A Diet to Die For

I defy anyone to name a better–and more American Gothic–current series than Santa Clarita Diet.

The phrase “bloody brilliant” is perhaps the most apt one for the show, whose second season is now streaming on Netflix. Let’s start with the stellar performances by the main cast: Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond, a realtor mysteriously reborn as a flesh-craving cannibal; Liv Hewson as her endearingly snarky and badass daughter Abby; Skyler Gisondo as nerdy neighbor Eric Bemis. Timothy Olyphant, though, takes the cake as Joel Hammond, the overwhelmed patriarch struggling to keep his family intact–and out of jail. Olyphant’s work is pure comedic genius, and all the more Emmy-worthy when one considers just how much the Deadwood/Justified actor is playing against tough-guy type.

No show in recent memory has had me bursting into laughter as much as Santa Clarita Diet does. The comedy ranges from the silly to the witty, the slapstick to the sarcastic; it’s a product of both dialogue and choreography (keep an eye out for a hilarious tango scene between Joel and Gerald McCraney’s Colonel Ed Thule). An undeniable blackness tinges the humor, given Sheila’s uncanny appetites and the continuously-blurred line between corpse and cuisine (viewers disgusted by “microwaved elbow” had best find different fare than what’s regularly served here). Gross-outs and horrific sight gags appear in full Fangorial splendor; this show never shies away from arterial spray. My favorite bit of macabre wackiness from Season 2 involves the character of Gary (Sheila’s first victim last season), now reduced to a decapitated–yet animate–head ensconced on the neck of a flower vase.

With its quirky and edgy humor, and depiction of the dark underside of sunny California suburbia, Santa Clarita Diet proves reminiscent of the former Showtime series Weeds. Hopefully the Netflix effort can continue to walk the line of entertaining zaniness without jumping the shark and landing in utter ridiculousness (as Weeds did towards the end of its run). Two seasons in, though, the writing is nothing less than impeccable. With quick-moving half-hour episodes and cliffhanger plot complications (as the Hammonds’ attempts to find a cure–not to mention the next meal–for Sheila are repeatedly stymied), Santa Clarita is the one diet that encourages bingeing. And gluten or guilt are never a concern as the consumer of this gory smorgasbord is left positively stuffed.

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