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TV shows to binge watch that also star lots of alcohol

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you're staying in this year, there are plenty of shows that will make you feel like you're at a party.

Gone are the days when drinking on television meant that a character had a problem. Now fun drunks are all the rage, from "Cougar Town" to "How I Met Your Mother." Sure, "Boardwalk Empire" is pretty violent, but isn't the lesson that alcohol should be legal?

From the classic "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" to "Mad Men," we rounded up the best modern shows featuring alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol, that is.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

There's no show on television that's edgier than
Photo Credit: RAY MICKSHAW / FX

There's no show on television that's edgier than "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which may on its surface, look like some type of incarnation of "Friends" or "How I Met Your Mother." But the gangs on those shows would likely run screaming from "The Gang" on "It's Always Sunny," which has had episode titles like "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis" and The Gang Solves the North Korean Situation."

"It's Always Sunny" takes place in a South Philadelphia bar Paddy's, and four alcoholic loser friends from high school and the wealthy man who raised Dee and Dennis (and maybe the biological father of Charlie) who spend all their time in the bar. In fact, they are even pictured above with a dumpster baby they adopted--in the bar.

In a win for drinking everywhere, in the season one episode "Underage Drinking: A National Concern," Paddy's becomes a hotspot for underage drinking, since it never checks IDs. But the gang decides they have to provide a safe environment for these drinkers--and they get so over-involved in the kids' lives that they end up at the prom.

"It's Always Sunny" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and is on DVD.

Mad Men

If the advertising world of the '60s couldn't
Photo Credit: AMC

If the advertising world of the '60s couldn't survive the golden era, it's probably because of the drinking. On the seven seasons of "Mad Men," the show has treated us to some of the biggest lushes on television. Look at the above picture, where Don and Roger are standing in front of a literal drinking cart in their office.

Despite any character growth, no characters on the show ever really give up drinking. In the season seven premiere, Freddy Rumsen, the guy who once peed his pants after a drunken day at the office, has joined AA, and preaches the benefits to Don. But Freddy is a joke, and he's hardly as talented as Don. In fact in the same episode, Roger has brunch with his daughter--but he needs to have a Bloody Mary to make it through the brunch.

"Mad Men" has long had the distinction of being called the "drunkest show" on television, although the characters' drinking is not all fun and games. Don can hardly be described as anything but an alcoholic, and his exile at the end of season six proved that there can be consequences for drinking too much. In one of the best episodes of the series, season four's "The Suitcase," Peggy is forced to spend a night with Don at the office when he drinks too much after the death Anna (long story)--and while trying to come up with a pitch for Samsonite. Who says there are consequences for drinking when we get to see an episode as good as that one?

"Mad Men" is available to stream on Netflix and is on DVD.

How I Met Your Mother

The gang on
Photo Credit: Fox / Ron P. Jaffe

The gang on "How I Met Your Mother" long posed us with the question: Would any of these people even be friends if it weren't for alcohol?

"How I Met Your Mother's" main base was MacLaren's, a bar based on the midtown bar McGee's. The gang spent so much time at MacLaren's that bartender Carl even once allowed Ted and Barney to take over the bar in the season five episode "Three Days of Snow." Ted and Barney even had a name ready if they ever opened a bar: Puzzles ("That's the puzzle" -- or something, everything always sounds brilliant when you're drunk).

The show was fond of its characters drunkenly declaring "I'm never drinking again" and then showing those same characters drunk a short time later. It was never really explained how kindergarten teacher Lily put up with those kids if she really drank as much as she did on the show (kids are brutal for a hangover), or how Robin could possibly ever have drank before her 2 a.m. television makeup call (it's really hard to read the news if you're drunk--trust us). Hangovers never really seemed to last in "How I Met Your Mother," and drunken hookups always were successful. Maybe it was all that Future Ted certainly had a rosy view of his youth and forgot all the problems that could come with too much alcohol.

"How I Met Your Mother" is available to stream on Netflix and on DVD.

Absolutely Fabulous

Remember Ross's almost-mother-in-law from
Photo Credit: Oxygen

Remember Ross's almost-mother-in-law from "Friends"? She was played by Jennifer Saunders, who is the creator of the mother of all drinking comedies, "Absolutely Fabulous."

