It has been ages since I was thrilled about a TV show and dedicated a full post to it and now I have two I want to talk about – The OA and Santa Clarita Diet. Both are Netflix shows, I saw both ages ago, both have just 10 episodes in their first season and both are weird and quirky in their own special way. One has more unknown names and the other has bigger stars but both have teenage characters who are likeable and precious on their own right. But before I get to the very long and complicated journey of trying to understand The OA, here is my spoiler free take on Santa Clarita Diet.
First of all, I recommend everyone who has yet to watch the trailer for Santa Clarita Diet to skip it entirely. With just 10 episodes per season and each a little over 20 minutes long, the trailer has a few spoilers thrown into it, which I wouldn’t have appreciated if I hadn’t seen the show already. Besides, it’s always better to go in unaware, that’s what I usually like to do with these Netflix shows anyway. No knowledge, no preset ideas nor expectations, just dive right in and you’ll either hate it or love it.
Honestly though, my first reaction to Santa Clarita Diet was actually a little negative because in the first episode, and this is a very tiny spoiler, there was this vomiting scene. And I’m not a fan of that. Wasn’t a fan of it in Pitch Perfect, and still not a fan. But after that was done and cleaned up, the show started to pick up momentum and it got better and better as the episodes went on. We got to know the characters more and we learned about the family dynamics. There were few surprises along the way, a lot of hilarious jokes and some really sick yet oddly comforting dark humour throughout it all. It’s difficult to say which episode was the best, since all of them sort of blended together into a 3,5 hour movie, but if I had to pick, episode 7 was freaking amazing!
Drew Barrymore plays Sheila Hammond, a loving wife, a mother to a teenager, a real-estate agent and the living dead. I guess it was just a matter of time until the zombie genre was taken over to comedy and twisted into something wonderful. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Barrymore on screen but she knows what she’s doing. I feel like Sheila is the right character for her, fun and spontaneous, yet caring for all the right reasons.
Despite of Barrymore’s believable take on the living yet dead Sheila, nobody could have foreseen the utmost brilliance from Timothy Olyphant as Joel Hammond! Maybe it’s because every time I think of Olyphant, I think of Hitman, maybe it’s because I never expected that under this ruggedly handsome manliness is a comedic talent! He honestly carries himself a little differently in Santa Clarita Diet, he is a bit more loose and soft around the edges, in a good way. Plus, his comedic timing is on point! Most of the jokes I was laughing out loud to were said by him, most of the physical comedy I was cracking up to, Olyphant! He just stole the whole show with his charisma and handsomeness.
But the strength of writing and the plot is carried by Sheila and Joel as a married couple. Living the normal suburban life, they are thrown into this unexpected situation, and they are simply trying to adapt and overcome this together. What I respected the most was the honesty between them. After 25 years of marriage they still talked to each other, they shared their fears and opinions, and they overcame challenges as a team. Even though Sheila goes through a drastic change, Joel still loves her and is willing to do anything for her.
Another set of characters I enjoyed a lot were the teenagers of the show, Abby Hammond (Liv Hewson) and Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo). Though they look like they could be brother and sister (both have fair complexions, red hair and freckles!), they play neighbours and Eric of course has a huge crush on Abby. Yet, despite being a total nerd, Eric can hold his own, make jokes and unexpectedly steal scenes from everyone else, such a refreshing character! Abby on the other hand was also an interesting teenager, she gets good grades, yet she also likes to cause trouble of sorts. So at the end of the day, both are fun, supporting characters, and I’m rooting for them both!
What’s the most wonderful about the Santa Clarita Diet is that it doesn’t overcomplicate the plot but focuses on the character development and the humour. There isn’t too much going on, even though each episode focuses on a different narrative. It doesn’t rush to conclusions and it takes time to build up to the final act. There are a lot of well hidden life lessons in the show, as well as some pretty weird life lessons too. But most of all, the show is about family and how no matter what, family sticks together! The worst thing about Santa Clarita Diet is the cliff hanger it leaves us at the end of the first season – a really short season if you think about it, and it really does bum you out a little. It takes all that time sucking us into the midst of it all and then it’s already over and we have to wait forever for the next season. But oh well, I’m just going to sit here and wait then.