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View Full Version : Chekov's Vodka: OR Alcoholics on TV shows who don't relapse?


enalzi
07-05-2017, 08:15 PM
Inspired by this topic:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=830314

It seems that anytime a character on a show gets set up as an alcoholic early on, it's pretty much guaranteed they are going to relapse eventually. Are there any shows where the character never relapses? Assuming the show lasted long enough to give them a chance.

Tim R. Mortiss
07-05-2017, 08:26 PM
I don't recall Lennie Briscoe or Donald Cragen on the various L&O incarnations ever relapsing, but granted I've missed a few episodes here and there.

Uncle Jocko
07-05-2017, 08:30 PM
I could be wrong about this, but I believe Leo McGarry in The West Wing fits the bill. He's established as a recovering alcoholic in episode 4 of the first season, and unless I've forgotten somewhere along the line, he gets through almost the entire 7 season run without relapsing (it's not the complete series because actor John Spencer died during that final season).

The West Wing does get around that relapse issue, sort of, by showing Leo in a flashback falling off the wagon prior to the start of the series ... so Spencer (a recovering alcoholic himself) got a big relapse scene to act in and the show got to portray the fallout of such an event.

Shoeless
07-05-2017, 09:34 PM
I don't recall Lennie Briscoe or Donald Cragen on the various L&O incarnations ever relapsing, but granted I've missed a few episodes here and there.
I'm probably misremembering but didn't Lenny get drunk in the episode where Jill Hennessey's character died in the car crash?

I'm trying to remember if Sam Malone ever relapsed on "Cheers"...

kunilou
07-05-2017, 09:42 PM
I don't recall Lennie Briscoe or Donald Cragen on the various L&O incarnations ever relapsing, but granted I've missed a few episodes here and there.

Lenny Briscoe spectacularly fell off the wagon. Claire Kincaid took the wheel to drive him home and was killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver.

Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati started out as someone who would have a few drinks at lunch with a client, to drinking enough that it interfered with his work. Then he quit, and in an episode later on he mentions that he wouldn't join the staff in their toast, because he "has a problem."

I'm trying to remember if Sam Malone ever relapsed on "Cheers"...

When he and Diane broke up.

bobot
07-05-2017, 09:45 PM
NM

Bayard
07-05-2017, 10:40 PM
I only saw a few episodes, but did John ever relapse in "The John Larroquette Show"? I recall one episode where he shot a bottle of booze.

Robot Arm
07-05-2017, 11:02 PM
Lenny Briscoe spectacularly fell off the wagon. Claire Kincaid took the wheel to drive him home and was killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver.Yeah, that's also the episode where Rey has an affair with Jennifer Garner. Both events are referenced occasionally in later episodes. I always thought it was rather unfair for Lennie to blame himself for Claire's death. And McCoy showed signs of guilt in later eps, too. Neither one of them really did anything wrong. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; totally the other driver's fault.

Bryan Ekers
07-05-2017, 11:17 PM
George Segal starred in a short-lived series called Murphy's Law in the late 1980s. His character was a recovering alcoholic, but I'm not sure if they showed a relapse or would have if the series continued.

IvoryTowerDenizen
07-05-2017, 11:28 PM
Yeah, that's also the episode where Rey has an affair with Jennifer Garner. Both events are referenced occasionally in later episodes. I always thought it was rather unfair for Lennie to blame himself for Claire's death. And McCoy showed signs of guilt in later eps, too. Neither one of them really did anything wrong. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; totally the other driver's fault.

The issue was that she came to get Briscoe (either he called her, or she was worried about him- can't recall). If he had not stated drinking she wouldn't have needed to drive Briscoe home. That's the root of his guilt.


What about Sam Malone from Cheers? He ever relapse?

Bryan Ekers
07-05-2017, 11:42 PM
What about Sam Malone from Cheers? He ever relapse?
kunilou already mentioned it, but for more details, Sam relapses at the beginning of Season 3, following the end-of-season-2 breakup of him and Diane. Frasier Crane, making his debut as Diane's former therapist and new boyfriend, helps Sam recover by the second episode.

Sam comes close to relapsing in the first-season episode "Endless Slumper".

Robot Arm
07-05-2017, 11:50 PM
The issue was that she came to get Briscoe (either he called her, or she was worried about him- can't recall). If he had not stated drinking she wouldn't have needed to drive Briscoe home. That's the root of his guilt.Oh, I remember. I just mean that his drinking wasn't really directly involved in the accident. She'd be just as dead if she gave him a ride home after drinking ginger ale. If he'd had another drink before they left, the drunk would have driven through the intersection long before they got there. Wrong place, wrong time.

