May 04, 2004

Family Plots

Six Feet Under is one of my favorite shows on HBO. So when I heard about Family Plots, a documentary series on A&E about a funeral home, my ears perked up. (Sorry, I am sick of the phrase "reality show.") The most interesing aspect is the family dynamic in the funeral home. I haven't figured out, or actually it hasn't been explained, how this situation came to be, but this funeral home employs three sisters, the girls' father works there too but he doesn't own the place. He's just a flunky who picks up bodies. The middle sister handles the embalming and deals with the "remains." The youngest is the secretary, and the oldest helps with the funerals. The oldest is also engaged to the owner. This makes for another interesting dynamic.

Chuck, the father of the three sisters, is the clown in this circus. He's a piece o' work. He's not a bad guy; he's real good guy. He is also however, a 63-year-old former boxer, who acts like he may have taken a few too many haymakers during his career. He's always forgetting things. They send him to get a body and he gets lost or he can't figure out how to get into the nursing home. He leaves and they expect him back in 30 minutes but he's gone for two hours. During the episode I just watched, he was trying to buy a car but he lost his paycheck, therefore he was missing half his down payment.

More time though is spent with Shonna, the middle sister who handles the dirty work. She seems to be a type A, never standing still. During an episode this evening we saw why she works in the back. In an unusual situation, she had to meet with a family who needed services. She's obviously too empathetic for this aspect of the business because after they left she started crying. No funeral director can fall into the emotions of his or her clients. Rick, the owner, during an earlier show stated that he learned early on that if he gets down where his customers are, then he can't help them.

Family Plots keeps it morbidly interesting by showing dead bodies here and there, usually on the embalming table. We did follow Chuck on one of his pick up runs and see him take the body of a woman out of a nursing home. We see his emotions in dealing with the situation, and hear his observation that "this was once a beautiful woman." Chuck, we've heard, is also a recovering alcoholic, so one supposes that perhaps he was down and out and his daughters got him a job to keep him off the street. If so, God bless them.

This show has lots of laughter. The people, even the embalmer-woman, honestly seem to enjoy their work. They are always chuckling about how stressed they are and how anything that can go wrong will. Each day is a new adventure.

Posted by Wayne at May 4, 2004 12:48 AM
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