There are quite a few reality shows out there that are profession-based. Shows like ‘Pawn Stars‘ have enjoyed mainstream fame and have become more prominent, because if which they have collectively formed their own niche in the reality TV industry today. There is much more to it now than car-flipping and real estate showdown – it has expanded to cover all walks of life and many professions that fly under the radar otherwise.
Take, for example, the task of the undertakers. They are the exact topic of ‘The Casketeers’. However, instead of a patronizing quasi-documentary that caters to stereotypes, the series that airs on Netflix is rather a celebration of an area of life that is rarely ever glossed upon in the entirety of reality TV: death. The six-part show, which first aired on December 21, 2018, covers the professional life and enterprise of a Maori couple who are funeral directors. The show is a brainchild of Annabelle Lee-Harris, the very same creator behind shows about the way of the Maori – such as ‘The Hui’ (2016) and ‘Native Affairs’ (2007). Notably, the show is from New Zealand, obviously, since it explores Maori culture as well, and airs on TVNZ. The show first premiered there on January 13, 2018.
The Casketeers Cast: Who is in it?
Although there are many prominent figures among the cast in particular episodes, the show mostly highlights and centers around Francis Tipene and Kaiora Tipene, spouses who together direct the Tipene Funeral Home in Auckland, NZ. In the true spirit of reality TV, neither Francis nor Kaiora are actors or TV personalities by any stretch, although they are people persons, owing to their line of business. Having no mainstream TV personality ties does not bog the show down either, as Francis and Kaiora are charismatic as hosts. The show also dispenses with any third-party narrator for the most part, so it can be said that the main cast consists of Mr. and Mrs. Tipene, and since they are the heart of the show itself, we can be certain that they would be front and center stage again if there is going to be another season.
The Casketeers Plot: What is it about?
On a surface level, the show explores the day-to-day dealings and ordeals of Tipene Funerals, an elaborate funeral home, and service based in the suburban Onehunga in Auckland. But this itself sets the bar high for it because rather than product-shilling and/or formulaic, generic reality TV, it actually takes a look into the undertaker’s vocation – a topic quite overlooked not only on TV but also on other forms of media at large.
That said, the show does this in a very non-prosaic and personal way – rather than just handing out a slideshow of pieces of information and confession cuts, the show actually tells a story. It was a surprise hit when it turned up on the Australian Netflix, perhaps owing much to the tale of the Tipenes themselves, who were but a young couple who went into the funeral service industry with only a rudimentary sense and clutching on to Francis’ hunch about the stability of the business. ‘A business that is always busy’, says Francis in the show, ‘Why? Because people die.’ Other than some brief insight into the funeral industry itself, the show also captures well the whole procedure that is a funeral – everything from the preparations and the cremations to the burial.
While Francis’ passion had led him to become a part of this industry, Kaiora did not join until much later, after receiving a call from her husband to help dress the cadavers. While this would definitely be a morbid proposition to some, and Kaiora was no different, couples work because they support each other most when the other needs help. This is how Kaiora touched her first dead body. Soon after, she was helping her husband out in the business, and with New Zealand’s small population, the two have become celebrities ever since Netflix picked up the show.