When I recapped Martha Stewart: Apprentice for Television Without Pity last year, I needed a drink or five to drag my ass through every, painful episode. I finally started writing cocktails into my recaps so my readers could drink along at home. Now, USA Today reports that on prime time television “[c]ocktails have replaced coffee as pop culture’s elixir of choice.”

It’s a trend that might have started with Sex and the City’s ubiquitous Day-Glo cosmos, but, as the article cites, the liquor is flowing fast and free. Witness Grey’s Anatomy’s barfly surgeons, martinis on How I Met Your Mother, and the way that on Two and a Half Men Charlie Sheen’s character always seems to have something wet in his hand.

Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for Parents Television Council, is worried that this televised lush life is sending bad messages to the kids, “The shows that depict a lot of partying and drinking are airing early in the evening, and it’s very likely kids are watching them and perhaps not taking away messages about drinking responsibly,” she’s quoted as saying in The Times. It’s a worry, for sure, but one that could be aided by parents doing one very simple thing. TURN OFF THE TELEVISION! Man, for years my mother didn’t allow me and my sister to watch anything but PBS and you know what? We survived.

Some interesting stats from the article:

“Wine and distilled spirits commanded 48.4% of the alcoholic beverage market in 2005, up from 44% in 1999, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Meanwhile, beer slipped to 51.6% from 56%…Still, spirits brands spent $96 million on TV in 2005, up 48% from the previous year. Most of those spots air on local TV and cable late-night shows. The major broadcast networks won’t run most ads for distilled spirits.”

And why would they need to? Even if I never see a hooch ad, Project Runway contestant Vincent Libretti makes me reach for the bottle. You can’t buy that sort of placement.

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