Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 created by Victor Fresco (Garfield Grove Productions, KatCo, Olybomb Productions)

Starring Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Richard T. Jones, and Ricardo Chavira.

Better Off Dead

My favorite comedy series lasted one year. Then, the powers that be took it to the woodshed; they dismantled the parts and sold them for scrap. Some suits in Hollywood didn’t even give it a shot. Where most critically acclaimed comedies require time for audiences to gain footing with the particular concept, the long-game can pay off. Seinfeld anyone? Alas, Better Off Ted had no such benefactor, no such benefit of the doubt. And so, the zany workplace comedy got recycled, thrown into the heap with lesser ideas/poorly executed narrative structures.

Professionally, the death of Better Off Ted meant fewer comedic reference points to place in my business presentations. Poor me. What better way to communicate a point about authentic branding than to play a Veridian Dynamics commercial? For now, Silicon Valley will have to suffice.

A Streaming Pile Of

Unfortunately for Better Off Ted, the rise of streaming giants only existed in the dreams of Netflix-focused executives, imagining how to remove its shipping expenses and strategically focusing on becoming the next content giant. I know this for sure: Better Off Ted would be a hit if it sat in the head of Victor Fresco, its creator, just a little longer. The comedy likely would’ve been a steady and reliable source of eyeballs much like Orange Is the New Black. But here we are. Living in a world without Better Off Ted.

For those of you wondering why I’m complaining about Better Off Ted in a review about Santa Clarita Diet, please wait one more sentence. For those eagle-eyed readers, you probably already caught the connection between these two comedies. In the wake of Better Off Ted, Victor Fresco has created another zany, off-the-wall, socially critical television vehicle.

Santa Clarita Suburbia

Set in, you guessed it, Santa Clarita, the series follows husband and wife real estate duo, Joel and Sheila Hammond (Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymoore). Living the standard mundane existence of suburbia, Joel and Sheila drink smoothies, hospitably nod to the neighbors, and parent their teenage daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson).

Unfortunately, life flips drastically when Sheila vomits during a showing. Copious amounts of vomit. So so so much vomit. Recovering as best she can, she goes home to rest, but discovers her heart has stopped beating, and she has discovered a taste for raw meat.

And so, a zombie comedy emerges. Unlike the standard brain-dead renditions of the genre—corpses wandering around eating anything in its path—Sheila conveys a different approach to the undead, a lively, emphatic focus on her id. To her neighbors, she’s the same real estate agent, with a little more energy. To her family, she’s still wife and mom; she just needs to eat people to stay “alive.”

Thus, Santa Clarita Diet attempts to play the Dexter card, with Joel and Sheila trying to kill people who deserve it, lonely Hitler types really.

With the same fast-paced, ironic, and humorous dialogue as Better Off Ted, Victor Fresco critiques the brain-dead feeling of settling for suburbia while likewise creating ample character beats as a family attempts to establish a new, human-flesh-centered normal. Truthfully, Santa Clarita Diet is no Better Off Ted, but I’m glad Fresco’s oddball timbre has found a new home on Netflix. Here’s to many years of zombie comedy! Fingers crossed.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

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