If So Many Fans Loved ‘Santa Clarita Diet,’ Why Couldn’t It Survive?

Finding new variations to the zombie genre is not easy, especially during a time when it’s completely oversaturated and on a slight downside if you go by The Walking Dead.

Somehow, Drew Barrymore and her production team managed to convince Netflix they could create an entertaining new comedy using a zombie trope within a typical suburban family.

We’ll never know how the pitch initially went to Netflix about Santa Clarita Diet. Describing a suburban mother who becomes “undead” and starts craving human flesh must have raised a few eyebrows at first.

Netflix bought it and it became a moderate hit there beginning in 2017. After three seasons, Netflix just abruptly canceled the show, right during a cliffhanger. Fans are not pleased, though Netflix is giving usual network-like reasons for putting it on the chopping block.

Netflix logo shown on a smart phone screen
Netflix logo | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

How many people were really watching ‘Santa Clarita Diet’?

A lot of fans are ticked off Netflix is becoming too trigger-happy with their shows of late. This officially makes them like mainstream networks now where they figure an investment isn’t worth it if ratings don’t show significant viewership by a certain point.

For many, that’s just a little too fast without giving shows a chance. We used to see this happen on the big four TV networks for years until programming execs realized they were jumping the gun.

Many networks nowadays keep renewing shows with relatively low ratings during live viewings. One reason behind this is ratings calculations are figured differently and now include those who watch online later or via DVR.

Streaming ratings are still a big unknown at how the platforms measure viewership. All of them keep those numbers a secret, something they may not be able to keep under wraps forever.

With Santa Clarita Diet canceled last April by Netflix, there doesn’t seem to be any second chances.

According to Cindy Holland, head of content at Netflix, the company invests a little heavier into shows they really want. If they see it wasn’t quite worth the upfront investment, they’re not going to hesitate canceling sooner than later.

Can the show move elsewhere?

Some producers might begin to have trepidation making deals with Netflix since it’s been revealed their contract stipulates any canceled show can’t immediately move to another network or platform for a number of years.

How many years this entails isn’t completely confirmed (some say two years at least), yet it’s a slightly shocking revelation and could affect the talent they attract in the future. Unlike regular networks where shows can immediately move to another competing network or even streaming, Netflix is sort of boxing in showrunners.

Ultimately, this means Santa Clarita Diet will probably end here and won’t be able to continue on another streaming service or even on cable TV where it could find a bigger audience.

We can certainly see why the show’s premise wasn’t for everybody. It’s still a shame to see Netflix become a little too controlling of their shows, which may be a new warning when a platform is too eager to dole out upfront capital.

Could ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ find a way to work around the Netflix rules?

No doubt you remember when the One Day at a Time reboot on Netflix was canceled, leading to a major uproar from fans. The Deadline report above says ODaT had a less restrictive clause in their contract, making it possible for it to move to the CBS-owned Pop Network next year for a fourth season.

From all indications, this Netflix moratorium on not being able to continue a canceled show elsewhere may be negotiable based on the contract previously signed.

Perhaps Santa Clarita Diet had a similar contract, enabling it to move to a cable network sooner than later. Then again, maybe not in a time when zombie tropes are just becoming too tired of late in a world already filled with a little too much dread.