The Untold Truth Of The Casketeers

The Casketeers is the kind of reality show that really shouldn't work but totally does. Hailing from New Zealand and originally broadcast in 2018, the series has since made its way into the pantheon of under-appreciated Netflix gems, earning stars and real-life couple Francis and Kaiora Tipene a whole new legion of fans. The Casketeers unfortunately has nothing to do with "The Three Basketeers" referenced during a classic episode of Friends (think back to when Joey and Chandler's apartment was filled with fruit baskets) but it's just as lovably offbeat.

The show follows the Tipenes, who own and run their own funeral home in Onehunga, a suburb of Auckland, and combines equal amounts of humor and pathos with the requisite drama that occurs when a group of colorful people have to work together in often difficult circumstances. Death is tackled head on by the grieving families and the Tipenes alike. Unsurprisingly, it's an incredibly binge-worthy proposition.

The Casketeers is a major global hit

The premise might sound a little nutty on the surface, but The Casketeers is being heralded as a life-affirming joy to watch, in spite of the outwardly dark subject matter. Decider notes that, at first, the show seems like a "dark" take on The Office, complete with "hilarious confessionals, awkward interpersonal interactions, and way too many giggles for a business concerned with death." However, the show quickly develops into a surprisingly poignant, and frequently laugh-out-loud, funny take on life and death (particularly when Francis has to deal with personal loss, too).

Likewise, Aussie site Daily Review gushed that the show is so fantastic, and "beautifully framed," it's wild that it isn't actually scripted. Overall, "the morbid silliness is interspersed with touching depictions of how delicately and deliberately Francis and his colleagues care for the bodies of the deceased — as well as the feelings of their families." 

Francis and Kaiora Tipene are bemused by their own fame

The biggest selling point of The Casketeers is the Tipene family themselves. As Francis and Kaiora told The Guardian, however, they don't really get what the big deal is about them being on TV. Although they get recognized on the street all the time and are now all over the most popular streaming service in the world, Kaiora reasoned, "It's just Netflix eh? We're not much into all that stuff." She was interested in doing a show from the outset, but, "Being Māori, the images of our loved ones are very sacred, and they shouldn't be exposed in vain, or having any disrespect. Francis was initially a hard no."

Kaiora felt that funeral directors were perceived wrongly, and sensed an opportunity to educate others which, according to producer Annabelle Lee-Mather, they've certainly achieved. "It has given people an opportunity to talk with their families, ask questions and get a better understanding of it. It is the only thing we all know with certainty — we're all going to die," Lee-Mather argued of the show's universal appeal.