The time has come: Stock up on canned goods, retreat to your fortified basement, and wait for a torrent of hellfire from a wrathful God, because TLC aired a show last night called Best Funeral Ever, and there is no way this doesn’t signal the end of human civilization as we know it. Ok, ok. I’m being dramatic. If humanity can survive the creation of ills like military drones and subprime mortgages and Jack in the Box’s new grilled cheese sandwich that’s served on top of a cheeseburger, surely we can create another asinine reality show without being vaporized to ashes. But we’re definitely stretching the limits of acceptable exploitation at this point. Think about it: because of this show, some big-shot TV executive is now paying for his Maserati and Kale-Acai smoothie habit by filming families grieve the loss of their loved ones. Even the Kardashians, who have never met a marriage/birth/vagina waxing they didn’t want to televise, would probably find this show to be gauche. If that’s not a cue to run to Costco and buy an Olympic-sized pool’s worth of doomsday supplies and a swing set (just for the hell of it since you’re at Costco), I don’t know what is.
Now, all this isn’t to say that you should avoid Best Funeral Ever. No, no. It’s definitely an omen of our demise as a species, but it’s the most entertaining omen ever. Let me catch you up just in case you have a modicum of self-respect and decided to like, read up on like the Iran nuclear agreement instead of spending your Monday virtually crashing strangers’ funerals. The show follows the adventures of the staff at the Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, who have done away with those gloomy funeral traditions that make you feel like you’re in an Edgar Allen Poe poem, and instead offer whimsical “home-going celebrations” to send off the dearly departed.
What is it like to attend a home-going celebration? Well, I wasn’t physically there, but I can tell you I had a helluva time attending those funerals through my TV in my incredibly tattered yoga pants that should never be seen in public (that’s the proper dress code for watching all of TLC’s programming by the way). I can also tell you that these ceremonies were waaaay better than most funerals where your aunt’s potato salad is the only form of comfort, and the confrontation with eternal nothingness makes you sad/want to listen to Pink Floyd on repeat. Sure, the theatrics of the ceremonies were a little campy and exaggerated — think a big fat Greek wedding mixed with a cruise ship show mixed with a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But that lightheartedness helps to minimize the gravity we assign to death and honor the person as they were in life. It’s quite sweet when you actually see it on screen and not vulgarly described in an article by a smart-ass TV-reviewer (ahem).
The best part is that each ceremony is centered around a theme—something that person loved while they were alive, whether it was animals, sports or bacon omelets. And I’m not even trying to be funny with the bacon omelet reference. In last night’s episode, one ceremony honored the departed’s love of breakfast by having people dress up as… breakfast. To really flesh out that scene for you visually even though you’re going to YouTube it, let me underscore that there were people speaking at a funeral in pancake suits. Pancake suits. Umm, that’s probably the best thing I’ve ever seen. You now, besides the 30 times a day I see something on the Internet and exclaim “that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.” Other funerals featured quirks like rolling a casket down a bowling lane and sending an Olympic-athlete’s casket down the finish line one last time. So to sum it up, this show is basically My Super Sweet 16 for dead people. But instead of ruining the world like those teenage brats, these souls are leaving the world, and leaving in a way that’s touchingly personal.
Of course, the show is still morally dubious underneath those moments of “aw,” but it might change how you approach your own final arrangements, and even death itself. I know it has for me. Because now that I’ve seen what’s possible, I can’t possibly have a regular funeral with measly heartfelt speeches and elegant flower arrangements. So I’ve decided that everyone at my funeral will dress as Jedis, and they shall light-saber-fence across a room that’s meticulously designed to resemble the planet Endor because that’s just how I want to go out. It’s going to be amazing. And I’m oddly looking forward to it. In fact, I might just be more excited about my future funeral than my future wedding. Oh god, does this mean funerals are the new weddings? Will our goodbyes to this world involve charming letterpress invitations and quirky mason jars and old-school photobooths? That sound you just heard was Pinterest breaking at the prospect of a million perfectly-lit stock photos of coffins clogging its servers. Welcome to a new era in death profiteering. And damnit TLC, I will play the part you want me to play.