TV Review: ‘Breaking the Faith,’ ‘Best Funeral Ever’

Breaking the Faith Best Funeral Ever

TLC trots out two disparate series that complement its going-to-extremes brand

TLC and Hot Snakes Media have already made out pretty well with “Breaking Amish,” so they have understandably turned their attention to even more exotic religious fare: “Breaking the Faith,” set around the polygamous cult headed by Warren Jeffs – convicted of child sexual assault – and efforts to extract women living under those conditions. Ratcheting up the drama with “Blair Witch Project”-style shaky camerawork, it’s undeniably compelling, if overly massaged. Meanwhile, another new show, “Best Funeral Ever,” displays the sillier side of the Discovery network’s twisted personality, as well as its tendency to gravitate toward the extreme edges of a carefully shaped reality.

“Breaking the Faith” introduces a small group of apostates who have fled Jeffs’ cult, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, seeking to liberate young women living under its twisted hierarchy. Essentially brainwashed by their upbringings, not all of them are either quick to leave or ready to believe the worst about the elders, including the rape of child brides.

Frankly, if you’ve watched “Big Love,” a lot of this will seem extremely familiar, except for the fact the performances and line readings aren’t as good.

Revelations about “Breaking Amish” and spinoffs have documented how Hot Snakes uses these real folks in staged settings and situations, so there’s a reason to take the elevated drama here – particularly the concerns about Jeffs’ God Squad, both during the initial escape and in its aftermath – with a grain of salt. It’s also convenient that the nine protagonists all fall between the ages of 18 and 21, tapping into an MTV-style younger audience.

That said, the producers have cleverly punctuated the program with news footage and taped interviews or recordings featuring Jeffs — whose disembodied voice oozes with creepiness — grounding it all with a sense of authenticity and jeopardy.

While “Breaking the Faith” taps into the serious part of TLC’s carnie sideshow profile, “Best Funeral Ever” — despite the obvious relationship with death — is a much lighter construct. In fact, watching the series merely reinforces a sense that the network exercised unusual and perhaps unnecessary restraint by delaying its premiere last December, motivated by sensitivity regarding the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

A year later it’s not like mass killing has gone out of style, but the show is so broad as to be unconnected with such events, focusing as it does on reality TV’s odd-occupation niche – here, a Dallas outfit, the Golden Gate Funeral Home, which puts together elaborate theme funerals known as “home-going celebrations.”

In the premiere, these strange events include a brief bowling sendoff to open the program, and a wedding-themed funeral where the idea is to ceremonially blend the cremated ashes (pardon, “cremains,” as proprietor John Beckwith Jr. corrects one of his staff) of a deceased couple in the same urn.

It’s relatively harmless, really, if marred by the obligatory squabbling staff and suspense-free build-up to whether the event will come off without a hitch, like half the shows on Bravo.

Put side by side, the two series reflect tonally different but complementary sides of TLC’s personality that fit well enough with its brand, such as it is. And if neither of them is likely to have much of a life beyond these initial runs, as they say, cremains to cremains, dust to dust.

TV Review: 'Breaking the Faith,' 'Best Funeral Ever'

(Series; TLC, Sun. Nov. 24, 10 p.m.)                                                          (Series; TLC, Mon. Dec. 2, 10 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Hot Snakes Media.                                                                               Produced by Park Slope Prods.

Crew

Executive Producers, Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista. 60 MIN.              Executive producers, Paul Reitano, Terrence Sacchi, Pete Delasho. 60 MIN.

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  1. Lady Devin says:

    This is a very moving mini-series. I did not realize how much disdain there was between LDS and FLDS. I am not part of the mormon faith, but have heard and read on some of their beliefs and it is interesting to see how they live.

  2. Melissa says:

    I liked it at the beginning , but as the show goes on ,I got a little bored with it. These girls got out of this religious because they chose not to be controlled anymore. Yet they havnt wanted to change their way of living. They have been living the same way with the clothes hair, and beliefs. They should have just stayed their asses at the crick !

  3. Wayne Mangum says:

    Breaking The Faith, I loved the premiere episode, I’ve got to hand it to all girls for wanting to get out and the four boys willing to help them have un measurable courage to put their necks on the line to help the girls succeed on the outside away from their families, I admire that the men have a support team on the outside ready and willing to help theses girls start their lives of freedom from the only life they have ever known, I’m looking forward to next Sunday’s episode.

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