"Absolutely Fabulous" premiered in 1992 (long before most drunk American comedies), starring Saunders as PR agent Eddy Monsoon and Joanna Lumley as her best friend, magazine editor Patsy Stone. The hard-drinking, druggy pair are taken care of by Monsoon's daughter, Saffron.

The show gave us this immortal line: "Darling, if you want to talk bollocks and discover the meaning of life, you're better off just downing a bottle of whiskey. At least that way you're unconscious by the time you start to take yourself seriously.

"Absolutely Fabulous" is available to stream on Amazon Instant, and is available on DVD.

Boardwalk Empire

If many shows on TV portray drinking as
Photo Credit: HBO/Abbot Genser

If many shows on TV portray drinking as harmless, "Boardwalk Empire" would be the some other extreme. Taking place in Atlantic City during Prohibition, "Boardwalk Empire" focuses on how bootleg alcohol built the black market--and how completely empty the law even was. Bootleg alcohol funds the entire city of Atlantic City,, and illegal alcohol allows the rich and powerful to become gangsters, creating an atmosphere of drugs, prostitution, and violence.

Sounds like a fun message, no? The gangsters of "Boardwalk Empire" partake in plenty of drinking (you'd probably be drinking too, if you had to kill as many people as they do), so it's hard to pick just some highlights, although there's always watching Rosetti's crew get drunk together in the third season finale. Or when Eli drunkenly tries to punch Nucky in the season one episode "Nights in Ballygran," and misses by a mile. Steve Buscemi delivers the classic "what the [expletive] was that for?" in response. Just look at the above photo to illustrate the show's attitude toward drinking.

There might not be a moral lesson to be learned from "Boardwalk Empire," so if you like to drink for a good time, you might want to stay away from it. Of course, you could always use it as a lesson for why the Volstead Act was a such a bad idea.

"Boardwalk Empire" is available on HBO Go and on DVD.

Gossip Girl

Does drinking ever look as glamorous as it
Photo Credit: KC Bailey / The CW

Does drinking ever look as glamorous as it does on "Gossip Girl"? The kids of "Gossip Girl" were only legally old enough to drink in like the last season, but that never stopped them from running around Manhattan, at some of the hottest nightclubs, drinking as much as they wanted. In fact, they are pictured above in the season one episode "The Wild Brunch," a group of high-school juniors at a brunch--attended by their parents--and they all have drinks in front of them.

Some of the show's best moments even came after alcohol. In season one, Chuck and Blair's first hookup came with plenty of alcohol--at a burlesque club, no less. Serena and Nate got adorably drunk at a wedding and slept together. Dan and Vanessa got drunk with his then-girlfriend Olivia, and they decided a threesome would be a good idea. And pretty much any scene involving Chuck involved alcohol. Or Lily was rarely on screen without a glass on red wine (even when she was under house arrest).

At least there was usually consequences for their drinking. Serena drunkenly got married in season two, only to find it was really some kind of long con. Chuck's most redeeming moments came when he gave up alcohol. And Jenny, poor Jenny, once drunkenly slept with Chuck (who was also drunk)--only be be banished out of New York City.

But the "Gossip Girl" kids never did stop looking beautiful, despite all that drinking. The casual references to hangovers usually just led to more drinking, which isn't very surprising, considering that they are kids and our stomachs are so much kinder to drinking pre-30s.

"Gossip Girl" is available to stream on Netflix and on DVD.

Cougar Town

If you want to watch a show where
Photo Credit: Doug Hyun/TBS

If you want to watch a show where there is little consequence for drinking, then "Cougar Town" is for you. Alcohol is never a scrounge on this show, except maybe if someone decides to stop drinking, like Jules in the season one episode "Turn This Car Around" when she decides to stop drinking. "Twelve steps, shmelve steps. Alcohol makes people fun," says Ellie.

Creator Bill Lawrence told Vulture in 2010 that all the drinking comes from "real life." "As soon as I get off the phone with you, I'm going to go home, I'm going to make sure my kids see me, and then I'm going to have a hefty glass of red wine," he said.

