One of the more typical scenes of Santa Clarita Diet unfolds like this: Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) unload a heavy plastic tub from their car. “Guess what Kelly told me last night? She and Ben are selling their home,” Sheila says. Joel is more concerned with why the tub has no lid, and why Sheila can’t organize their storage better. They bicker amicably for a while, seemingly blasé about the fact that the container they’re squabbling about is filled with the bloody, viscous remains of a colleague whom Sheila has killed and eaten.
That’s basically the whole premise for the new 10-part Netflix show, which debuts in its entirety Friday: the idea that it’s hilarious to splice a cozy marital sitcom with a gruesome, visceral (literally) zombie horror. And a lot of the time, it is, although it takes a while to warm up. The first episode is the most jarring with the shock and gore, testing viewer tolerance for graphic cannibalism and projectile vomiting, among other things, but if you can stick it out there are some, well, killer punchlines ahead.
The conceit for the show, created by Victor Fresco (Better Off Ted) was kept largely mysterious until January, when teasers were released showing Barrymore in character touting the virtues of a new diet, Jenny Craig-style (“I satisfy all my cravings and eat whoever I want”). So it’s not spoiling things to reveal that Sheila is a married realtor and mom who, somewhat unexpectedly, becomes undead. (She’s diagnosed by the teenager next door after the aforementioned projectile vomiting leaves her with no pulse, no pain threshold, and a sudden appetite for uncooked hamburger.) The twist is that Sheila actually likes her new state. Her energy skyrockets, her sex drive peaks, and life takes on a new kind of zest, illustrated by the show’s switch from a muted palette to vibrant color.