Random thought with very little research or serious consideration applied: Does the state of our national psyche – unemployed, downtrodden, fatalistic, depressed, drugged, stale, reliant on fucking Justin Bieber for any musical excitement, devoid of rich mainstream art or literature, thoroughly engrossed in watching sub-realities to occupy the time of our own reality, distant, zoned-the-fuck-out, tired, hypersensitive yet largely unfazed – allow ever-increasing representations of alcohol (and therefore alcoholism) in television to soothe whatever existential malaise we’re all feeling? Does the fact that Don Draper is (or was) going into a deep downward spiral of alcoholism to the point of blackout-drunk-and-my-entire-weekend-went-by-in-a-blur-where-there-was-one-woman-just-next-to-me-a-minute-ago-but-now-it’s-some-much-grosser-diner-waitress-type situation allow us to feel much better about how shitty our own existence is?
How did we get to this point in an era that was (seemingly) over any representations of characters drinking or smoking and the Disneyfication of our New World Order didn’t allow for any these vices?
I mention this because I am first, and foremost, totally fucking bored right now but also because I was thinking about Friends. I mean, look how well put together those idiots were. There was no REAL drama about sleeping with each other or letting each other down and no one ever got very drunk (aside from whatever ‘hilarity’ ensued when Monica and Chandler got married or went on that cruise or whatever that fucking episode was) and hit on someone lecherously. There was one episode that showed them years earlier and their neighborhood coffee shop where they all hung out was previously their neighborhood bar. They had graduated into those cool java 90s as they matured!
Jerry Seinfeld had water bottles in his fridge and ate cereal. Maybe Elaine had a weakness for Schnapps, fine. Our TV shows and sitcoms were squeaky clean. We couldn’t even stomach a show like Ab Fab – maybe because it was British and the women were fucking hideous but that drinking was way out of line, man! That’s not cool. Take it easy with the drinking, bro! This wasn’t just during those halcyon days of the 90s – when we were all hegemonic as a nation-state, music was kinda cooler until, you know, Bush (the band) came along and David Foster Wallace was counfounding the narcissistic literary intelligentsia – but extended into the Bushian (the guy who on 9/11 looked like someone whispered to him that his wife was JUST found blowing a horse) Aughts as well. Two and a Half Men has been running for longer than Castro has been in power and – despite its bullshit bad boy, “Odd Couple” front – that shit is as Donald Duck as they come.
Then out of nowhere, just as 2008 came along and real estate prices began to go south, alcohol began to slowly creep back into the mainstream. This was clearly paved by Mad Men and that show’s glamorization of the early 60s’ booze swilling ways. But even our sitcoms are more liquefied. Friends gave way to How I Met Your Mother, which is not based in a coffee shop but in a neighborhood bar. Every single episode revolves around discussions at ‘their’ table within the bar, drinks in hand. They have their own fucking table!!
Now we also have Boardwalk Empire, a show that opens at the commencement of the Prohibition Era and features maybe even more boozing and gash-hounding than Mad Men. Cougartown – a show I have very little understanding of – features former friend Monica now a total wine-o during primetime. That would have never flown in the 90s because the world was a nicer place and our lives were maybe a little happier because there was cheaper and easier to acquire LSD or maybe it was because everyone was employed by a dotcom startup or because our entire economy was doing way better in those days because it was amped up on boom-related steroids or because our athletes were smashing homeruns everywhere because they were on ACTUAL steroids and no one cared about it or maybe, simply, because we felt a little more carefree in our City upon a Hill. But nowadays, everything kinda really does suck – and not just in your typical old man nostalgia way but in very real terms. So we need other people to express our vices – in very hard, degenerative and toxic ways – so that we can live vicariously through them and get up early tomorrow morning to put out another 10,000 virtual resumes with accompanying, slightly-altered cover letters in a world with no apparent upcoming boom on the horizon to prop us up and make us feel good about overall shit again.