What time is it? Why it shouldn't always be wine o'clock
TELEVISION:Maia Dunphy proves a good guide to the world of the serial tipple, while there’s a glut of serial killers on Sky
So having watched Reality Bites: Merlot & Me (RTÉ Two, Monday) it turns out that waiters aren’t actually stingy and I should stop giving them the gimlet eye at their idea of a glass of wine. Their pesky measures are correct – 100ml for a small one – and it’s home drinkers with wine glasses the size of baby’s heads that get it wrong. Those two freely poured glasses of supermarket plonk at wine o’clock probably add up to four official glasses.
The very funny Maia Dunphy is the “me” in the title, on a quest to discover if her home-drinking habits – wine most nights, vodka chilling in the freezer – is doing her, a healthy woman her mid 30s, any damage, healthwise.
Her liver is working fine. (The doctor giving her the results was wearing a tie with a pint motif. Booze really is everywhere. He wasn’t amused when she pointed it out.) But a plastic surgeon suggested that alcohol ages a person – and, in a line that would make you put a cork in it pretty quickly, he said, “It makes everything drop a little faster.”
Dunphy is a fantastic presenter: smart, funny, warm and able to personalise a subject without coming across all me, me, me. She found that her own drinking habits reflect a broader change in alcohol consumption among women – it has risen hugely – so you’re as likely to be offered a glass of wine as a cup of tea at a friend’s house; it’s part of the supermarket shop (“next aisle over from the Sudocrem”), and opening a bottle at home to destress after a long day is so common as to be unremarkable.
The facts are sobering: down half a bottle of wine a day and within 10 years a woman is on her way to liver cirrhosis with an increased risk of breast cancer.
One of the funniest and most revealing segments was in Beaumont Hospital’s neurology department, where Dunphy took a series of tests that revealed her to be quick-witted and steady. Then, sitting across from the neuropsychologist Dr Niall Pender – such a communicator he should get a health programme of his own – she drank two glasses of wine.
Redoing the tests, the results were very different. She was unsteady on her feet, slower-witted and had poor reaction times. Pender showed how her judgment was now impaired – saying she wouldn’t, for example, be able to drive.
Look beyond the humour and Dunphy’s engaging candour and this was good public-service information delivered entertainingly. Merlot Me was packed with quickfire interviews. Contributions from a psychologist, an addiction counsellor, doctors and her book club – glug club, more like – built a convincing picture of women drinking much more than they realise.
Highlighting the changing drinking patterns, a publican’s wife told of finding the itemised bill for her wedding in 1977. It included, for the women, 30 “dressed oranges” – a tooth-jangling concoction of orange juice topped with cream – and several jugs of squash.
The debate about gun control in the US after the mass murders at the cinema in Colorado and the school in Connecticut shone a spotlight on broader issues of violence in popular culture. The Following (Sky Atlantic, Tuesday), the US psychological thriller that premiered there on Monday, got caught in the glare, with executives from Fox having to step up and defend their expensive new drama.