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Can You Drink Real Alcohol on Live TV?

Can You Drink Real Alcohol on Live TV?

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You can drink actual alcohol on Live TV. Did you hear that Neil Patrick Harris?

There are no specific laws that prohibit the use or consumption of alcohol on public broadcasting platforms. 

While local ordinances vary, there are no Federal laws that regulate drinking on television.

With the governing body of television etiquette and decency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remains silent on the topic, in stark contrast to its past advocacies, especially its chairman, Reed Hundt

With its outspoken chairman at the helm, the review board was formerly vocal against broadcasting alcohol use in the mid-90s.

These days, however, mum’s the word as per the FCC. 

You can watch various shows, movies, music videos, and TV commercials about alcohol. 

Wine and beer aren’t held to the same standards as hard liquor, and any bans made on the latter didn’t necessarily affect the former. 

However, why do we sometimes think hard liquor or anything promoting it is banned? 

How did these thoughts come about if it’s a part of our culture? At least as a weekend staple for some of us. 

How did it get to the rumor mill, and why aren’t Federal laws banning its use on nationwide platforms such as cable TV? 

If we let our children watch shows with regular alcohol consumption, will it somehow lead to substance abuse issues for them later?

Broadcasting (Under the) Influence

There are numerous studies about alcoholic product placements and their effects on viewers. 

While the entertainment industry depicts different substances used in various scenarios, alcohol generates the most attention. 

It’s also the substance used most by actors in a more passive fashion. 

For example, in a movie where friends meet up at a bar, someone already has a beer in their hand. 

man watching TV with scene of friends drinking beer at a bar

The less it is highlighted, the more conventional it seems, highlighting a well-accepted societal norm. 

Whereas smoking or prohibited drugs are given more build-up and attention, indicating their taboo. 

Shows centered around illegal and harmful drugs highly point out their ill side effects, with characters dawning bloodshot eyes, incessant mannerisms, and cravings they can’t control. 

If you remember Breaking Bad , you might remember how it ended poorly for everyone.

However, when you see characters in shows or movies drinking alcohol, it rarely impacts plotlines.

Group drinking is often depicted as the camaraderie between friends, a staple in high-society events or family gatherings. Sometimes, even as a catalyst before making life-altering decisions.

group of well-dressed people drinking wine at a high-class party

The consensus about this seems to be “art imitating life.” 

We don’t frown upon drinking but detest other vices in the real world. 

Drinking is a part of our society’s norms and integrating them in films and shows helps make them more believable and relatable.

However, is it a vicious cycle? Are shows and movies imitating our “real life,” or are we under their influence, accepting drunken behavior as “normal” because we saw it on last night’s episode of our favorite show? 

Is our life imitating art instead of the other way around? But most importantly, are they actually drinking in movies and TV shows?

Do They Actually Drink Wine in Movies?

In more serious cinematic efforts, wine is often replaced with thickened grape juice or non-alcoholic wine , like in the wine tasting scenes during Sideways 

woman watching a movie of couple drinking wine at home

Some actors prefer non-alcoholic alternatives to help them remain level-headed and present, even in comedies, where actors are depicted as drunken, rambling, and foolhardy. 

Some comedic actors shy away from “live” drinks to deliver calculated efforts instead of living in the drunken mind of their characters.

However, some actors, especially method ones like Shia LaBeouf, drink alcohol to elevate their performance. 

Most method actors don’t just play a role. They live it. 

Actors can embody a character enough to present themselves as the character even in their most uninhibited state of mind.

Method acting, however, is more prevalent in serious dramatic films. 

You might be surprised that actors who partake in less serious undertakings such as slapstick comedies, Rom-Coms, and B-rated horror films, are less likely to participate in on-set drinking for the craft’s sake.

Do They Really Drink in TV Shows?

an actress holding a glass of wine in a movie scene

It isn’t unheard of for series regulars and guest stars to indulge during live filming or pre-tapings. Rarely do you hear about the main cast of an ensemble series getting inebriated every time they are on set. 

The wine, beer, and hard liquor characters drink are often stage props, with nothing inside or containing apple juice. 

It isn’t a prevalent practice to use alcohol as an actor’s go-go juice before or while taping shows, but it does happen. 

Some actors get tricked into drinking the real deal as a prank or means of initiation. 

Still, actors who regularly drink on studio sets or in their trailers are often thought to be dealing with an addiction, and such was the case with Charlie Sheen. 

