The comedy-horror genre has its fans, but even for them “Santa Clarita Diet” is a pretty thin gruel. Starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as a suburban couple faced with a sudden bout of zombie-ism, the heavily serialized 10 half-hours do go down pretty easy binge-wise. But the Netflix series just doesn’t have enough meat on its bones.
Mixing whimsy and gore, the show has a certain tonal resemblance to Starz’s “Ash Vs. Evil Dead,” and surrounds its leads with a solid cast of supporting and cameo players. The story, however, ambles along about as aimlessly as a you know what, seemingly making up the rules as it goes along.
Barrymore and Olyphant play Sheila and Joel Hammond, who work together as realtors, living on one of those perfect cul-de-sacs of identical homes that used to be featured in old Spielberg movies. Suddenly, and without explanation, Sheila changes, having essentially died and been overcome by a powerful desire to consume human flesh.
“How could this happen? We’re realtors!” an understandably stressed-out Joel asks, indicative of both the level of humor and how the former “Justified” star is slightly miscast in what feels like a more nebbish-y, Matthew Broderick-type role.
The Hammonds quickly bring their daughter (Liv Hewson) and nerdy teenage neighbor Eric (Skyler Gisondo), with a geeky knowledge of such things, into their confidence. But their problems include not only how to feed Sheila’s hunger but Eric’s nosy stepfather (“Desperate Housewives” alum Ricardo Chavira), who inconveniently happens to be a sheriff’s deputy.
Created by Victor Fresco, “Santa Clarita Diet” has a jokey, sitcom-style quality to it, even with the occasionally grisly image of projectile vomiting or exposed entrails. It also weaves in a number of talented performers, among them Nathan Filion and Patton Oswalt, albeit in smallish contributions.
Still, the whole notion of upsetting suburban bliss in this fashion feels a trifle tired. And while the series does a pretty effective job pacing-wise of lurching from one crisis to the next, there’s not much sense of anything approaching an end point.
Netflix has had some fun promoting the show – cheekily playing off the advantages of Sheila’s new diet, which include enhanced sex drive and maintaining her figure regardless of who she eats.
Given the vast buffet of programming available to binge on Netflix, though, “Santa Clarita Diet” is one dish that it’s probably safe to skip.
“Santa Clarita Diet” premieres February 3 on Netflix.