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David Basckin... On the Couch: Funerals real people want… dead or alive

THERE are reality shows about fat people, and there are reality shows about low-taste couples getting married. There are reality shows about pawn shops, |car -restorers and do-it-yourself gold miners in Alaska. 

But a few nights ago, I hit the big daddy reality show of them all – and I promise you, there was not a Kardashian in sight. Instead there were the grateful dead, all starring on something truly unforgettable called Best Funeral Ever

It’s on TLC, and it’s a series. Which means lots of Best Funerals Ever – especially when DStv hits the repeat button. It seems that somewhere in Dallas, there’s a funeral parlour that has redefined the whole “life after death” shtick. 

Mourners – and I use the term loosely – approach this wide-awake business in search of a truly novel send-off. I watched three of these things in a row, in a state of disbelief. One of them – almost at random – went just like this. A pastor, truly beloved by his family, Jesus and the congregation – had a full-on death experience. 

We sat in with the family as they underwent the pre-funeral interview with two fulsome funeral planners. The dearly beloved was a great fan of television Westerns. It stands to reason that what was wanted was a replay of the best set-ups in cowboy movies. 

Having sold the idea, the funeral parlour and its many employees had a sit-down pow-wow, and resolved to make things happen. First, the resident keyboardist and his lyricist created the theme tune. Next, a couple of hearty women from the back office invented a suitable cowboy-style dance. 

The funeral parlour’s exuberant in-house stylist dressed them in bustiers and ostrich feathers, while technical help got going on the big issue: how to get a dead man in a coffin to play High Noon Quick-Draw. But what the hell, we’re getting just a little ahead of ourselves.
What about the context, or more accurately, the location for this going-home event? Fortunately, the planners located a theme park in the city that contained a movie-set main street, circa 1860. The owner was only too glad to let the funeral take place there – provided there was no burial on the lawn. 

“No burial on the lawn,” promised the planners. 
Next crisis: how to get a dead man to draw a six gun for the High Noon shoot-out. Don’t let me get ahead of myself, the mourners – dressed like cowboys and bar-room women – gathered in the dusty main street of the set. 

Six strong men slow-marched with the coffin on their shoulders. The priest on duty, dressed in costume, blessed the dearly departed. Round the corner of the blacksmith’s shop, or maybe it was the saloon, there appeared a menacing figure who struck a threatening pose in the middle of the street. 

Shoot-out time, folks. The pall bearers – this is the holy truth, dear readers, I’m not making anything up – set the coffin on its feet (so to speak), with a gun belt round its waist – assuming for a moment coffins have waists. 

The dude drew his gun, but not before an automated, remote-controlled device within the coffin (with the dead chap) drew its own gun and shot the challenger. Western song and dance with bustier-clad women took to the street, and the beloved pastor, in the words of the funeral director, went home. Hallelujah!

This column was published in the 13 Jul 2014 issue of the SMtv 

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