I recently ran some numbers, and if my calculations are correct, by 2018 every American citizen will have participated in an extreme dessert competition. This is, of course, because we are up to our eyeballs in food shows — you cannot escape them, and soon, you will probably not be able to escape appearing in them. But as far as I can tell, there has never been a successful television show about drinking, unless you think Mad Men counts. The problem is that alcohol, like Richard Nixon, is not particularly TV-friendly. But here at
the bar in Brooklyn where I'm writing this Sloshed HQ, there is hope yet. So today I'm going to present my idea for Sloshed TV. It will be kind of a No Reservations meets "This American Life" with a dash of The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross thrown in. Trust me, this is gonna work.
When you think about it, it's kind of surprising that more booze isn't on TV. Alcohol is fun, for God’s sake! But like roller coasters and other people's dreams, alcohol is really only fun for participants, not for audiences (all the designated drivers at Sloshed HQ know what I mean). Plus, television is a visual medium, and drinks are notoriously uninteresting to look at. No matter how many orange wedges and cherries you shove into an old-fashioned, it's still just a glass of brown liquid. (Wineries and distilleries aren't much to look at, either.) And even though a show called something like Man v. Alcohol sounds like it might have potential, it'd be impossible to get around all the legal (and moral) hurdles. And, spoiler alert: The alcohol would always win.
What's a television producer to do? The few booze shows that are out there mostly serve to illustrate how difficult it must be to make one work, because, frankly, the ones that are out there don't work. (And no, those Funny or Die "Drunk History" shorts don't count.) The shows I have seen are Stanley Tucci's Vine Talk on PBS, Drink Up on the Cooking Channel, and something on Hulu called Three Sheets. (One particular Sheets episode involved the host convincing a bunch of Australians to drink snow drenched in Blue Curacao. It was like a bizarro Girls Gone Wild setup, without the payoff.)
Look, I know how hard it is to create anything, most especially anything involving cameras and catering trucks, so I applaud all the above for giving it the old college try, but these shows just aren't good. (Sorry, Stanley Tucci! I love Big Night, by the way.)
So here's what our show is going to focus on instead: audience participation and crazy stories about alcohol-fueled behavior.
Yes, I said audience participation. Even Bob Ross knew that watching someone paint landscapes is boring, but pretending to follow along with Bob Ross as he (creepily) paints landscapes makes for some strangely riveting television. That's why, before the main titles even roll, each episode of Sloshed TV will quickly teach the audience how to make a drink that's related to the episode. If you tune in, we will assume you are drinking. (Bonus social media opportunity: "Follow Sloshed on Twitter and Facebook to learn which ingredients you'll need for next week's episode.") If we can find someone who looks like Bob Ross to actually make the drinks, all the better.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's move to the heart of the show. Our subject, remember, is alcohol: maker of poets, ruiner of lives, inciter of romances. We don’t need to take a boring tour of the St. Germain factory, or discuss the way Syrah grows really well in the 44th parallel or whatever. At this point, everyone's got a drink and we need some stories. Classic booze stories, like that time Raymond Chandler went on a producer-fueled scotch bender that ended with him writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for Blue Dahlia. Yes, Sloshed TV will tackle stories like these, stories about what alcohol has meant for us, "This American Life"–style.
We've already got the Raymond Chandler story practically in the can, to which we could easily add stories about Faulkner, Bukowski, and Hemingway for an episode on alcohol's contributions to literature. (Hell, we could make a whole series about Hemingway's drinking.) What else? How about the role alcohol has played in political scandals? (I’m looking at you, Thomas Jefferson.) And I've always wanted to know more about those apocryphal Greek bacchanals. Let's get everyone a glass of wine (or twenty) and do an episode on those. Wine! Orgies! People would watch a wine-orgy show.
The point is, too many shows focus on the ingredients that go into making alcohol, or, even worse, just show people drinking it. That's like making a show about Alaskan crab fishermen, and then only focusing on the health benefits of crab meat. Alcohol is about more than ingredients, terroirs, or even bars. It plays a huge role in art, literature, music, movies, politics, and the rest of our collective culture. The stuff is everywhere, and Sloshed TV will celebrate that.
Speaking of celebrating, I'm going to go grab a drink and think a little more about this killer pitch. In the meantime, any interested producers or showrunners can call
me at the bar my people.
Matthew Latkiewicz works for the Internet; he writes and podcasts about drinking and other subjects at You Will Not Believe. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Wired, Time.com, Boing Boing, and Gastronomica. Tragically, his wifelike girlfriend is allergic to wine.
More "Feeding Tube":
Ten Important Moments in Food-TV Recipe History
Buttered Up: A Look at Paula Deen’s Financial Empire
The Feeding Tube: Five Cooking-Competition Bad Guys Tell Us Why They’re Just Misunderstood
Anthony Bourdain Tells Grub Street About the Food Shows He Actually Likes
Jonah Hill Totally Dissed Paula Deen on TV
How Food Television Changed the Way We Eat
Eleven Real Secrets Behind TV Food Styling
How Many Cooks (and Fridges, and Researchers) Does It Take to Run Food Network Kitchens?