In Santa Clarita, a new light shed on suburbia
Anyone who knows me decently well knows that I’m from Los Angeles. Anyone who knows me really well knows that I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Santa Clarita, a sprawling city-suburb hybrid located just outside of the outer reaches of LA.
Because of its proximity to the city and generic suburban-ity, Santa Clarita has been used as the backdrop for hundreds of your favorite movies, TV shows and music videos. I always used to joke that because of this, Santa Clarita deserved its own show (the closest it’s ever gotten was “Weeds,” whose season one title sequence was filmed right in my own neighborhood).
I never imagined that it would actually get one, much less one starring a zombified Drew Barrymore. Despite that, “Santa Clarita Diet” does indeed exist and recently released an excellent second season on Netflix. And whose opinion on this show should you possibly trust more than a native Santa Claritan?
The first episode picks up right where season one left off: Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant) is in the psych ward, Abby Hammond (Liv Hewson) and Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo) are working on finding a cure for Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and the aforementioned woman is chained up in the basement until said cure can be found. Business as usual.
The rest of the season continues on this same irreverent, bizarre note, moving at a breakneck pace until you suddenly find yourself having binged the entire second season. The family finds themselves in impossible situations and they are somehow resolved. None of it feels even remotely plausible. But that’s what makes it so fun.
For fans of cheesy ‘80s horror, “Santa Clarita Diet” has all of the camp (and the gratuitous gore) in a more modern setting. If anything, the story gets even more ridiculous this season than last, with a deep dive into the lore of Sheila’s disease and the completely unexpected return of a character that would seem impossible. But hey (and this is something I never thought I’d say), this is Santa Clarita. Anything could happen.
Ironically enough, the characters and their relationships with each other are some of the most realistic portrayals I’ve seen on television. The relationship between Sheila and Joel in particular is absolutely heartrending, as we get to watch the absolute devotion and the lengths he’ll go in order to support his wife. I even found myself rooting for Abby and Eric and their awkward teenage “will-they-won’t-they” dance. All of the actors, just as in the previous season, deliver flawless performances, especially Olyphant as Joel.
The whole crew’s interactions with their suburban neighbors and the struggle to maintain a facade of normalcy was also hilarious and relatable, though for very different reasons. That’s what I love about this show: even though the story is completely ridiculous, it’s deeply human underneath the surface of its premise. Even if you’re not from Santa Clarita, most everyone can relate to some aspect of the show – the jaded teenagers with weird parents, the struggle to fit in with the neighbors when you’re a total outsider, the drive to stay together and support each other no matter what.
But if you are from Santa Clarita, this season proves particularly rewarding. One of my biggest gripes with season one was that it didn’t incorporate the setting into the plot as much as I would have liked. This season though, the audience sees more of Santa Clarita than they ever have before and there’s even the occasional reference to traffic on a particular street, which made me scream because of the accuracy.
Overall, the second season of “Santa Clarita Diet” is a vast improvement upon the faults of the prior season. It’s funnier, raunchier and gorier. It is certainly not for everyone, and perhaps without the star power of Barrymore it would not have survived this far on a mainstream platform such as Netflix. But it looks like it’s here to stay, and television as a whole is better for this daringly original program.