"Cougar Town" has names for Jules' huge wine glasses, such "Big Joe" and the 44-ounce "Big Carl," and "Big Kimo" from her trip to Hawaii. When asking if anyone wants wine, the correct response is "always."

"Cougar Town" is available on Amazon Instant and DVD.

Brothers and Sisters


While "Brothers and Sisters" was not necessarily a show about drinking (hence why there were scarce photos to choose from of drinking, so instead Rob Lowe being adorable is featured), drinking was one of the Walker family's favorite pasttimes--and eventually even a business opportunity.

Although addict Justin provided the show with plenty of lessons about the problems of drinking in excess, most of the drinking done by the Walker family was fairly harmless--and their drunken misadventures included hookups, confessions, fights, irrational voicemails, and even signing divorce papers while singing karaoke in a gay bar.

The Walkers' frequent wine consumption became something of a joke when brother Tommy decided to open a vineyard in season one, with his family consuming most of the alcohol there (he even jokes that if anyone wants to find a drink, he or she can "follow Kevin")--and Kitty even accidentally mixes wine with some pills from Kevin's bag, making her even loopier than usual.

The highlight of the show's drinking was the season one episode, "Something Ida This Way Comes." Justin gets out of rehab for their mother's 60th birthday party, but they are forced to make the party dry for his return. As a result, they hide all the pre-bought alcohol in Kitty's closet, causing lots of secret trips to the closet and jokes about "closet drinking."

"Brothers and Sisters" is available to stream on Netflix and is on DVD.

The Good Wife

Photo Credit: David M. Russell/CBS

"You should see Alicia drink," said main character Alicia's brother told a reporter on the April 27th, 2014 episode of "The Good Wife." Joking aside, the characters on "The Good Wife" might be successful lawyers and politicians, but they also know how to throw back a few.

"The Good Wife" has featured plenty of its characters at the bar, including the days when Alicia and Kalinda were friends and first began bonding with alcohol. And plenty of Alicia's big discoveries while working on cases at home happened while she was drinking a glass of red wine.

While the characters on the show rarely get so blackout drunk they don't know what's happening, Will (sniff) and Alicia's first sexual encounter happened while they were drinking tequila shots to celebrate a hard-fought victory (the moment just before they went up to the hotel room is pictured). In other words, if you want to work up the courage to be with the man you love, tequila is the answer!

"The Good Wife" is available on DVD.

Kathie Lee and Hoda

Oh, Kathie Lee and Hoda. The hosts of
Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC

Oh, Kathie Lee and Hoda. The hosts of the fourth hour of "Today" have the distinction of being on in the morning--and this being real, live television.

Do a simple Google search for Kathie Lee and Hoda and the first thing that comes up is drinking. The pair insisted in February that they're never drunk on air, and Kathie Lee Gifford said in 2013 that "if we drank anywhere near what people think we drink, we couldn't function at an extraordinarily high professional level." Gifford has even created own wine.

But despite their good-natured jokes, their drinking has raised some eyebrows--there's even a Facebook page called Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: Please Stop Drinking on the Today Show, saying drinking in the morning is one of the early signs of alcoholism. Kotb said in 2013 that they are merely trying to "keep the mood festive and keep it light and happy and uplifting!"

Kathie Lee and Hoda are on the fourth hour of the "Today" show on NBC, from 10am-11am EST.

BONUS! Cheers

Photo Credit: Handout

"Cheers" came before our modern era of drinking on TV, yet drinking was always, always the backdrop on "Cheers," which took place in a bar in Boston. Bartender Sam Malone was a recovering alcoholic, so he never drank, while loveable drunks like Norm, Cliff, and Frasier (back when he was a beer drinker) all hung out in the bar.

Although tame by today's standards of drinking on television (did anyone ever get so blacked-out drunk that it was unclear how or if they got home?), there was plenty of drinking going around on the show. Even though some of the crew had steady jobs, they still were often found at the bar, drinking at noon. In fact, the action never even left the bar in the entire first season. That's quite the life.

The "Cheers" gang had long-standing rivalry with Gary's Olde Towne Tavern, another bar with patrons as dedicated as Cheers'. No wonder Diane had no career opportunities, since Boston seems to be a town where only drinking is encouraged.

"Cheers" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and on DVD.


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