Last week I turned on my Netflix and noticed that they finally added this new show I’ve been hearing about with Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. I didn’t know much about it, but everything is set up perfectly in the pilot. Shelia and Joel are a loving couple from California who work as real estate agents together. After a particularly gruesome bout of projectile vomiting during an open house, Joel finds Shelia unconscious with no pulse – until she wakes up. While still technically dead, Shelia finds that she has a new urge to eat only raw meat and after a while, it becomes something more sinister. I know many people are turned off instantly at the very mention of a zombie plot, but I tend to be of the opposite mind – and this one is decidedly different.
While dealing with a heavy subject, this show is a pure comedy – with a veritable rotating cast of comedic character actors, highlights among them including Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, and Portia de Rossi. Barrymore is truly back on her game as the once boring realtor turned life of the party undead. And Olyphant, fresh off his excellent comedic arc on The Grinder, plays off Barrymore so well as the dad who is just trying to keep it all together after this insane turn of events. They have impressive chemistry which extends to their on-screen, only child Abby (Liv Hewson).
After accidentally killing and eating their co-worker Gary, a very persistent Nathan Fillion, when he wouldn’t accept Shelia’s no as an answer to having an affair, Joel and Shelia try to cover it up. Things really get messy when they get caught trying to dispose of the body by Abby and next-door neighbor Eric, who becomes their go to zombie expert with a major crush on their daughter. They surprisingly take it in stride and immediately help cover it up. Unfortunately, Shelia has now lost all her taste for packaged raw meat and needs to start eating people to satiate her hunger. Joel and Shelia try to hide this new fact from their daughter, but she’s a lot smarter than they give her credit for. Ultimately, all four of them attempt to keep it under wraps and keep up appearances, but by living bookended by nosy Sheriff Dan (Ricardo Chavira) and laid back Santa Monica cop Rick (Richard T. Jones), things get a bit complicated. Secrets aren’t exactly easy to keep to yourselves in suburbia.
While Shelia does infect one other person over the course of the season, a former thug named Loki, this is not intended to be an end of the world, all-encompassing outbreak, as it’s not a large-scale story. Many zombie plots want to focus on the spread of the affliction, but this is about a family that just wants to be whatever version of normal they can have, no matter what that means for them now. The major conflicts throughout the season are focused on their day-to-day problems inherent in the family unit– it really is it’s own full time job just finding people to eat, much less actually keeping up appearances with everything else life, or in this this case death, throws at you.
Instead of creating a big mess to be cleaned up in further seasons, the first season ends with Shelia and Joel at an impasse with each other. When it comes down to it, they are there for each other and just want things to be as normal as possible, no matter what that means now. As a first season, the show does a solid job of setting up their premise and making it stand out from a sea of zombie-related TV. The show hasn’t been picked up for a season 2 yet, but if they do I look forward to seeing how they expand the world they’ve created.
I really loved the show! It was also a lot more clever than I expected. Everything that was set up in the first two episodes ended up being referenced or nuanced later on in the season, and I LOVE when shows can pull that off! I can’t wait for season 2!
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