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Alcoholism - Alcoholic beverages and related commercials have filled the TV screens for decades while pushing the attractive lifestyles of those who decide to imbibe. From daytime soaps to prime time dramas, the pretty people of Hollywood have been seen holding that illustrious glass of booze, that calms the nerves and gets the hero and villain alike through some tough times.

In the 1990s, slogans like "Buy that man a Miller" and "This Bud's for You," as well as plotlines spotlighting the Swedish Bikini Team, (a beautiful bevy of blond babes in diminutive swimsuits on a series of Old Milwaukee Beer commercials) echoed on the radio and TV attracting the young and old to come and drink it up.

And for years, the public perception of alcohol has been filled with comic overtones getting laughs at the expense of the alcoholic.

  • Dean Martin milked his supposed "soused" persona while he starred on his own comedy variety program THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW/NBC/1965-74;
  • Foster Brooks made the rounds as "The Lovable Lush";
  • Red Skelton on his comedy variety program THE RED SKELTON SHOW/NBC/CBS/1951-71 played a drunken character called Willy Lump Lump and also performed his classic commercial for "Guzzler's Gin" where he progressively got smashed while drinking the sponsor's product during a series of commercials. (Note: Lucille Ball did a variation of this Gin commercial with a high alcohol vitamin product called  "Vitameatavegemin" on the sitcom I LOVE LUCY/CBS/1951-61);
  • Otis, the comic town drunk, was a recurring character on the sitcom THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW/CBS/1960-68;
  • Late night host Johnny Carson always ribbed Ed McMahon (aka "Mr. Budweiser") for drinking to much. It was alluded many a time that the mug that Carson drank from was possibly filled with some exhilarating spirit.
  • So too, the cup held by comedian Jackie Gleason on the comedy variety series THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW/CBS/1952-70 when he held a cup and saucer and drank tea(?) during his monologues with his studio audience. One of Gleason's most memorable characters was wealthy Reggie Van Gleason, a Park Avenue alcoholic who often remarked "Ooohh!, that's good booze!" when he knocked back a belt of liquor on one of show's comic skits.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the "disease" aspect of alcoholism surfaced and spotlighted such characters as:

  • Recovering alcoholic Captain Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) on the police drama HILL STREET BLUES/NBC/1981-87
  • Gary Ewing (Ted Schackelford), struggling alcoholic on KNOTS LANDING/CBS/1979-93
  • Christine Cagney, a New York police officer of Irish descent on the police drama CAGNEY AND LACEY/CBS/1982-88
  • Audie (Margaret Colin) a cynical recovering alcoholic and realtor on the sitcom SIBS/ABC/1991-92
  • Sam "May Day" Malone (Ted Danson), an ex-drinker/tavern owner on the sitcom CHEERS/NBC/1982-93 who had let his alcoholism ruin his career with the Boston Red Sox
  • CYBILL/CBS/1995-97 with Christine Baranski as Maryann Thorpe, a cynical, substance-abusing divorcee who completed her third stay at the Betty Ford Center (and celebrated by having three martinis)
  • RUDE AWAKENING/SHO/1998-2001 starring Sherilyn Fenn as Billie Frank, a soused ex-soap opera star whose bottoming out provided the show's humor and harsh reality. See also "Alcoholics & Boozers at a Glance"


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