Santa Clarita Diet ends up with a second season, it’s going to need better writing and for Barrymore to truly find her comedy footing.
Oh, and could someone teach the cast how to say “realtor”?
Santa Clarita Diet is currently streaming on Netflix.