This Quirky Netflix Show Is Making Talking About Death Less Scary & Taboo

by Rebecca Patton
Screenshot via Netflix

Returning for its second season June 21, The Casketeers is a docuseries following Francis and Kaiora Tipene as they run a Māori funeral home in Auckland, New Zealand. That may sound like a morose premise, but the show is far from it, with its subjects goofing off, cracking jokes, and having a great time while giving their clients a meaningful funeral experience. And though it hasn't yet been announced if The Casketeers will return for Season 3, it seems pretty likely if all goes according to plan.

The series originally premiered on New Zealand network TVNZ before arriving on Netflix in late 2018. Consequently, Season 2 aired overseas back in January 2019, and it's only now being added to Netflix. If there is a third season, it probably won't air in New Zealand until January 2020, which means American audiences will likely have to wait until this time next year to stream it on Netflix.

The good news? Season 3 is already in the works. In December 2018, New Zealand site Stuff reported that the show's production company, Great Southern Pictures, was currently applying for funding for a third season. Furthermore, Great Southern Pictures' managing director, Phil Smith, told the site, "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," so clearly, they're determined to make more episodes happen.

The Tipenes, meanwhile, have become a beloved TV couple, with the Guardian reporting that they're now recognized wherever they go in New Zealand. Indeed, after Casketeers' first season premiered, the New Zealand Herald called it "an instant Kiwi classic," and once it landed on Netflix, the rest of the world became just as enamored. And though the Tipenes themselves were initially hesitant to do the show, as Kaiora told The Guardian, the result has been pretty valuable for Māori representation.

According to the Guardian, The Casketeers is funded by a Māori funding initiative called Te Māngai Pāho. And in addition to depicting Māori and Polynesian funerals, the show often features its subjects speaking te reo — the Māori language — which is translated with subtitles. In doing so, the series is introducing a global audience to the beauty of Māori culture, such as with funereal rituals like the haka and tangihanga (similar to a wake or Jewish shiva).

"The show is taking the taboo of death away and making it less frightening and less scary," The Casketeers creator Annabelle Lee-Mather told the Guardian. "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."

Rather than be afraid of it, The Casketeers embraces and celebrates death — or more accurately, the life that precedes it. So while it may sound like an odd premise, it's one worth a Season 3, and if that funding comes through, we'll almost certainly be getting one.