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Santa Clarita Diet: everything you want to know about the show where Drew Barrymore eats brains

Santa Clarita Diet: everything you want to know about the show where Drew Barrymore eats brains


Zombie Drew Barrymore

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Saeed Adyani / Netflix

Have you heard rumors that your favorite actress Drew Barrymore is starring in a mysterious new television program called Santa Clarita Diet? Or have you heard a less complete rumor that your favorite actress Drew Barrymore is starring in a new television program and blood is somehow involved? Both are true! If you’re dedicated to Drew’s career, or even just dedicated to knowing as much as possible about every new blood-and-guts-related thing (okay, weirdo!), I have the explainer for you.

Here are 28 questions and answers about Santa Clarita Diet.

What is Santa Clarita Diet?

A TV show.

But what is the titular “Santa Clarita Diet?”

I think it’s a pun on the notorious fad diet South Beach Diet, but I don’t have any evidence of that. It’s just a hunch.

That’s it?

Well literally the “diet” refers to a diet of human flesh, because this is a zombie show. The main character is a zombie and human flesh is what zombies eat.

Is there a sharp difference between a zombie show and a cannibalism show? Because I’ve been seeing some news headlines referring to this as a cannibalism show.

To be perfectly honest I think those headlines are subtle efforts on the parts of social media managers to say something other than “zombie show” because zombie show is an incredibly boring phrase at this point in human history. Enough already! To answer your question with another question — are all rectangles squares? All zombie shows are cannibalism shows but not all cannibalism shows are zombie shows. That’s the difference.

Saeed Adyani / Netflix

What is the zombie show about, apart from zombies?

It’s mostly about how one woman must become a serial murderer in order to keep herself alive, as the only thing she can eat now is fresh human meat. Her husband and daughter love her, so they have to help her. As you might be able to guess, that situation can get pretty zany at times! Factor in the fact that their next-door neighbor is a weird, paranoid police officer and you’re in for the ride of your life!

What are some themes?

I have not deduced any real themes from this show. Perhaps love is a theme? The main character is beloved by her family even when she becomes a zombie.

perhaps love is a theme

Who stars in this zombie show?

Drew Barrymore.

Who is Drew Barrymore?

An actress, formerly a child actress but now aged 41. Drew is the granddaughter of the famed stage and silent film actor John Barrymore, who is probably best known for starring in the original film adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately his life and career were plagued by alcoholism and he died of liver and kidney failure at the fairly young age of 60. An interesting controversy around his death: the actor Errol Flynn claims in his memoirs that director Raoul Walsh stole Barrymore’s dead body from the hospital and used it to scare him when he was drunk. Some other people say this didn’t happen.

Anyway, Drew Barrymore is a talented actress descended from a talented actor.

What are her films?

Never Been Kissed (she produced this movie and starred in it), Music and Lyrics (she produced this movie and starred in it), 50 First Dates (she produced this movie and starred in it), Fever Pitch (she produced this movie and starred in it with Jimmy Fallon… kind of a mistake).

What is her best film?

Grey Gardens… also Scream.

grey gardens

Wow, what a fascinating range of roles she has had.

Yes. Drew Barrymore has had an odd career because she’s equally talented at portraying rom-com heroines and at portraying huge weirdos. That’s called being a great actress! She’s also used her industry clout and vast riches to form her own production company, which is a typical move for big stars. Something a little less typical of huge stars is to finance strange pet projects — seemingly regardless of whether they will make any money or be good. For example, Barrymore produced the 2000 Charlie’s Angels reboot, the 2007 film Martian Child (which stars John Cusack as a man who adopts a boy who believes he was born on Mars), and the 2014 found-footage horror movie Happy Camp.

Is Drew Barrymore, herself, a huge weirdo?

Drew Barrymore seems to be a little bit eccentric — in a fun way! Donnie Darko, which is not only one of the most bizarre and confusing sci-fi movies ever made but also crucial to solidifying the status of Jake Gyllenhaal as an icon of early aughts counterculture, would have been released only on DVD and VHS had Drew Barrymore not funded its theatrical release via her production company. She also took a small part in the movie, in hopes that her star power would save it at the box office. In truth it did not, but regardless: Jake Gyllenhaal is now the greatest actor of his generation and all thanks to Drew being a bit of a weirdo.

you can thank Drew Barrymore for generational icon ‘Donnie Darko’

Why is Drew Barrymore doing a show in which she has to eat brains?

Uh, they’re fake.

Who else is in the show?

Drew Barrymore’s character’s husband is played by Timothy Olyphant.

Who is Timothy Olyphant?

An actor, but also the great-great-great-great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Who is Cornelius Vanderbilt?

