Television's Booze Hounds

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"You understand there was a grenade between them, and that grenade was alcohol," said Logue, adding this week's episode shows his character attending an AA meeting.

TV's Biggest Drinkers

Women aren't immune either. Two decades ago Helen Mirren became a household name in the U.S. after viewers saw her portray Jane Tennison, the first woman detective chief inspector for Scotland Yard. Mirren showed that women eager for professional recognition could fall prey to the bottle, as well. "Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection," has just been released as a DVD. "NYPD Blue's" detective Diane Russell (Kim Delaney) was scarred by alcohol, as was Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi), on "Life."

Is there a downside to these graphic portrayals?

"It could be a dangerous message when those people who are predisposed to experience a greater sense of pleasure with alcohol see a glorification of this process on television," said Angres.

Alcoholism Shown as a Disease

Kimberly Dennis, an addiction psychiatrist and the medical director at Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment center in Chicago, said, "It's a lot easier to minimize and even deny our own problem if we see extreme versions of that problem." She added that, in the era depicted on "Mad Men," people drank excessively and openly in a work environment where imbibing was part of the culture, like smoking. "Today's drinker drinks after work, and people are very good about covering up their drinking," she said. "In fact, alcoholism is rampant in our society."

Logue suggested that Hank's road to sobriety through AA would not be easy. "AA is not a staircase where you climb to the top," he said. "The journey is very different from that, and there's no graduation ceremony."

"Today we've evolved to the point we understand alcoholism as a disease, and this allows us to see its chronic progressive nature," said Angres. Television is in a position to make that downward spiral vivid and meaningful.

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