What a shame squeamish Stacey shied away from this TV taboo
You can’t take it with you. But you can do the next best thing — buy a gold-plated coffin, the Cadillac of burial caskets, for £42,499. Stacey Dooley was exploring a coffin workshop on Inside The Undertakers (BBC1). Her eye was taken by the purple ‘full glitter’ laminate and the rainbow lining, for making a woke transition to the Next Life.
But she was doubtful about going too bling, and rightly so. The gold sarcophagus went out of fashion with Ramses II and the Ancient Egyptians. It attracts grave-robbers.
Stacey was taking a tour with 80year-old Pat, there to plan her own funeral. Pat was more interested in the wicker coffins. They offered a double advantage: cheap and biodegradable. That’s all very well, but I don’t want to depart this world in a picnic hamper, as though I were a round of ham sandwiches.
The ultimate budget option was a cardboard box. Stacey knocked one over and for a moment I thought a paper Dracula was going to slide out. ‘Cardboard?’ she asked incredulously. ‘What if it’s raining?’
Good point. I’ve never been to a funeral when it didn’t pour. The saleswoman suggested bringing umbrellas, but you’d be taking a
risk. Supposing the thing went soggy and crumpled — or, worse, the bottom fell out.
It was the only moment in this one-off documentary when Stacey seemed confidently in control. Most of the time, she seemed about to dash off camera, shrieking.
We’ve seen her confronting neoNazis and reporting from warzones without flinching. But actual corpses were more than she could cope with. She admitted as much at the outset, and this was meant to be a transformative experience for her. But after visiting crematoriums, morgues and gravestone factories, she left as squeamish as she arrived.
Her usual knack for empathetic questioning deserted her. one chap, a pallbearer aptly named Paul, took her to collect cadavers from the hospital. It could be an emotional business, he said. The first time he saw a body, ‘it was moving’.
Stacey blanched. ‘Wotcha mean, the body was moving?’
Paul clarified: the corpse was motionless, but the experience moved him.
Later, she watched aghast as a mortician named olivia showed her the process of preserving a body. olivia was 22 and had been doing the job for six years. Stacey could barely speak, which left her unable to ask the obvious question: how does a 16- year- old find herself doing a job like that?
It’s hard to imagine her school careers officer suggested it: ‘olivia, you could stay on to do A-levels, or there’s a funeral parlour down the road with a vacancy for an embalmer. Do you like the smell of formaldehyde?’
Television rarely tackles the topic of death, which is foolish since most of the other TV taboos are long gone. Good documentaries, such as the one compiled during her fatal illness by ‘Bowel Babe’ Dame Deborah James, are rare. That makes it all the more frustrating that Stacey shied away from her subject here.
Some of the jokes in Hullraisers (Ch4) have been resurrected from the dead, and would have been better left buried.
Leah Brotherhead and Sinead Matthews play bickering sisters Toni and Paula, who whinge constantly about misogyny and gender inequality, while leaving their menfolk to do all the childcare.
Their best mate Rana (Taj Atwal) is a policewoman, whose solution to sexism in the force is to set up a male colleague as a strippergram for her mum’s menopausal mates. ‘ You can leave your hat on,’ they whooped.
It all feels like a 1970s sitcom with the roles reversed, Terry And June for millennials — desperate to be modern, and deeply outdated.