What was your high school experience like? Just wondering. Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of the richest people to ever live. He made his fortune building steamboats and many of the United States’ major railroads in the mid-1850s (including the New York Central Railroad, which contributed to rendering the Erie Canal and my hometown of Rochester totally useless, thanks a lot). He built Grand Central Terminal…

I can’t overstate how rich and bizarre this guy was — he was worth $215 billion in today’s dollars, tried to donate what was basically a yacht to the US Navy during the Civil War, married his first cousin (her name was Frank), and was willfully buried on Staten Island. Allegedly he was very mean. He is pretty much the reason people realized the government needs to regulate big business, as he was always doing shady and vengeful things with nary a care to how it impacted the economy.

The great-great-great-great grandfather of this television program
The great-great-great-great grandfather of this television program

What is the weirdest thing about the Vanderbilt family?

Well, I don’t know, almost everything seems weird to me about families who were alive in the 19th century because American culture was entirely different and, believe it or not, much worse than it is now. However to try to answer your question, Cornelius Vanderbilt was a member of the Moravian Church, which has some interesting customs: their cemeteries are organized by gender and age instead of family, for example. Also, journalist Anderson Cooper, who is descended from the Vanderbilts, lives in an old firehouse in the West Village that I have been told is haunted.

Back to Timothy.

You’re the one who didn’t know who Cornelius Vanderbilt was.

What are his films?

Catch and Release (a romance about fishing), Hitman (not a romance… about murder), Rango (as The Spirit of the West!, Mother’s Day (the final film directed by Gary Marshall, the renowned misogynist), and many others. As you can see, he’s not that big of a deal.

What are his TV shows?

Justified! He’s also the handsome guy on The Office who they refer to as “the handsome guy.” It was a short arc in one of the very late seasons, so you might not have seen it.

Is Timothy Olyphant a zombie on the show?

I guess you’ll just have to wait to find out.

santa clarita diet
Saeed Adyani / Netflix

Did we need another zombie show?


Did we need another upper-middle-class California couple show?


Did we need another real estate agent show?


Did we need another mysteriously packaged Netflix original?


Do we get all four of those things in Santa Clarita Diet anyway?


Hmm. How is the show — good? Bad? Medium?

Medium… which isn’t really good enough these days in my opinion. It’s the golden age of TV! Instead of watching this show you could catch up on Bloodline, which stars Emmy-winning Star Wars guy Ben Mendelsohn, Norbert Leo Butz from Broadway, Jessica Lange’s ex, Coach Taylor (!), and Sissy Spacek. You could also watch Vanderpump Rules, the greatest reality TV program of our time, or The Bachelor, the second-greatest. In my opinion, not enough people watched Lady Dynamite. That’s an option!

it’s the golden age of tv! “medium” is not good enough

How does the show compare to other gory things I enjoy — like previous zombie TV shows or bloody B-movies?

This show is not as plot-heavy as zombie TV shows such as The Walking Dead, nor do beloved characters die at a rate of 14 per episode. So it might be a more chill thing to watch, but it will also be less engaging. Compared to HBO’s Game of Thrones, which is somehow a zombie show, a dragons show, a witches show, an ice monster show, a medieval army fighting show, and a fashion show, it is much more focused on being one thing. Compared to bloody B-movies, Santa Clarita Diet stacks up pretty well. You can put the zombie murder scenes squarely next to anything from the back of your local Blockbuster and it will hold its own. There are blood spurts and barfed-up organs. It is campy, and some people are into that.

Is there a reason I should watch Santa Clarita Diet?

If you are a Netflix original series completist, that would be a good reason. If you are a big fan of Drew Barrymore, she is in nearly every scene so this will be a rewarding experience for you. If you love gross-out humor, I promise there is more than enough projectile vomit to keep you happy.

drew barrymore is the best part, as always

Also, despite the “medium” rating I just gave Santa Clarita Diet, there are some “good” elements to it. The writing is often witty and Drew Barrymore is as delightful as always. It’s interesting that when Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant go on the hunt for people for her to kill and eat they note that the ideal target would be a “young, single Hitler.” It reminds me of the time that the internet argued about whether or not it would be ethical to go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby. And that reminds me of the more recent conversation about whether it’s okay to punch a Nazi (yes… it is). This show is not really interested in the easy-to-answer moral question of whether one woman’s life is worth many other human beings lives, but at least it entertains the baby Hitler question.

At times, during this show, I laughed a little bit. It’s kind of funny! Drew Barrymore eats someone’s testicles, which is I think supposed to be sort of a shrewd joke about how people think women are monsters and “man-eaters.” Anyway, haha.

When can I view it?

The first season will be available on Netflix on February 3rd.