The Secret Life of Us: articles

St Kilda drama makes no secret of drinking

And the award for the most gratuitous promotion of alcohol on television goes to… The Secret Life of Us.

The Channel Ten series, set in St Kilda and tracking the life of a group of twenty and thirty-somethings, has been awarded the inaugural Boozies Award by the Australian Drug Foundation. Last night it also won a Logie for the most outstanding drama series.

The director of the foundation's Centre for Youth Drug Studies, Geoff Munro, said the Boozies were awarded for the most excessive, inappropriate or unconscionable marketing of alcohol.

"The Secret Life of Us deserves the award for the not-so-secret promotion of alcohol," Mr Munro said. "The entire first series appears to have been scripted by the alcohol industry. Five minutes in every episode is given over to drinking or the depiction of alcohol brands."

Mr Munro said all 22 episodes of the first series were analysed for how often characters drank, poured or held alcohol and for how often bottles, cans or glasses of alcohol were visible. "The analysis showed that 25 per cent of all scenes in the whole series featured alcohol consumption or visual references to alcohol," he said.

"One in every four scenes portrayed alcohol or the signs of alcohol use such as branded bottles and cans. Throughout the series 12 per cent of screen time was devoted to showing drinking or alcohol brands—almost five minutes per 43-minute episode."

In comparison, a 1999 analysis of alcohol references in six prime-time Australian programs. including Water Rats and Blue Heelers, found such references in only 3.4 per cent of scenes.

Mr Munro said it was "fair enough" for TV shows to feature alcohol as it reflected modern life, but the screen time devoted to alcohol on The Secret Life of Us was excessive.

Penny Fannin
April 29, 2002

Secret Life a soakie

LOGIE-winning television drama The Secret Life of Us collected another, less coveted, prize yesterday.

The Australian Drug Foundation awarded the show its inaugural "Boozie", for excessive and inappropriate displays of alcohol.

Foundation research shows one in four scenes in the show's first series featured alcohol.

Foundation spokesman Geoff Munro said one especially boozy episode featured plonk in 45 per cent of scenes.

"It showed the characters sitting around waiting for dinner surrounded by 18 empty-looking bottles, which seemed excessive," he said.

An episode that featured grog in only 11 per cent of scenes didn't get the foundation's tick of approval either -- because it showed characters using ecstasy.

Mr Munro said the foundation's analysis of 22 episodes showed none of the show's characters abstained from booze.

"The show tries to be realistic about young adult lives… but in real life about 20 per cent of people don't drink," he said.

"The show is an advertising dream for the alcohol industry.

"The writers ought to use their imagination and find other ways of showing characters relaxing or coping with pressure without resorting so often to the bottle."

Mr Munro said a previous study of six prime-time Australian programs screened in 1997 found only 3.4 per cent of scenes referred to alcohol.

The foundation's research covered only the first series, for which the show won nine Logie nominations.

"We haven't done a complete analysis of the second series, but the product placements seem to be even more blatant," he said.

"There was one episode where a character was drinking in the shower."

A spokesman from The Secret Life of Us was unavailable for comment last night.

By Fiona Hudson
April 29, 2002
Herald Sun