What’s making me happy this week, March 7

santaclaritadietImagine a version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in which Ozzie kills people so that Harriet Nelson may eat them.

That’s Netflix’s The Santa Clarita Diet.

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant play Sheila and Joel, two successful realtors in the eponymous town. Their problems are typical of upper middle-class American suburbanites: Sheila wishes she were more spontaneous, Joel longs for the nerve to confront his obnoxious neighbor and their teenage daughter, Abby (played by Liv Hewson) wants to be anywhere but Santa Clarita.

Then Shelia (briefly) dies after a staggering bout of vomiting and finds herself riding the high an unbridled id, a revived libido and an overwhelming need to consume human flesh.

That’s in the first 10 minutes.

Drew is fantastic as Shelia, and her performance here reminds me of how well she can do physical comedy. Whether it’s a perfectly timed expression of exasperation or an unexpected prat fall, Drew makes me genuinely laugh.

Liv Hewson is great as the sardonic teen. Fortunately her performance never falls into that of the stereotypically sullen teen with well-off parents. She holds her own against Barrymore and Olyphant, making Abby into an interesting character, not just a caricature.

But really, this is Timothy Olyphant’s show.

As Shelia’s “condition” worsens – she goes from eating raw beef to drinking human smoothies while power-walking in a track suit – the strain on Joel’s face and his demeanor becomes delightfully pronounced. He’s a pot of boiling water whose rattling lid barely contains the bubbling, steaming cauldron beneath, and he plays it wonderfully. From his facial expressions to the forced, almost insane smile and “NO, REALLY, IT’S FINE” demeanor, Olyphant is a delight to watch.

There’s a bit for everyone here: The show is funny, with many quotable lines I won’t spoil. The show is gory. Keep a finger on the fast-forward button if the thought of Drew Barrymore eating a foot turns you off. The show has zombie lore, if that’s something you’re into. Lastly, there are some great cameos.

When the movie Scream was released, I said, “Any movie that kills Drew Barrymore within the first 10 minutes isn’t fooling around.” The same can be said of a TV show that turns her into a flesh-eating zombie in the same amount of time. Yes it’s a little gory, but it’s also clever, witty, funny and fun. Go now and watch The Santa Clarita Diet. Just, you know. After you’ve eaten.

What’s making me happy this week: Aug 13

Here’s a look at some of the amazing, hilarious and thoughtful things that are making me happy this week.

Within the Wires

PrintWithin the Wires is the lastest podcast from Nightvale Presents, the group behind Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead. Written by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson (and narrated by Matthewson), Within the Wires presents itself as a series of “relaxation cassettes” that you, the listener, are to experience when you are calm, quiet and alone. In your designated room. Somewhere inside “The Institute.”

As the 10-episode series progresses, fulfill the narrator’s mandate to “listen, remember, comprehend” and you’ll discover a story within the surrealism. A story with specific instructions. There’s more than mindfulness going on here, and each small revelation adds to the larger narrative. I’m having great fun listening, remembering and comprehending Within the Wires.

Dilemma

sueDilemma is a half-hour panel show on BBC Radio 4 extra in which the delightful and hilarious Sue Perkins presents guests with morally ambiguous situations and forces them to defend the actions they’d take if in those very scenarios.

It’s a lot funnier than I’ve made it out to be.

Much like the 1990’s party game Scruples, Dilemma presents a situation and asks players how they’d act. For example, “You’ve been offered $25,000 to give a one-hour talk at a convention put up by [Company A]. The topic is right in your wheelhouse. The only problem is that Company A is owned by your spouse’s nemesis, and s/he is begging you not to do it, despite the fact that you really need the money.”

The reason that Dilemma works so well is Sue Perkins. She’s very fast on her feet, witty and does not let her guests out of giving a definitive answer and defending it. My favorite segment is the lightning round in which contestants have only a couple of seconds to pick the more morally upright item in a pairing:

“One massive eye in your forehead or never eat dairy again.”
“Robocop or Terminator: which is the better middle name for your child?”
“Would you rather the queen’s face be as small as it is on stamps, or that stamps were as big as her face?”

It’s smart and funny.

The Girl With All The Gifts trailer

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey and now I’m going crazy for this trailer. This atypical zombie story features Melanie, a “hungry” (the book’s term for zombie) who is strapped to her wheelchair every morning, at gunpoint, and wheeled into her classroom. Melanie’s teacher, scientist Helen Justineau, recognizes something in her student that’s beyond her condition or her genius IQ. The story goes on from there.

The trailer seems to retain the smart, subtle horror, heartbreak and moral ambiguity of Carey’s novel. It’s gotten me excited for the film, and that’s a trailer’s job, isn’t it?