The Netflix Zombie Series That Should Have Outlasted The Walking Dead

By Britta DeVore | Updated

Santa Clarita Diet

Since Victor Halperin unleashed the genre onto the world with 1932’s White Zombie, stories surrounding the brain-eating living dead have become a fixture in pop culture. While The Walking Dead may be the biggest zombie-based franchise to date, Netflix struck gold when the streamer released Santa Clarita Diet in 2017. With a killer cast and a comedic twist on the gore-filled horror, the Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant-led gone-too-soon series is an absolute must-watch for Netflix subscribers. 

Taking place in sunny and beautiful California, Santa Clarita Diet centers around a husband and wife real estate team. Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) have long been trusted members of the community to get prospective buyers the fairest price around on homes.

Shows like those from The Walking Dead franchise hit the nail on the head when it came to the horror aspect of the zombie genre, but beyond pulse-pounding life-or-death moments stacked with drama, the brand is completely lacking.

But when Sheila develops an odd taste for human flesh, the duo needs to face the unbelievable reality that she’s becoming a zombie. As Sheila shifts more toward monster than human, the blood-filled hijinks pick up as the family tries to stay grounded amongst the living.

Drew Barrymore as Sheila in Santa Clarita Diet

Along with A-list leaders, Timothy Olyphant (Justified: City Primeval) and Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer), Santa Clarita Diet also featured a lineup including Skyler Gisondo (The Righteous Gemstones), Liv Hewson (Yellowjackets), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives), Andy Richter (Andy Richter Controls the Universe), Nathan Fiillion (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Alan Tudyk (Resident Alien), Joy Osmanski (Grey’s Anatomy), Richard T. Jones (Ally McBeal), Kaylee Bryant (Legacies), and Natalie Morales (Parks and Recreation).

Along with its recurring cast, Santa Clarita Diet also featured guest performances from familiar names including Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development), Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs), and Ravi Patel (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). 

Netflix Cancels Santa Clarita Diet

Season after season, Santa Clarita Diet hit a high note with critics, creating a snowball effect of word-of-mouth and drawing viewers in by the droves. From the storyline and its writing to the performances of its main cast, everyone seemed to have nothing but good things to say about the Netflix horror comedy series.

But, by the time the third season rolled around, the show was removed from the streamer’s upcoming docket, cutting down hopes that a fourth installment would be on the way.

With a show as successful as Santa Clarita Diet being given the feared news of cancellation, it begs the question of what shows are safe. Because the production’s ratings were only continuing to grow, the general consensus behind the series’ axing is that Netflix had to make some tough budget decisions. At the end of the day, no bit of content is truly safe when the numbers are crunched and difficult decisions need to be made.

Santa Clarita Diet

Still, Santa Clarita Diet was in a league of its own when it came to zombie IP. Sure, it was filled with blood, guts, and gore, but it was also chock full of laugh-out-loud moments with the balance of each perfectly executed by its leading cast members. 

Shows like those from The Walking Dead franchise hit the nail on the head when it came to the horror aspect of the zombie genre, but beyond pulse-pounding life-or-death moments stacked with drama, the brand is completely lacking. And, although there’s a fine line between overstuffing comedy into a horror fest, Santa Clarita Diet managed to weave the two together with ease.

Are Zombies Still Scary?

Beyond the cancellation of Santa Clarita Diet, there’s the question of whether zombies are really all that terrifying anymore. The world of The Walking Dead is oversaturated with stories even almost one year after the 11 Season-running series has come to an end.

From Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and Michonne (Danai Gurira), the main characters have gotten the next chapter in their stories thanks to a handful of spin-offs. But do they still hit audiences in the way they once did?

The terror that was first brought in films including the aforementioned White Zombie and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead broke the mold for the genre, but is it now completely over-saturated?

While the question is better answered on a personal basis and how fans react to projects including all of The Walking Dead off-shoots, there isn’t another title out there that bridged the gap between horror and comedy quite like Santa Clarita Diet. Check out all three seasons, now streaming on Netflix.