Recurring Cast: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo
There is a part of me, deep down, that really wants Santa Clarita Diet to do well. The first season wasn’t perfect with an often unbalanced sense of humour and moments that just lost the viewer. However, Netflix’s family sitcom with an undead twist had charm, mainly down to the outstanding Barrymore and Olyphant, that made you cross your fingers that Netflix saw fit to bring it back for another season.
Thankfully, Santa Clarita Diet made it to a second season, narrowly avoiding Netflix at their peak of scrutiny, and judging from the quality of Season Two, Netflix would be mad not to give it a third season. Yes, Santa Clarita Diet is one of those satisfying experiences where a show learns from its mistakes. In fairness, is that not the point of an opening season in the sitcom universe? You try something new and let that first season iron out the kinks, pointing out the issues with the pitch. Therefore, Satna Clarita Diet have figured out what worked so well the last time – the brief running time, the domestic humour prevailing the slapstick and the mystery element. Therefore, the show focuses on that, pushing the more vulgar gags into the background. The charm of Santa Clarita Diet is the fact that, even when there is a threat of a zombie invasion, the main characters find time to complain about bookshelves and how best to serve lasagne at a dinner party. Olyphant is especially good at the more subtle branches of humour, able to hold an audience while talking about little more than a dog video on Youtube. Meanwhile, the writers focus more on the zombie side of things. In Season One, the undead wife element felt like an excuse to tell jokes – here, it is a constantly expanding mystery. We don’t quite get answers as much as we get more questions. As Olyphant finds time in between his wife’s undead situation to investigate how this zombie thing came about and if there is a danger of a worldwide epidemic, we begin getting more insights into this movie monster. There are moments of squeamish delight as the writers pull the rug from under our feet yet again with a wonderful curve ball. But despite the expanding narrative and the subtle humour, the show remains fixated on its strongest point: this sense of family. There are moments in Santa Clarita Diet where your heart just soars at the commitment this family unit have for each other. Barrymore and Olyphant realise how strong their love for each other is. Hewson tears them apart with insults, but somehow pulls it together into a back-handed compliment. These moments take Santa Clarita Diet from a fun distraction to a Netflix show that you really need to start bingeing. This is hardly the only zombie show in the world right now, but I cannot recall any that have managed to give us heart-warming family moments so often. Or Nathan Fillion cameoing as a talking head, for that matter…
Final Verdict: Season Two nails the Santa Clarita Diet experience with refined humour, a better story arc and retaining the characterisation that made it so good in the first place.