Do People Ever Stop Drinking on TV?
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Do People Ever Stop Drinking on TV?


This post was originally published on August 6, 2015.

I am enduring my husband’s favorite TV show. It’s Friday night, and we are being subjected to Tom Selleck’s mustache on Blue Bloods. The mustache is mesmerizing. I think it has its own credits at the end.

My husband likes this show because “it has great writing.” I know better. He only says this because I am a writer and he wants to impress me with his knowledge of plot twists and gritty drama. I’m not impressed. I have figured out the culprit within the first 10 minutes.

What really transfixes me is all the booze on Blue Bloods.

One of the other main characters is scotch. Also wine. Some of the bit players are beer and a tequila shot or two. In every episode, Selleck, his mustache and his TV family all sit around the Sunday dinner table and every one of them, except maybe the two tweens, has a big fat glass of red wine. And they never drink it. The wine just sits there, all coy, while I count, and recount, the glasses.

Also, each episode features at least one endearing father/daughter moment over a glass of something brown and strong. They drink together, The Mustache and his daughter. I cannot comprehend this. My father, a recovered alcoholic since I was about three, has never seen me drink. I had him convinced (I think) that I never touched the stuff until I was about 30, and only then for medicinal reasons. Imagine his surprise when I finally did tell him I was also a member of the “special club” to which he belonged.

Actually, he didn’t seem that shocked. Perhaps he was aiming for a wise and calm approach, like Tom Selleck does in every episode when his daughter, the savvy lawyer, has a dilemma. Both my dad and Selleck offer sage and gravely voiced advice. The big difference? Selleck always pours his advice with hard liquor.

When I first got sober, I immediately jumped into a very intense relationship with Netflix. I needed a fix for my long nights and Netflix’s offerings fed my short-circuited attention span. And then, I started counting the booze.

It all started with Friday Night Lights.

I love this show. I love Coach Taylor and his square jaw. I love all the drama. I love football, too. And I’m an English teacher so it’s great fun to compare a TV high school to reality. All those TV teenagers have such perfect skin.

But my God, does Tami Taylor really have to pour herself a glass of wine in every scene? There she is at the dinner table, pouring. And at the kitchen counter, pouring. Now she’s making out with her husband—while pouring. I’m surprised the woman didn’t take a big wine flask with her to a game and pour there. There was a lot of potential here for a really solid “I think Tami’s gotta problem…” thing, but no one else seemed to see it. Just me. And I was positive she was a total boozer. Except, she just pours the stuff. And then she just sits there, with a half-full glass, for like hours. Maybe she just has a pouring problem. Not a drinking problem.

Then, I watched The Good Wife. Alicia Florrick, now there’s a lush. Alicia’s drink of choice is also red wine. And you know why? Red is her color. She has learned to coordinate her outfits with her drinking. She has evolved.

There are plenty more TV boozers. Penny on The Big Bang Theory. The entire cast of Cougar Town. That scary blond lady (not the dragon one) on Game of Thrones. I don’t actually watch Game of Thrones because they are all so rude to each other, but I am told she has a chalice and servant women fill it up for her, whenever she wants. Prior to sobriety, I tried this route with my husband, with a big, pink plastic margarita tumbler we got at a Mexican restaurant. He simply stared me down. In Game of Thrones, that would get you killed. But I was merciful and let him live.

Watching all this drinking while I’m trying to zone out and not think about drinking, got me thinking more about…drinking. I scrutinized the liquids being poured. I wondered if they had real booze in those glasses or if there was such a thing as stunt-double liquor. Do they use apple juice for the hard stuff, maybe?

What about all those huge goblets of wine? There isn’t really a liquid that could match that color, right? Red wine has its own deep redness that can’t be duplicated by a wimpy glass of Welch’s. So, those actors were sitting there, with all those fragrant glasses of wine in front of them, and they were just taking these cued sips. It was all so very scripted. How did they do this? How?

In some takes, the level of liquid would be way low and then miraculously fill up again in the next take. “WRONG, props people!” I would roar, triumphantly. “Watch your drinks! You’re totally ruining the continuity!”

It was at this point that my husband would point out that I was making it impossible for him to enjoy, or even hear, the show, and would I like to watch The Lego Movie again?

So, in early sobriety, I had to break up with some of my favorite shows on Netflix. I stuck to Iron Chef and a whole lot of PBS. But even then, one of my favorite British dramas, Last Tango in Halifax, decided to have posh and snotty Caroline pour herself a tall glass of the white stuff nearly every ten minutes. And Gillian seemed to get “pissed” (British for “I’m, like, soooo drunk!”)  in every third episode so she could have unfortunate and casual sex with terrible men. And I had thought PBS might be safe. After all, Last Tango comes on right after Antiques Roadshow.

There was no escape.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that I wanted so badly to escape. I was newly sober; I had days of terrible, itchy triggers, and crazy emotions. Watching cute Penny swig away at her white wine seemed to drain all the life out of me. So I gave up and took up knitting.

After about a year in recovery, it got easier. But I’m still cautious. I have a friend who swears that the Grand Poobah of drinking shows, The Real Housewives of Wherever, is one of her best recovery tools.

“All those crazy women?” she gushed, “They’re better than the Betty Ford Center. And they’re free. They’re available all week, not counting syndication!”

I want to agree, but I always seem to be on Threat Level Orange with my addiction—the threat is there and could go to Red at any time. I seem to have a very low tolerance for all that Real Housewives bitchiness mixed with tequila shots. It takes me to Level Red within minutes.

So now I avoid most booze-saturated shows. I keep my brain from analyzing such scintillating plot twists as, Who has more wine in her glass. And if she just downed a glass of scotch, why is there no slurring? Why is there never any slurring?

But I still watch the mustache show with my husband. I still shout out whatever number of beverages are at the family dinner table as they sit and discuss world matters. But I’ve backed off from the other shows simply because I know my limits. And I know, deep down, that no matter how good a show is, it’s not going to make me think, “Wow. That looks really yummy, that big glass of red stuff…”

No TV show, no matter how good the writing, is worth that kind of crazy talk.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Atilla Lewis [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Dana speaks and writes about recovery, momhood, and beating the perfection myth. An English teacher for over twenty years, she decided to take up a writing at, while mothering two babies, because she had so much free time. Her first book, Bottled was selected as a Kansas Notable book in 2016. Her second book, How to Be Perfect Like Me is out August 2018. She had a horrible time with edits on this book and fully appreciates the irony.