Belied by massive popularity, “Two and Half Men” is one of the worst shows on TV. I’ve been accused of not thinking with the majority before and this may be another such instance. Incompetently written, barely acted, staffed by felons, drug addicts, and basket cases, it glorifies irresponsible and dangerous social behavior, abusive relationships, and the age-old myth of the superiority of stupid men over intelligent women regardless of how pathetic the male-dominated cast of characters is.
As if there was another reason to not watch it, this new New York Times article cites its and other shows’ glorification of alcoholism. Boob tube boozing is not new. There’s more excessive imbibing on TV now than the medium’s first fifty years because there are lots more programs and channels. Surely, this new trend is a response to the bad economy, and the consequential growing numbers of jobless TV viewers seeking similar refuge. But the most likely cause is declining TV ratings and revenues in the face of competition from the Internet, DVD, and on-demand, and the resulting increase, dependence, and public acceptance of liquor ads.
Economic imperatives have also driven TV to resurrect product placement i.e. writing a product into the script of the show. Product placement has been a part of TV since its first days but fell out of favor as viewers became more sophisticated and television was already making enough money. Liquor ads were shunned to keep TV family-friendly. Now that family-friendly is passé, the river of cash has slowed to a trickle, and because alcohol consumption and liquor revenues always increase during hard economic times, the marriage of wealthy booze makers and desperate TV executives is logical and crucial. If you watch “Two and Half Men” closely, you’ll see what I’m talking about in the number of Corona bottles on Charlie and Alan’s coffee table, and Jack Daniels and marguerita references.
A similar argument could be made for “Weeds” being an infomercial for marijuana. But pot’s illegal so it can’t play the same game even though it’s a far less abusable and dangerous drug than alcohol. It’s another example of how America’s drug, drunk driving, broadcasting, and other substance abuse laws don’t get changed until a special interest group- like the liquor industry and broadcast lobbies- gathers enough money to influence politicians. The American viewing public is not one of those groups. So drink up, everyone. On TV, it’s always open bar.