Drinking or any other vices aren’t a job requirement. It doesn’t fall under an actor’s job description. 

In fact, actors can negotiate rewrites for roles that involve drinking or smoking. Otherwise, they can opt for set props or decline the part altogether.

But what about Soap Operas, where scenes are full of emotional turmoil with drinks incessantly thrown in faces?

Do Soap Opera Actors Throw Real Alcohol on Each Other’s Faces?

man throwing a glass of liquor in black background

The answer is no unless they were really “method.” 

Although, we don’t see how vodka to the face or in your eye can help elevate an actor’s performance. 

Often, soap opera stars are given props. Even with food, stars rarely eat real food while taping shows. 

If you notice, they just move food around their plates. 

Unless the scene really calls for chowing down on food, set designers are tasked with designing food replicas for actors to use in-scene. 

Commercial Advertisement for Alcoholic Beverages

While wine and beer have never been off the air in movies, shows, or commercials, there was a time hard liquor wasn’t broadcasted on any media platform. 

The ban on commercial placements for hard liquor was in effect for fifty years. 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t banned by the government but by the liquor companies! Why? It was a self-implemented ban believed to be strategic. 

You can thank the prohibition for that. 

Laws Regarding Alcohol and Its Place in the Media 

Advertisements and cinematic placements of hard liquor can be seen nationally. 

However, authorities may take down anything dubbed deceptive or untruthful by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). 

Manufacturers, networks, and producers responsible for distributing negligent advertisements may be penalized under the Federal Alcohol Administrations Act (FAAA). 

At the beginning or end of liquor commercials, you see disclaimers for companies and networks to avoid liabilities against negligence or false advertisement.

Still, just like its ban, its media presence hardly made a difference in sales. 

While it helped normalize alcohol use and destigmatize hard liquor consumption, it did not have it flying off the shelves. 

How Multi-Media Influence Controls Alcohol Representation

Based on all of this, we can see that the media hardly instigates alcohol use as much as we think it does. However, it does perpetuate its normalcy. 

There’s nothing wrong with recreational or social drinking. Like with most substances, even food, abuse is the real problem. 

a shadow of a man abusing alcohol

While Federal regulations don’t have laws that regulate the presence of alcohol in media broadcasts, networks do. 

Local and national networks have various regulations protecting viewers from inaccurate depictions of alcohol and alcoholism. 

Rules and regulations are set to protect networks from civil or criminal liabilities from different legal departments for the negligent representation of substances.

Various networks allow hosts and guests to drink actual alcohol, even on live broadcasts, provided it’s of the lighter variants such as wine, beer, or cocktails. 

For example, the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he invites celebrity guests to play drinking games. 

Some competitive gameshows even display players drinking hard liquor and getting drunk. 

(Big Brother, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Are You The One, Jack*ss)  

Reality TV Shows and Alcohol

While we have discussed life imitating art and vice versa, one particular genre can give us more insight on the matter.

Reality TV shows are binge-able shows on any network. 

Here, you see “everyday” regular Joes boozing it up. 

While the Kardashians are far from your average girls next door, they are some of the most-watched celebrity figures anywhere. 

In 2007, Khloe Kardashian was stopped for Driving Under the Influence, and while she is certainly famous now, she was once just another one of us. 

Scott (Disick) and Rob (Kardashian) can be seen on the show “getting paid to party.” 

Unlike scripted shows, these are the real lives being depicted on-screen. Unlike actors playing a role, they drink actual alcohol, both hard liquor, and other variants.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians has been on the air for fourteen years. It’s safe to say, the ban on broadcasting alcohol on live TV is non-existent. 

One for the Road! 

Before you tweet Neil Patrick Harris about drinking on television, don’t forget networks hold celebrities under various contractual obligations. 

Networks hire some celebrities to turn the party, and some are brought on to exemplify healthy abstinent lifestyles. 

There is also a difference between drinking on live television and getting today’s weather forecast from a drunken and disorderly local weather forecaster.

Whatever the case, if you are worried about the impression it makes on your children, the only thing you can do about it is to regulate their exposure to it. 

You can’t change Federal laws, but you can control what your children have access to at home. 

There are parent controls on different devices you can use to regulate what your children are exposed to, preventing the inception of values that don’t coincide with yours from their minds.    

a TV screen of parental control password

Don’t come for Jimmy Fallon when he invites your favorite celebrity for a drink or two on live TV! 

It is after all legal and permitted within various realms of television. 


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