A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Santa Clarita Diet is a horror/comedy hybrid about a successful suburban family whose lives take a dark turn when the mom dies and then comes back as a hungry -- yet sweet-natured -- zombie. The overall tone of the show is light and sunny (even when the most violent things are happening on-screen), the dialogue is fresh and smart, and the characters are appealing, which takes the edge off the gory, intense blood-and-guts violence. But it's there anyway. Sheila gnaws on chopped-off limbs and pulls intestines out of her victims' bodies. There are fountains and showers and puddles of blood and assorted other eye-opening sights: Sheila eats a live snail, vomits great gouts of yellow bile, cuts herself and bleeds black goop. We also see her receiving oral sex (implied; he's offscreen). There are references to sex galore: "banging," "boning," "humping," a teen boy's "spank bank." Along with the vulgar language, there's cursing, often for comic effect: "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "bulls--t." Otherwise responsible and moderate dad Joel smokes pot in his car, often before important meetings.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) have a great life. They work together in a successful realty business, they own a nice house in a safe suburb, they even get along with their sarcastic teen daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson). But things change one otherwise normal day, when Sheila suddenly dies, then revives with a new zest for life -- and is on the SANTA CLARITA DIET of human flesh. She's, well, not a zombie, as her teen neighbor Eric (Skyler Gisondo) puts it, because that word is so "inherently negative." But she's no longer your average suburban realtor, either, as the family pulls together to hide her secret and Sheila discovers that being undead can be sorta fun.
Is it any good?
If Shaun of the Dead was the original romzomcom, this sun-drenched slice of absurd gore with razor-sharp dialogue is the first zom-sitcom. We've seen shows with Something Evil lurking beneath a calm suburban surface before (Desperate Housewives) where drab characters suddenly break free (Breaking Bad), and even those where a zombie sometimes passes for human (iZombie). But though the strands of Santa Clarita Diet's DNA are familiar, it's so funny and adorable that you can't help loving it anyway. For his part, Joel loves his wife (and his life) and only has small complaints.
Santa Clarita Diet does embrace sitcom clichés and characters, such as Sheila's hectoring boss (Andy Richter) and handsome-yet-creepy new coworker (Nathan Fillion). But it all works, because the things they say are hysterical, and the show has an undeniable core of sweetness running through it, particularly in scenes where Sheila, Joel, and Abby work together to hide Sheila's secret. Underneath the chewed-off digits and ripped-open chest cavities, Sheila's just a woman who wants freedom and fun and to do it without upending her peaceful family existence. What long-married spouse can say different?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the recent rise of zombies in popular culture (for example, in shows such as The Walking Dead). What's the appeal? Can a film mix brutal violence and comedy? Horror and humor? How does the comedic tone of Santa Clarita Diet affect the impact of the violence?
When it comes to violent content on television, does this show cross the line? Would the show still be gripping if it were any less gory?
Zombies are often used as a metaphor: for mindless behavior, a creeping menace, fascism. What is the metaphorical meaning of turning Sheila into a zombie?
For kids who love creepy comedy
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