Glee – Blame it on the Alcohol, aired April 11 on Channel 4. It was no simplistic Just Say No anti-drugs polemic – (if you are aware of this Nancy Reagan USA initiative commencing in 1982 as part of their War on Drugs and via the Girls Scouts of the USA, eventually even reaching our UK shores in the unlikely 1986 setting of a number of Grange Hill episodes) where we often Just Say Yes when yes or no are each valid choices.
This Glee episode was an admirably nuanced look at the uses and abuses of alcohol – the pleasures and the pitfalls. Not just for under-aged drinkers but the of-age teaching staff of the McKinley High – looking at the do as we say not as we do double-standard widely practised.
Which for a show whose prime time audience would include many under the legal age of alcohol consumption was a brave approach. Glee has been a courageous show since its outset and credit for Fox for commissioning it.
The age at which you are under-age as it were is not fixed from country to country though largely age 18 is the year at which most governments consider us fit to imbibe the amber nectar.
And the age which you can drink and purchase alcohol can vary too – here in the UK we can drink it legally aged 16 but have to wait a further two before we can legally purchase. And indeed we can be given alcohol in private at a much earlier age.
The USA is quite unusual in having 21 as the legal age both to drink and purchase alcohol. So a 19 year old Gleek for example knocking back a Martini is under-aged in New York but of age in Glasgow Scotland!
And let us not forget in many Muslim countries the drinking of alcohol at any age is illegal. At the other end of this scale in some European countries such as France and Holland the legal age is 16 – I mention all of this to remind that the Web is indeed World Wide and the laws of particular countries often have no global standard and practice.
The show tackled binge-drinking and the licensed and unlicensed Alcopops in circulation.
This being Glee the songs used were not going to be a trawl through the back catalogue of Shane MacGowan & The Pogues, and other Irish drinking songs!
First round in the Far East Movement and ‘Like A G6’ with lyrics “Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard. When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard” as an example of glamorising excessive alcohol consumption as a lifestyle choice. And to that end an Alcohol Awareness Week was to be set up with the Glee club to perform a song highlighting the dangers of teenage drinking.
Also performed was the Jamie Fox number Blame it on the Alcohol. Mr Schuster compliments his club’s performance but notes the song celebrates alcohol rather than warns its dangers. Rachel then responds that the reason there are no songs about the dangers of alcohol is that there are no dangers of alcohol as long as you have a designated driver! Schuster then points out the dangers of drunk driving and deaths by alcohol poisoning. Later though Schuster and Coach Beiste are on stage singing the Rudy Toombs song One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer. This song was performed by Amos Milburn in 1953 so Glee certainly going out of their catalogue comfort zone here!
They eventually settle on a Ke$ha song – Ke$ha referred to as ‘Ke Dollar Sign Ha’ by Principal Figgins! – Tik Tok (“Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack. Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back”) to perform as a rallying cry against alcohol at morning assembly! – but ending in a tidal wave of vomiting rather like the tsunami of invective which ended The Grand Opening episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm – it just built and built and leaving us wondering if its crescendo was ever going to come!
Sue Sylvester then pins the blame on the ‘Alcoholic teen vomit fetishist’ Will Schuster! Schuster himself later condemns his Gleesters’ drinking-on-the-job antics and in turn is charged of hypocrisy by Quinn and so then advises he would now be going teetotal.
I did not think this was necessary – other than as an obvious plot line! – the message surely was not that alcohol in itself was bad but that alcohol in excess is bad. In moderation it does more than ‘take the edge off’ but can be a social oil. And beer, red wine and whiskey can be pleasures in themselves – to be a connoisseur of without having to endanger your physical and mental health.
And would have preferred treating teens as adults-to-be rather than Peter Pan eternal children.
Nevertheless this un-Disney like treatment of the subject is to be commended not quibbled at.
I raise my glass to Glee – Chin-Chin!