If TV is the influential medium that its buyers and sellers of advertising insist it is, then it stands to reason that TV’s encouragement of drinking is influential too.
That is why it was heartening to read recently about the pooh-bahs at CNN attempting to curb the on-air alcohol consumption of their air talent during the news channel’s annual New Year’s Eve telecast from Times Square tomorrow night.
Last month, news stories reported on an internal town hall meeting with CNN staff convened by Chairman and CEO Chris Licht.
“During the event, Licht told employees he felt on-camera drinking eroded the credibility of CNN personnel and damaged the ‘respectability’ they may enjoy among viewers,” according to Variety.
The stories made it seem as if this effort was aimed more at reporters assigned to cover the Times Square festivities at street level than Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen, who co-host CNN’s raucous celebration coverage from a perch high above the fray.
They have been known to drink on the air too. But the same news stories reported that Anderson and Andy (seen in a CNN ad above), “will still be able to imbibe.”
So, what’s the harm in having a little on-air drinking fun on New Year’s Eve? One reason might be the “respectability” damage cited above by Chris Licht.
For better or (often) worse, drinking heavily is a rite of New Year’s Eve, but that doesn’t mean our TV personalities on national television should do the same thing. I prefer my newspeople to be sober on camera.
The TV Blog’s opinion is that viewership for CNN’s New Year’s Eve show will not likely be affected either up or down if the network’s personnel sticks to soft drinks or bottled water.
By contrast, the decidedly sober celebration on ABC hosted by Ryan Seacrest (full title: “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2023”) is traditionally America’s first choice for the annual ball drop and Times Square festivities.
The TV Blog believes that Anderson and Andy are capable of being funny and entertaining without getting a buzz on. For CNN, sobriety on New Year’s Eve could be a good thing.
And now, a statistical interlude about drunk driving. According to various internet sources, more than 10,000 traffic deaths occur each year in which drunk driving is involved.
Data for 2022 could not be found and is likely not yet available, but as recently as 2020, drunk driving deaths on America’s highways and byways amounted to 11,654 fatalities.
Among the data found online: 32 people in the U.S. die every day on average from drunk driving, which comes out to a DUI fatality approximately every 45 minutes, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Clearly, there are negative consequences to drinking to inebriation, and traffic fatalities are just part of the picture. Everyone knows that excessive drinking and alcoholism wreck lives too.
Elsewhere on TV, two commercials -- one for Seagram’s Crown Royal whiskey and another for Ketel One flavored vodkas -- each seem to encourage drinking beyond the norm for such spots, and they are not the only ones.
In the Crown Royal spot, a young man (played by actor/singer Anthony Ramos) is seen happily purchasing a bottle of Crown Royal in the middle of a typical afternoon.
After walking merrily home, he proudly displays his purchase to his delighted mother, and within seconds, the two of them are clinking glasses and partaking of generous helpings of the amber fluid in the kitchen.
To sum up, the commercial shows a mother and son enjoying their own impromptu happy hour with what used to be known as “hard liquor” in the middle of the afternoon.
In the other spot, a young woman engaged in a conversation at an outdoor party spies an array of Ketel One Botanicals (Ketel’s flavored-vodka brand) and suddenly she can think of nothing else and makes an eager beeline to the bottles. The spot’s tagline: Drink marvelously.
It is true that people will drink on New Year’s Eve and on all other days too. And the TV Blog is is no teetotaler.
But just because people drink, our TV personalities do not have to promote the habit to millions on this party-hearty holiday.
Another reason to miss the old Television Code.
Per capita alcohol consumption in the US has declined steadily in the TV era.