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TV Series Review

Sheila, like many women, wears a lot of hats. She's a wife. A mother. A realtor. A zombie. A friend. A—

What's that? Did I say zombie? Why, yes. Yes I did. Sheila, unlike most women we likely know, is dead. And like most zombies, she has a taste for living flesh. Awkward, that. And while she has yet to eye her husband and teen daughter the way Yosemite Sam might eye Daffy Duck after some time on a desert island, you just never know. Zombies aren't exactly known for their culinary restraint.

Even if husband Joel and daughter Abby stay off the menu, though, Sheila's eating habits certainly promise to make for some interesting Thanksgiving dinners.

Upset Stomach

Sheila wasn't always a zombie. She was once just a dutiful wife, a mom, a realtor living in suburban California wondering whether she might be just too restrained.

"I wish I was bold," she says. "Am I bold? No, I'm not. I'd like to be 20 percent bolder. No, 80 percent. No …"

But then she dies in a spectacular explosion of vomit, and everything changes. She buys a Range Rover. ("I've been wanting one since this morning!" she confesses to a friend.) She wants to have sex with her husband several times a day. Oh, and yes, she enjoys eating people. Particularly unlikeable ones.

Joel does his best to cope with his wife's new condition. But let's face it: Having a zombie for a spouse would be a challenge for any marriage. And, naturally, they also must grapple with the morality of keeping Sheila suitably fed—perhaps best summed up by the title of Episode 2: "We Can't Kill People!"

'Course, Episode 3 is titled: "We Can Kill People!" which suggests just how much time they spent wrestling with that little ethical quandary. It's not long before Sheila masters the art of making human smoothies, growing more toned and fit as she restricts her diet to free-range hominids. And indeed, talk with Sheila, and she'll say that she's really come alive since she's been dead—no longer a slave to her former insecurities and hang-ups. Her id's in control now. And except for her messy eating habits, Sheila thinks that she's doing just fine, thanks.

The police may have other ideas. The ones that aren't devoured on the spot, of course.

Finger Food

"I don't want to be in dark s---, and I don't want to put dark s--- out there," star Drew Barrymore told The Daily Beast in February 2017, shortly after Santa Clarita Diet was released on Netflix. "I hate negativity. I want to be optimistic, problem solving, and solution oriented."

And that, I suppose, says something about our 21st-century entertainment culture: that a zombie devouring her victims alive and on-camera can be considered light, optimistic, solution-oriented entertainment.

In fairness, Barrymore's not all wrong about the show's vibe. For all its liberal use of blood and gore and vomit and bile, Santa Clarita Diet is indeed a comedy—one that places its severed tongue firmly in cheek. The undead conceit allows the show a certain metaphorical license to critique suburban culture, femininity and the push-pull between doing what we want to do and doing what we know we should do. We even see some very twisted old-fashioned values along the way.

Take Sheila and Joel's marriage, for instance. In an age when people seemingly get divorced because one partner won't pick up his or her socks, Joel and Sheila seem determined to do their wedding vows one better: "'Til death do us part" … and then some. When Joel discovers Sheila devouring her first freshly dead victim, an embarrassed Sheila lifts her head from the gory corpse and tells Joel, "I really want to make this work ..."

"It's nice to see people excel as a couple," the recently-divorced Barrymore told The Daily Beast. "I'm so sick of everyone … failing, fighting and falling apart."

Still, none of that cheery commentary mitigates the fact that Santa Clarita Diet is terrifically, repugnantly and unrepentantly disgusting. Blood spurts. Entrails spill. People are killed in horrible, horrible ways, and the show's protagonist does most of the killing. And while the sexual content isn't nearly as graphic, there's still plenty of it to wade through, from disturbingly creepy come-ons to allusions to infidelity, masturbation and rape. (To say nothing of Sheila's seemingly insatiable desire for different varieties of sex.) Oh, yes, and the language is abysmal, too.

Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet is both witty and wicked. It's as graphic as The Walking Dead, perhaps even more so. But its makers, instead of wanting its viewers to wince and gasp, encourages us to laugh.

I'm not sure if that's an improvement.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Santa Clarita Diet: Feb. 3, 2017 "So Then a Bat or a Monkey"
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