The Casketeers: The funeral home reality show gaining a global audience

by Fiona Rae / 13 January, 2019
The Casketeers, Monday.

The Casketeers, Monday.

RelatedArticlesModule - The Casketeers reality show
Of all the hits of the past year, a reality show following the staff of a funeral home in Ōnehunga has to be the most unusual.

Suddenly, the process of laying a loved one to rest didn’t seem quite so onerous and it painted funeral directors in an entirely new light, too.

Francis and Kaiora Tipene and their staff became unlikely TV stars as they organised Māori, Pasifika and Pākehā funerals with love and care for the deceased and their families. The perfectionist Francis became a favourite, partly for his occasional unwise purchases and love of a good leaf-blower, but mostly for the pragmatic solicitude with which he attended the deceased.

And now The Casketeers (TVNZ 1, Monday, 8.00pm) is returning for a second season, which is no real surprise as the series has been picked up by Netflix for a global audience and is available in Australia and the US (here it’s available on TVNZ OnDemand).

Great Southern Pictures’ Phil Smith has said they’ll try for a third season, telling Stuff that “if you can do death and comedy together and it works, then globally you’re onto a winner. Just look at the success of shows like Six Feet Under.”

For the Tipenes, it is about opening up people’s eyes and encouraging celebration of someone’s life. One goal is to “educate our families”, Kaiora told RNZ National.

She and Francis are unusual: not many Māori go into the business of funeral directing because they see human remains as so deeply tapu.

“Death is not an everyday conversation,” she says, but the show has allowed people to talk about the process and demystify it. The Māori open-casket and tangi traditions are seen as a perfectly normal way of grieving and acknowledging the dead.

“Let’s be upfront and honest,” said Francis. “Not saying things like ‘grandma’s asleep’ and so on. Grandma’s passed away now.”

It’s the balance of humour and pathos that makes the series so compelling, and the couple acknowledge that there are difficult cases where they lean on each other for support.

One of the more affecting moments in season one was when Francis and his employee Fiona buried a baby’s tiny coffin in the rain, giving the wee soul the best send-off they could, with waiata and karakia.

“It’s about to going back to one another, embracing our children, loving them and talking together,” said Francis. And who knows? Maybe in season two, Kaiora will let him have a new leaf-blower.

This article was first published in the January 12, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more
Why Caroline Easther is thanking her Lucky stars
106325 2019-05-24 10:39:21Z Music

Why Caroline Easther is thanking her Lucky stars

by James Belfield

Well-known drummer Caroline Easther has stepped out front with a debut solo album.

Read more
Comedian buys Destiny Church's new political party's domain names
106322 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Comedian buys Destiny Church's new political party…

by RNZ

Comedian Tim Batt buys up domains for new Brian Tamaki-backed political party.

Read more
Simon Bridges is hobbled in hate-speech debate
106336 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Politics

Simon Bridges is hobbled in hate-speech debate

by Graham Adams

The National Party is leaving the heavy lifting of defending free expression to Act MP David Seymour.

Read more
When did a damn fine cup of coffee get so complicated?
106251 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Food

When did a damn fine cup of coffee get so complica…

by Jean Teng

Long-time latte sipper Jean Teng embarks on a journey through the world of soft brews.

Read more
Win a double pass to a special preview of Sometimes Always Never
106301 2019-05-24 00:00:00Z Win

Win a double pass to a special preview of Sometime…

by The Listener

Billy Nighy plays Alan, a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits, who has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son.

Read more
What we must learn from the Israel Folau controversy
106275 2019-05-23 09:31:01Z Social issues

What we must learn from the Israel Folau controver…

by The Listener

Israel Folau has done us the unintended favour of showing how hard and counterproductive it would be to try to outlaw all comments that ...

Read more