by Nick Christiansen
The Santa Clarita diet is an interesting show because it is built off of two very different genres. It blends horror and comedy into something very unique. The dialogue, set design, and general vibe all make you think the show is just a simple comedy. I mean everything is lighthearted, most of the shots are vibrant and sunny, and even the music is cheerful and fun. But when it comes to the plot, the show is simply a horror. It revolves around a man’s wife who goes crazy and gets an appetite for human flesh. Cannibalism and zombies are textbook horror elements but they are used in a non typical way. The scariest part of the pilot episode is when the wife is seen gruesomely eating a man that she works with. When the husband steps outside and sees this, he is shocked like anyone would be, but then just has a puzzled and almost playful look on his face. It then became apparent to me that this is the trick to balancing the two opposing genres. You can expose the audience to grizzly murders and lots of blood as long as you keep it lighthearted. Things can be made lighthearted by using vibrant sets, happy music, and unrealistically relaxed actors. This show does this perfectly from what I’ve seen.
The show Godless is in the genre of western but it explores fresh themes. It sets up a unique setting where a town is filled with mostly women as a mining disaster killed off 80 men. This leaves the town particularly vulnerable to the dangers of the wild west. In this show, the main danger is a man named Frank Griffin and his 32 men. Frank is seen in the first episode leading an attack on a town killing men, women, and children. It is mentioned that no group will go against him so the military may have to be contacted. So what does all of this have to do with the name of the show? Well from what I can tell by reading the articles, the show has a major theme of survival of the fittest and deals with how it’s better to count on yourself for survival than to count on God in such a cutthroat environment. A character in the show even says, “God created man but also created the rattlesnake.” This is a very intense theme and it makes the show grittier than most. It also ties into the modern day because no matter what time period you’re in, life can be brutal, difficult, and unforgiving. Perhaps the show tells us not to get soft just because we now live in a more advanced society, but to stay tough because tough circumstances will always arise. The show also contains many typical elements of a western including horses, single action revolvers, and beautiful scenery. It goes for historical accuracy and adds it’s own flair through impressive cinematography achieved through modern cameras.
The show Lost in Space is an interesting one because it harnesses classic sci-fi elements and makes the story family friendly. The pilot starts off with a family playing cards at a table inside a spacecraft. Immediately families can vibe with this, but then the situation takes a turn for the worst. The ship they’re in begins landing on a planet, but is then struck by debris making the landing much rougher than expected. The family then has to work together to solve a number of challenges that follow after landing using scientific and practical knowledge. For example, to try to melt out their frozen daughter, the father and son go after a flammable material the son recognizes off in the distance. The use of scientific knowledge to problem solve is something that has been seen in sci-fi dating back to the original Star Trek series. After all, sci-fi is an abbreviation of science fiction so you would expect science to play a large role. Another thing that is very classically sci-fi in this show is the use of spacecraft and the inclusion of aliens. An alien ship lands near the family and the son saves an alien by allowing it to reconnect it’s body. The aliens are more like re-programmable attack droids leading us to assume a true alien master exists. This show even makes classic sci-fi mistakes like when the crew takes off their helmets; this leads to the demise of the main characters in the last two Alien movies. This would never happen in real life. Just because the atmosphere is breathable doesn’t mean that it is safe. I like this series because it provides good quality adventurous content to a family audience and encourages children to use their brains.