‘Buried by the Bernards’ Is a Look at The Funeral Biz as (Funny!) Reality TV
The funeral business is, understandably, not a television workplace staple. HBO’s sublime 2001-05 drama Six Feet Under gave us the premium scripted version. And a decade ago, one particularly memorable hometown date on ABC’s The Bachelor took place in the single lady’s workplace. She was a funeral director — and somehow her suitor ended up horizontal on the embalming table.
Now Netflix devotes a new reality show (dropping February 12) to the biz: Buried by the Bernards. Full of heartwarming humor, it spotlights the Memphis-based family behind R. Bernard Funeral Services, run by Ryan Bernard and his mother, Debbie (aka “The Boss”), as well as Ryan’s daughters, Deja and Raegan. Lovable, nutty Uncle Kevin rounds out the bunch.
In 2017, the Bernards’ funeral parlor went viral with a commercial advertising its…drive-through viewings? (The business occupied a former bank and made clever use of a teller window!) This caught the attention of Steve Harvey, who showed the spot on his talk show, which effectively planted the seeds for a reality show.
TV Insider spoke with the family about putting their unique lives on camera full-time.
How do you think the family will be perceived by viewers? For me, Buried by the Bernards has elements of a Tyler Perry sitcom.
Kevin: Sometimes we be fussin’ at each other. But at the end of the day, we get the job done. What you see is what you get.
Deja: A lot of people will think we were acting. They may think we are not a real family, but this is how we [are] on an every day basis. We come to work every day, all five of us. This is real. This is us, with or without the cameras. I think people will like us because we don’t have to turn it up or pretend.
How would you describe yourselves in one word?
Deja: I would say I’m the nicest, sweetest diva of the family.
Debbie: I’m shy. Write down what I’m saying.
Ryan: He said [to describe] one thing.
Debbie: I would say I’m the shyest of the whole bunch.
Raegan: You mean opposite of shy.
Kevin: I would say I’m outgoing.
Raegan: I’m creative. I would say fashionista.
Did anyone have any hesitation about cameras following them?
Deja: The only person that was hesitant with cameras following them was Grandma.
Debbie: Very much so.
Deja and Raegan, how was it growing up in this business ? It’s not every day you get picked up from school in a hearse.
Raegan: It was definitely not what I was expecting when dad came to us and said we were opening up a funeral home. And I’m like, “We?” I think me being the youngest, I’m getting every bit of the knowledge from everyone. I come here learning under our grandmother, dad, uncle—everyone has something to bring to the table. We’ll argue. We’ll laugh and argue again and then ask what we want for lunch. There are definitely a lot of emotions in the business.
Deja: It’s a great feeling because I’m not going to a regular job—I’m coming to work with my family that cares about me and is nurturing. When I wake up in the morning and leave home, I’m going to another home with my dad and being with my grandmother. She has taught me and instilled so much in me when it comes to being a businesswoman and [developing] my own entrepreneurship with my sister.
Deja, you were pregnant and gave birth to baby Alonni during filming. What was that like?
Deja: It was a blessing. These are precious memories that I will forever have. You will see everything [on the show]. When the baby gets older, she can look back and say, “Wow, my mom is having me and here it is right on TV.”
This was shot mostly pre-COVID, correct?
Ryan: When they came back around [for additional scenes], it was totally different. Everyone had to take an antibody test. There was social distancing. The first time [in production we had] six crew members. This time it was just two.
What do you want people to walk away with after watching?
Ryan: We’re just a family that loves each other. We have our ups and downs. Working together isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day, we can laugh.
Deja: I don’t want anyone to see the show and think it takes away from our responsibility. We are still a professional funeral home. We love the families that come in as if they were our family members.
Are you ready for the spotlight and what fame might come if the series is a hit?
Ryan: We’re so nervous. We don’t know what to expect. It’s going to be wild.
Buried by the Bernards, February 12, Netflix