That said, guilt doesn't always follow a rational analysis like that. We all ask ourselves what we could have done differently, even for things we couldn't have known would matter at the time.

NDP
07-06-2017, 01:52 AM
A first season episode Hill Street Blues revealed Captain Frank Furillo was a recovering alcoholic who still attended AA meetings. I don't believe he ever fell off the wagon during the series' run.

Peter Morris
07-06-2017, 03:34 AM
Not a TV show, but Sam Vimes in the Discworld stories never relapsed.

kaylasdad99
07-06-2017, 03:55 AM
I don't recall seeing Captain Stubing drunk on The Love Boat.

Folacin
07-06-2017, 06:37 AM
A first season episode Hill Street Blues revealed Captain Frank Furillo was a recovering alcoholic who still attended AA meetings. I don't believe he ever fell off the wagon during the series' run.

I don't remember the circumstances, but he did relapse. He told his ex-wife that "he'd gone for a walk", which was apparently code for "out drinking" (she said something about it having been a long time since he'd done that). Then they had him at an AA meeting where he announced it had been one day since he'd had a drink.

Chronos
07-06-2017, 10:30 AM
Not a TV show, but Sam Vimes in the Discworld stories never relapsed.
In fact, he keeps a half-empty bottle of gin in the bottom drawer of his desk, specifically so that he can not drink it. Vimes' rules for himself are a bit odd, but he follows them exactly.

Lucas Jackson
07-06-2017, 10:39 AM
The names escape me right now but I'm sure I watched a couple of British detective shows where they never fell off.

Peter Morris
07-06-2017, 12:36 PM
In fact, he keeps a half-empty bottle of gin in the bottom drawer of his desk, specifically so that he can not drink it. Vimes' rules for himself are a bit odd, but he follows them exactly.


Does he? I don't recall that.

I remember that he had a deeply ingrained habit he couldn't break of reaching down for his bottle. One day he discovered that someone had actually planted a bottle of whiskey there, expecting him to relapse.

Skywatcher
07-06-2017, 12:59 PM
I only saw a few episodes, but did John ever relapse in "The John Larroquette Show"? I recall one episode where he shot a bottle of booze.IIRC, he didn't but his sponsor (played by David Crosby) did. "My sponsor needs a sponsor?!"

TroutMan
07-06-2017, 01:14 PM
I don't think Grace on Grace Under Fire relapsed with alcohol, but she did get addicted to pain pills in one episode. A bit ironic that her character didn't relapse, because the actress (Brett Butler) had multiple relapses during the series run, which eventually led to it being cancelled.

kunilou
07-06-2017, 06:27 PM
I don't remember the circumstances, but he did relapse. He told his ex-wife that "he'd gone for a walk", which was apparently code for "out drinking" (she said something about it having been a long time since he'd done that). Then they had him at an AA meeting where he announced it had been one day since he'd had a drink.

There was an episode (I think it was a different one) where Chief Daniels confronts him with the results of a routine drug test that showed Furillo had recently drunk alcohol.

RivkahChaya
07-06-2017, 06:57 PM
I don't recall Lennie Briscoe or Donald Cragen on the various L&O incarnations ever relapsing, but granted I've missed a few episodes here and there.

Lennie had a few after witnessing an execution. Claire Kincaid came to the bar where he'd been drinking with McCoy, to give McCoy a ride, but McCoy had left, so she offered Lennie a ride, and they got hit by a drunk driver, and she was killed. Lennie jumped right back on the wagon. So, basically one night of getting drunk, and that was it for Lennie. He didn't even relapse when his daughter was killed.

If he and Claire hadn't been struck by the drunk, who knows what might have happened to Lennie, though?

And no, Cragen never relapsed. He even kept alcohol in his desk to offer to other people, and never drank it himself. Cragen didn't have continuity, but his character was probably part of L&O longer than any other. He started out as the Lt. on TOS in 1990, then left that show after about three years (sacrificed to the need Dick Wolf felt to have more women on the show). In 1999, he reappeared as the Lt and eventually CPT of the SVU precinct, and was there until, IIRC, two years ago. So he was already in recovery in 1990, and had not relapsed by 2015. He did once state that the closest he came was when his wife died.

