It’s difficult to watch a television programme, drama ,comedy or film without coming across a number of regular themes but whichever theme it may be, there is one compelling commonality that simmers in the background in almost all broadcasts. It sists there, a key supporting player in each storyline. An essential prop, a backdrop to each dramatic ending, each happy celebration and,of course as it is family viewing, every fight or sex scene.

It’s an odd suggestion that sits strangely easily on the eye. It defines most television soap settings yet can sometimes be the anti-hero in a storyline whilst being a social cure all in almost all stories.

Just as every English village was once considered to need a Post Office, Church and Village Pub, so every television drama has to include a local.

A local, t.v. executive vernacular for a pub, drinking house, inn or hostelry.

Yes, whether celebrating a win, drowning their sorrows or just bemoaning their lack of funds, we can always rely on a soap character to be propping up the bar.

Go on, try a little game for me.

Name a soap and then name the first ten characters.

Not so easy?

Try naming the pub/bar or bars in the same soaps.

Any problems this time?

No. I thought not.

Let’s not be too restrictive here, when we cast the net wider, en-capturing the other english speaking (just about) nations we find similar circumstances.

Cheers anyone? Everyone knows your usual.

Everybody needs good neighbours. Good neighbours apparently like a few tinnies too.

We could stray from the path even more.  Animations. Family Guy and Pawtucket Beer. Cleveland Brown, a similar spin of from the highly successful Mcfarlane stable holds meetings between the key character and friends in a bar. Leap ahead,sideways or upwards to the third stable member, the excellent American Dad. Ok, no bar or pub but an alien character, Roger, who is drunk through many of the episodes.But let’s not start laying too much blame at the surreal world of cartoons. Maybe Homer loves his Duff less than Barney Gumball but it’s all 2 dimensional.

More worrying is the glamorisation of alcohol addiction through characters such as Coronation Streets Carla, or Becky. Eastenders have famously hit subjects such as alcohol and drug addiction with main characters but still accept it is the norm to have a pub on every corner and a takeaway and off licence next to the obligatory launderette. This pub serves as a haven, a boxing ring and a party venue. It usually also houses the lead characters with a main storyline.

O.K. where is this leading? Well, drink-drive campaigns have had limited success as have the small print ‘drink sensibly’ logo on the advertisements for trendy beers and luminescent alchopops. But according to recent figures, the media has had much more success in promoting drinking , particularly amongst females and the younger adults.

Some places have seen as much as 90% more admissions to hospital due to alcohol related issues compared to a decade ago. Put simply, our nation is drinking itself to death and faster than ever before.

Why do I raise this now?

Simple. The same reason people usually try to raise awareness of a particular illness or problem.

A colleague of mine passed away from alcoholic poisoning,chronic liver failure and chronic heart failure. This was all from a life of alcohol abuse, combined with anorexia, another media hyped illness.

Before you leap to a stereotype, she, yes I’ll accept that most are female, she wasn’t a young, naive teenager. She was a widow, in her late 50’s and person who had lived a full and varied life. Slightly cynical, fun loving an with a permanent twinkle in her eye. Confident and self assured, she was a social drinker with a lot of pride in her looks. Or so we thought.

She was also my right hand woman at work. My office admin, secretary and customer service guru.

She was a friend.

T.v. didn’t kill Pam, she drank and starved herself to a slow death. That’s undeniable but television does very little to encourage sensible drinking. A couple of small glasses of wine or 2 pints of a mild ale would be considered a breakfast tipple in The Rovers Return or The Queen Vic. I we all spent our lunch time drinking in our local pub, most of us would lose our jobs. To then spend our evening in the same bar would be slightly unimaginative at least, to do the same thing day in, day out would cause serious concern amongst our friends or family.

Should we choose to celebrate an engagement at our local, that’s a reasonable action but if we were to go to the pub and buy several drinks to numb the fact we were financially embarrassed , well, that would be completely self defeating surely?

And yet this is what happens at least once if not more often each year according to the technicolour role models we watch daily.

I may be over reacting, or particularly sensitive but I personally cannot afford to drink that much, that often and certainly not in such depressing surroundings.

It is all a bit worrying really. I should go and have a pint to get over it.


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