Binge Drinking – My Big Decision Review: Smells Like Teen Spirits

August 6, 2009 by  
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BINGE DRINKING – MY BIG DECISION: Thursday 6th August, BBC3, 9pm Alert Me

In BBC 3’s latest run of ‘Look At How Stupid Teenagers Are’ comes the cautionary tale of Jess, the binge drinker.

She’s 17 and getting wasted every Friday and Saturday night; Jess is testing the limits of not only her liver but her mum, Jane, and gran, Valerie.

They’re worried sick about her and rightly so. Jess’ motto seems to be ‘I go out, I get hammered, I get laid. That’s me.’ Oh dear.

If you remember the worst things about yourself aged 17, then you get a good idea of what Jess is like. She’s combative, stubborn, rude, promiscuous and permanently wasted on the weekend. Ah, to be young.

But Jess is in for a rude awakening when she goes on a little road trip with Jane and Valerie in order to bring her to the titular big decision about her drinking. Making various stops en route, Jess must confront her family’s feelings and the consequences of her actions.

Except she doesn’t, not really.

Jess has to confront consequences of drinking, but they’re not her own. Instead of taking a personal look at Jess’ life and how her drinking affects her family, her friends and her future, Jess is forced to confront strangers. Perhaps one method is just as effective as another but I think we would have gotten to the point a lot sooner. Though it would have been nice to see Jess’ horror at watching herself on a night out, visits to a drunk driving victim and an A&E appear to do the trick.

Jess garners no fans through this show; there’s little pity doled out for self inflicted wounds and Jess shows incredible reluctance to explore her problem. Half the time I was thinking, ‘this girl doesn’t need a road trip, she needs a smack.’

She highlights everything people hate about teenagers; ignorance, entitlement and a lack of respect. Jess’ lack of common safe sexual practices is a little scary, but having to admit that you’ve slept with eight people in the past three months in front of your mum and gran is even scarier.

This show is obviously designed to shock the stupid out of Jess and thankfully it seems to do the trick. Unfortunately, as viewers we are treated to the same shocks. An emotional alcoholic living in a halfway house, pleading with Jess to quit drinking. Parents sitting in the hospital while their son throws his guts up. The victim of a drunk driving accident who is partially disabled discussing her injuries.

While these shocks are necessary, there was another vital element that seemed to be missing. An in-depth look at family life and parenting skills would have served Jess well, but every time we got close, Jess clammed up and became argumentative. By the end of it I was surprised her mum hadn’t started hitting the bottle.

Mum Jane didn’t take full responsibility for the state of her daughter but at least made a solid effort to reverse the damage, while Valerie doled out critiques on modern youth. ‘m not sure what kind of effect this show will have on teen viewers because I’m betting that an experience like Jess’ is what it takes to knock some sense into people.

So unless this inspires people to go and hang out at their local Emergency room at one in the morning, I’m not sure it’ll accomplish the goals it hopes to.

Emily Moulder


Do you hate teenagers? Want to laugh at them? Check out our review of Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum and get your rocks off. Or check our scary kids scaring kids write up of The War Against Street Weapons.

Celi says:

I was looking at reviews for that show cuz indeed, that was shocking, just like most shows on this series. I think that kind of documentary doesn’t only target irresponsible teenagers, but also their parents who don’t have a clue! Look around you, Jess is only one of those irresponsible teenagers among millions of other in our culture, because of the millions of parents like hers, who are just too lenient. My mum would have killed me if I had to take an STI test for having slept with 8 different ppl, twice unprotected. Her mother said that she didn’t like confrontations, and she was afraid of being hated by her daughter. Didn’t she think that her daughter would hate her the day that she would have a liver failure or a lethal STI or end up permanently disabled in a car crash caused by drink-drinking? Jess came out to be not as stubborn as she came accross and did take on board what she learned, but it is sad that she and her mum had to go on national TV for that.