Given that Lennie's relapse was part of a contrivance to get Jill Hennessey off the show because she wanted to do other things, it probably wasn't planned from the beginning. That is, when Lennie was stated to be an alcoholic at his first appearance, I don't think there was ever a plan to have him jump off the wagon some day. The episode where it happens, "Aftershock," is a departure for the show, and just shows all the characters trying to cope with having witnessed an execution. It was some kind of federal execution they had played a part in because NY didn't have the death penalty at the time, and I think it was polemic-- that is, it was a statement against the Death Penalty. I was in and out of Manhattan at the time, and reading lots of Manhattan papers even when I wasn't living there, and the DP was very much on the minds of New Yorkers at the time.

Sometimes I really want to go back to NY, but I don't want to uproot my son.

amarinth
07-06-2017, 07:54 PM
It was some kind of federal execution they had played a part in because NY didn't have the death penalty at the time, and I think it was polemic-- that is, it was a statement against the Death Penalty. I was in and out of Manhattan at the time, and reading lots of Manhattan papers even when I wasn't living there, and the DP was very much on the minds of New Yorkers at the time..It was actually a NY death penalty case. Pataki reinstated the death penalty in 1995; it stayed in effect until 2004. And while in real life it wasn't used during that period, the L&O writers made plenty of use of it - there were several L&O, SVU, and CI cases where the (now legal) death penalty was either a plot point or a threat or a sentence. That particular episode was supposed to have been the first person executed since reinstatement.

I have watched a lot of L&O.

To the OP - I don't remember Murphy Brown relapsing.

Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
07-06-2017, 08:27 PM
Not a TV show, but Sam Vimes in the Discworld stories never relapsed.

He did, in... I want to say Feet of Clay, maybe? He gets fired, and is later found black-out drunk in his room with his badge in his fist.
I think that's the only time, though.

Peter Morris
07-06-2017, 08:41 PM
Men at Arms, I think. But that was before he swore off the stuff. He was still a drunk then, so it wasn't a relapse.

Snooooopy
07-06-2017, 08:43 PM
Agent Lattimer on Warehouse 13 was a recovering alcoholic who didn't relapse. He DID once magically switch bodies with someone who had been drinking, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't really count.

The Other Waldo Pepper
07-06-2017, 08:51 PM
I could be wrong about this, but I believe Leo McGarry in The West Wing fits the bill. He's established as a recovering alcoholic in episode 4 of the first season, and unless I've forgotten somewhere along the line, he gets through almost the entire 7 season run without relapsing (it's not the complete series because actor John Spencer died during that final season).

Come to think of it, isn't it the Vice President -- played by Tim Matheson -- who runs the AA meetings? I don't remember him ever knocking back a drink.

RivkahChaya
07-06-2017, 09:09 PM
It was actually a NY death penalty case. Pataki reinstated the death penalty in 1995; it stayed in effect until 2004. And while in real life it wasn't used during that period, the L&O writers made plenty of use of it - there were several L&O, SVU, and CI cases where the (now legal) death penalty was either a plot point or a threat or a sentence. That particular episode was supposed to have been the first person executed since reinstatement.

I have watched a lot of L&O.



Are you sure? I seem to remember some song and dace about why they were all involved. Besides, it was a season 6 ep, which means that someone someone convicted in 1995 could not have gotten through the appeals process that quickly. I don't know if you can waive appeal in NY.

Also, even when Pataki lifted the ban, NY still did not have a MEANS of execution. I don't remember exactly how long that took to hammer out, but it was quite a while, and until NY had a means, executions weren't possible.

I remember some anti-DP groups advocating for hanging, in the hope that no one would ever convict to hang, or that it would be found "cruel and unusual" on appeal.

The Other Waldo Pepper
07-06-2017, 10:03 PM
Are you sure? I seem to remember some song and dace about why they were all involved.

The key lines from the episode were, as far as I can tell, "today the state of New York put a man to death," alongside "he beat her to death with a tire iron, and today the state of New York got its revenge." And, of the body: "it'll be buried at state expense."

(Oh, and "we caught him, McCoy cooked him.")

infinitii
07-09-2017, 09:14 AM
It was pretty subtle, but Fusco in Person of Interest was definitely a recovering alcoholic, even though I'm not sure it was ever specifically stated (except that he would get club soda at bars and such). He never fell off the wagon, either.

Two Many Cats
07-09-2017, 10:01 AM
The most hilarious show with a sort of derivative of what the OP describes is an episode of Seventh Heaven. One of the kids had a friend whose father was an alcoholic. The preacher's family gets word that this friend is going to a party where OH NOOOOOO!!!!! HE MIGHT DRINK A BEER!!!!!!

A panicked chase ensues trying to track down this teenage kid before he drinks his first beer. It's all played very straight with lines like, "His father is an alcoholic!." Yep, one beer and he'll be hooked!

I laughed so hard.