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TV series mixes laughter with sadness

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A TV series about dying and funerals does not sound like cheerful or compulsive viewing but it has been a surprise hit on our screens this summer. The Casketeers stars local couple, Francis and Kaiora Tipene, and their funeral business, Tipene Funerals. The popular show, a weekly ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary, has given its audience a mix of laughter and sadness in equal measures. 

 

 

 

Francis says when the programme first aired, he felt there was too much laughter for a subject normally full of ceremony and ritual, but he soon came to accept that it was necessary to counteract the sadness, “or people would not watch it.”

Both Francis and Kaiora feel the series has opened up a dialogue about death, which people have been traditionally reluctant to have. 

“We worry about living our life and paying tomorrow’s bills rather than death, but I hope it’s a conversation we can have now,” says Francis. 

“There’s a huge population out there still stuck in a morbid way of thinking,” adds Kaiora. 

Francis explains that they initially felt the filming might be too invasive. However, it has been done so sensitively and edited so well, their worries have been unfounded. The couple also thought there might be negative feedback about the occasional use of “reo Maori”, but watchers say they have enjoyed it. 

“It’s one way, as Maori, we can share our language, our culture, with the country for us all to enjoy,” says Francis. 

The couple, who have a busy family of four boys, who all attend local schools and day care, try to get away “into the middle of nowhere” as much as they can. 

During term-time however, it’s local activities, riding bikes along Taumanu, playing in Jellicoe Park, and making music at home. 

“It’s taken us a while to know the community but we’ve just fallen in love with it.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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