Imagine a producer at Al Jazeera, the Qatari TV channel, pitching a program idea to his managers which goes something like this. We select a group of overweight elderly Doha Residents, people with a certain celebrity in our beloved Kingdom – we want the audience to like them but they need to be men of the people – and we take them off to Britain where we take them on a road trip around; public houses, distilleries, micro-breweries and vineyards in London and its environs. The first day the bus drives to a micro-brewery where guests will have lunch and the more progressive will drink a pint of beer. One or two will desist and seek the moral high-ground which will focus the conversation. We will have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of drinking alcohol. There will be much talk about the medicinal benefits of alcohol particularly for mental health conditions such as ShIT (social-horror of invites tremor) as well as explaining the very significant benefits of alcohol in reducing heart disease. French people don’t have heart disease because they drink so much wine! There will be some detail on how those who drank beer over the ages didn’t get cholera as the beer killed the bug; so it must be good. We will have a number of medical experts provided by the brewery company who will speak to camera.
The beer drinkers will get a little tipsy – we won’t give them too much alcohol on day one – and they will say funny things and a hoot to watch until they finally fall into bed. We will show how the beer is made – great TV plenty of bubbles, frothy heads and brown liquid – and we will cut to the multitude of cultural benefits of beer and other alcoholic beverages to Anglo Saxon culture.
Day two we visit a gin distillery in the centre of London and sip various flavoured brands. We need to get two of guests “off their face” and they need to “make an ass of themselves”. This is such compelling TV and the audience will be glued to it so think of the rating and the advertising revenues. We expect the drunk guests to throw up when they get back on the bus; “chucking up” as they call it in England always a TV hit. We will off course have medical help on hand and we can assure you, from an insurance and guest liability point of view, we have things covered. There are many A&Es across the greater London region with well-trained staff highly experienced dealing with medical emergencies related to alcohol such as; liver disease, mental break down, broken limbs and battered wives.
On day three we visit a winery in the South of England run but a colony of Trappist monks who have won myriad gold medals for their viniculture. We will watch the now sobering guests getting a “hair of the dog”; the best way to cure hangover and it will all be fun again. And that’s the idea. What do you think?
When the stunned TV executives ask why the hell they would even consider making such a stupid, trite, banal programme they will be told that as a developing nation, looking after the needs of its people, Qatar need to air such programmes. It will stimulate social progress and modernisation and anyway the expats who live in the kingdom because we have no poor to do menial jobs, already drink alcohol and no-one complains too much about that. We want to be a part of modern, open society and to be frank the gas and oil is not going to last forever. The alcohol business will be huge; a key financial driver for the economy with many spin off businesses; think of the jobs it will bring.
“And what is the cost of this programme”. asks the still suspicious executives.
“Oh don’t worry about that we have already secured sponsorships from the breweries, the distilleries and the vineyards. They see Qatar as a major business opportunity going forward”.
So now, dear reader, you know why ITV aired the programme “Gone to pot” last night at prime time.
Editors note: Gone to Pot is a TV series on ITV featuring Christopher Biggins, John Fashanu, Linda Robson, Pam St Clement and Bobby George on a road trip across America sampling the delights of medical marijuana.
I am a pharmacist in Belfast.