As a former funeral assistant and arranger, I’ve always found joy in works that find amusement in the macabre. From the satirical undercurrent of Six Feet Under to the black comedy of Bernie and Harold and Maude, it’s a very particular subgenre of comedy that I gravitate toward. Maybe it’s the comfort of finding the funny in the darkest times. Maybe it’s just a relief to know that I’m not the only one with a twisted sense of humor, so embedded in me that its rigor mortis has set and already dissipated. The Coroner’s Assistant, an independent YouTube web series, finds itself right at home with these titles, and has made a Y-shaped incision in my chest and neatly nestled itself in my heart.
“Oh, you are very eager. We’ll have to kill that.”
Set in Victorian South London, James (Cedric Gegel), a medical student, arrives to inquire about an assistant position with the coroner, Oliver (Robert Branch) who greets him with eccentric derision and tells him to come back tomorrow at noon exactly. Not early. Not late. James does so, all the while with a smile on his face — which sows distrust from Oliver and his accomplice Thomas (Jeremy Gladen).
“Do you mean an acquaintance?” “No.”
source: Angeline Productions
When interviewed by Oliver, James is asked why he wants this job, and freely admits it was his last choice, and would “gladly take this job over no job at all.” Despite seemingly no reason to hire him other than needing an extra body with a pulse, Oliver agrees to hire him, informing him there’s an inquest that week and James will be contacted when needed to attend. There, a woman was found dead in the Thames River, and the investigation unfolds in a manner that raises more questions for James than are answered.
An Eccentric, Independent Excursion
Written, directed, and produced by Angeline Walsh, this intro to the four-episode series is witty, quirky, and dark while also maintaining such a bright spirit. The sets and costumes are a delight, and Gegel’s incessant enthusiasm is relatable to anyone who’s worked in an industry where the new hire just hasn’t seen shit yet. From the first frame, Valyo Gennoff’s bouncy orchestral score will immediately reverberate with Wednesday fans, and Danny Elfman’s work as a whole. Branch’s eccentric and mysterious coroner is a delight, with the final minutes of the episode leaving you wanting to learn more about him, and Gladen, himself looking corpse-like, is a delightful foil to James with his unceasing cynicism.
source: Angeline Productions
Self-funded for the pilot and crowdfunded for the other three, The Coroner’s Assistant is also a triumph for crowdfunding and independent productions, something I love to point out when I can. Though it took years for the series to come to fruition, it’s already paying off in accolades, as seen with its dual nominations in the Hollywood Creative Alliance’s Astra Awards, with this episode being nominated for Best Writing in a Streaming Comedy Series and the overall series nominated for Best Period Costumes. What’s especially impressive about these nominations is the other contenders: Walsh and costume designer Aimee Morgan have found themselves going up against the likes of The Bear, Only Murders in the Building, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Crown, just to name a few. To be mentioned among these titles is a testament to the work of Walsh and her team.
The Coroner’s Assistant: It Has a Pulse, Indeed
Thankfully, you won’t have to die of anticipation after the first episode; all four episodes of season one are available on YouTube. Clocking in at well under a half-hour each, this is a binge that won’t kill you. Fans of offbeat, dark comedy will love The Coroner’s Assistant, and with any luck, the recognition will keep coming in and lead to funding for an even longer season two.
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