Courtesy of TVNZ for the above clip
“The funeral business is generally always busy” Tipene Funeral Owner Francis tells us, “Why? Because people die.” Mixing comedy with the trials and tribulations of running a funeral business, The Casketeers follows a tight-knit family through six episodes that swing back and forth between drama and comedy. There will of course be some that are instantly turned away from this style of tempering humour with death but for the most part, The Casketeers is an eye-opening, respectful documentary series that adds its comedy with care.
Now, at this point it’s worth mentioning I don’t have direct experience working in this industry. From what I’ve heard, this channeled humour is generally pretty accurate and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for these people to work with the deceased all day, every day. The gravitas of which is perfectly shown during a particularly emotional segment involving a baby burial. In fact, there are numerous emotional segments that bring the family together to honour the memory of the deceased and it really helps show how much care and respect this family have, even with the comedy placed throughout the episodes.
The first episode is a little rough around the edges and does take a while to warm to the style depicted. After a few episodes though, The Casketeers settles into a consistent rhythm, showing a lot of respect for funeral traditions while allowing us to see the familial humour play out for this group of workers. Each episode follows a pretty standard format, mixing the funeral rituals and wishes of loved ones for the deceased with the various stages of preparing a body for the upcoming service. All of which sprinkled with personal life developments for each of the workers which is where the humour comes in.
All of this is fronted by Francis, a lovable man and a big perfectionist. During the course of the series we see this play out before us, as he often takes over and tries to micromanage every element of the business including offering diet pills to one of his hardest workers and getting involved with the musical elements of the services. From dressing the body to making sure the casket is nailed just so, you can’t help but admire his attention to detail. Joining him is his right hand man Scottie, fellow funeral worker Fiona and his wife. The latter of which self proclaims that she oversees the whole operation, managing the accounts and stops Francis from buying unnecessary items. Like a more powerful leaf-blower.
This balance of humour and insightful, respectful narration on the whole process of preparing for funerals is something that’s perfectly captured during some of the later episodes. The Casketeers is a really heartwarming documentary series, one that balances its humour and drama with care, paying homage to an industry that must be unimaginably difficult to work in.