Freeman Brothers has been operating as a Funeral Director in Sussex since 1855 and is proud of the place it has in the communities of Horsham, Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint. The team aims to be a valuable source of support in a time of bereavement, but we also feel we have a wider remit. This often extends to our thoughts on representations of death and funerals in popular culture, and here Freeman Brothers’ Manager, Abi Pattenden, talks about the funeral which takes place in the ‘Ted Lasso’ episode ‘No Weddings and a Funeral’.
Please note that it’s unavoidable to include spoilers about Apple TV’s ‘Ted Lasso’ in the discussion that follows.
‘Ted Lasso’ is a comedy/drama set in fictional Richmond FC, a London football club. The titular protagonist is a semi-successful American ‘coach’ initially recruited by the club’s owner, Rebecca Welton, as a ploy to ensure the club’s failure. Welton obtained the club from her ex-husband, Rupert, in their acrimonious divorce and intends to destroy it to punish him. However, Ted’s positivity rubs off on everyone, including Rebecca, and by the time this episode takes place towards the end of the second series, the club has developed a family atmosphere- meaning all the team’s players are among the attendees at Paul, Rebecca’s father’s, funeral.
There are a few things which happen in the episode that aren’t really what we might expect to see. The first is the way that Rebecca learns her father has died. Earlier in the series, we have seen that Rebecca’s parents have a tempestuous relationship. It’s not unusual for her mother Deborah to temporarily end the marriage before returning in due course. When her mother appears unexpectedly, Rebecca assumes this has happened again and so asks ‘what’s my father done this time?’, only to receive the blunt response: ‘he died’. Rebecca and Deborah have been shown to not be close, but it seems unlikely that this would be the way that anyone would break the news of the (presumably sudden) death of a very close relative. Later in the episode, during the funeral, Rebecca is surprised when Deborah tells her she is delivering a eulogy. Again, it seems unlikely that both the content of the service and the expectation that she would play a part in it would be a surprise to Rebecca- although we don’t see the planning of the funeral so it is possible that Deborah has decided the content of the service without her daughter.
Another unlikely part of the episode is the setting of much of it in the Church where the funeral takes place, before the formal service begins. The viewer arrives at the funeral to see an empty hearse outside and Rebecca and Deborah greeting attendees. The congregation is arriving and over time we see various conversations taking place among many of the guests in small groups. We also see the Minister chatting with attendees. It is not unusual for a deceased person to be taken to a Church early for their funeral, especially when they were a regular worshipper (as we find out that Paul was). However, for people to arrive a long time before what we assume is a published funeral time, and to be expecting to chat for this time, would be more unusual. Ministers are often busy people, Churches are often multi-use buildings, and the Funeral Director (who we know is there somewhere because of the hearse) would potentially have other commitments- which is why funeral receptions (which have less constraints) are often where we see people ‘getting together’ less formally- both in fact and fiction.
Many of the conversations we see are probably not appropriate for a religious building. Rebecca and her friend Keeley Jones are talking in the vestry about the former’s new relationship. They are joined by another friend, Sassy, who tells them she’s been asked to ensure they lower their voices; the trio are then joined by Deborah, who says much the same, but the conversation eventually escalates in volume and hilarity until the Minister interjects and sends Sassy and Keeley away. Earlier in the episode, Sassy tells Rebecca’s ex, Rupert, that she dreams about his death and can’t wait to wear red at his poorly-attended funeral and, while this plays into well-understood ideas about wanting a ‘big sendoff’, it feels unlikely that anyone would do this in real life.
In spite of this, and the comedic nature of the series as a whole, the episode is surprisingly full of emotional truth and many examples of the types of conversations we know that people have when someone dies. Join me for another post, soon, where I talk about how this reflects my experiences of real-life discussions on these topics.