The Best and Worst of Wine on TV, From ‘Friday Night Lights’ to ‘Emily in Paris’

The Best and Worst of Wine on TV, From 'Friday Night Lights' to 'Emily in Paris'

GRAPE PERFORMANCES 1. Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge), ‘The White Lotus’ 2. Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), ‘Friday Night Lights’ 3. Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara), ‘Schitt’s Creek’ 4. David Rose (Dan Levy), ‘Schitt’s Creek’ 5. Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), ‘Emily in Paris’ 6. Richard Youngsta (Chris Brown), ‘Black-ish’ 7. Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey), ‘Ginny & Georgia’ 8. Tom Wambsgans (Matthew MacFadyen), ‘Succession’

Illustration: Dennis Eriksson

WINE IS FOR SNOBS. Wine is for drunks. And white wine is the universal drink of choice for women. This is what I learned watching a great deal of television these past several weeks in preparation for this special TV issue of Off Duty. I had hoped to see wine woven into plots in some creative ways. Spoiler alert: I did not.

In the Netflix series “Emily in Paris,” for example, wine features a great deal—generally to demonstrate a character’s “Frenchness” or simply as a means to get drunk. The show features a vapid American…

WINE IS FOR SNOBS. Wine is for drunks. And white wine is the universal drink of choice for women. This is what I learned watching a great deal of television these past several weeks in preparation for this special TV issue of Off Duty. I had hoped to see wine woven into plots in some creative ways. Spoiler alert: I did not.

In the
Netflix
series “Emily in Paris,” for example, wine features a great deal—generally to demonstrate a character’s “Frenchness” or simply as a means to get drunk. The show features a vapid American “influencer” who arrives from Chicago to teach the French about marketing. Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) “discovers” Paris in every clichéd way (croissants! Champagne!). When her sidekick Mindy shows up at Emily’s apartment planning to stay a while, she promises to buy “so much wine.” I was not reassured. This is, after all, the character who calls Sancerre “a breakfast wine.”

The Best and Worst of Wine on TV, From 'Friday Night Lights' to 'Emily in Paris'

CITY OF LIKE In ‘Emily in Paris,’ social media influencer Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) and her friend Mindy Chen (Ashley Park) drink plenty of wine.

Photo: NETFLIX

There is also much wine consumed—joylessly—in the HBO series “Succession,” soon to start its third season. In one episode, the ruthless/spineless Tom Wambsgans (Matthew MacFadyen), son-in-law of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), attends a wedding where his family has “made a contribution to the wine.” When he finds his wife’s old (new?) flame, Nate, drinking one of the special wines, Tom is so outraged he makes Nate pour the wine back into the bottle. (“Put my f—ing wine back. Now.”) The script does not reveal the name of the wine—a missed opportunity, in my opinion. Why not make it Silver Oak Cabernet, for example? Loathed and loved in equal measure in the wine world, that’s a bottle that would at least resonate.

In “Succession” plenty of characters drink Champagne, too—again, joylessly. This wine appears largely as an(other) agent of destruction, as when addict Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) drinks it during a fall off the wagon.

Champagne made one of its more notorious appearances on television in 2017 in the third season of ABC’s “Black-ish.” The character Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) hires fictional rap star Richard Youngsta (Chris Brown) to rep a Champagne brand named Uvo. The song “Put Some Uvo On It” says the drink “makes everything better”—though no one is shown actually drinking the stuff. The accompanying ad depicts an irritated Black woman turned into a smiling white woman when Youngsta pours bubbly on her—a move other characters call an insult to Black women.

On HBO’s “The White Lotus,” which recently concluded season one, Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) medicates her sorrows over life’s disappointments and her dead mother with an occasional Champagne and a prodigious volume of white wine. Tanya drinks to the point of near unconsciousness, a state Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey) of Netflix’s “Ginny & Georgia”—a kind of “Gilmore Girls” gone off the rails—doesn’t quite manage in any of the scenes I watched, though she comes close. Georgia is a rare female character who gets blotto on both red and white wine. She drinks day and night. In season one, Georgia’s friend and neighbor Ellen Baker asks if she can give Georgia “a little 1 p.m. Chardonnay advice” while they are drinking said stuff.

I was far more entertained by the scenes of wine consumption in the Emmy-winning Canadian series “Schitt’s Creek,” whose six seasons ended in 2020 to the sorrow of many, including me. Most of the fun wine scenes in “Schitt’s Creek” belong to matriarch Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara). Among my favorites: the time Moira and her son, David (Dan Levy), get drunk at the Herb Ertlinger Winery. “Hey, not to be too effusive but I’d call that one potable,” says Moira, drinking from one of many half-empty glasses whose contents they’ve been mixing.

Filming a commercial for the winery, Moira consumes a bit too much product to successfully pronounce the name. (“Herb Erfling … ger. Burt Herngeif. Irv Herb-blinger. Bing Livehaanger. Liveling. Burt Herkurn.”) She does, hilariously, manage to tout the farm’s “Riesling Rioja.”

One of my favorite TV characters, Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), from one of my favorite TV shows, “Friday Night Lights,” regularly drinks wine and does it, thankfully, in what I consider an utterly normal way. When Tami has a tough day, she pours herself a glass of white wine. She doesn’t get drunk or do anything obnoxious (though Amy Schumer did spoof her perpetual sipping to perfection in the “Football Town Nights” sketch on “Inside Amy Schumer”). After watching so many unsatisfying depictions of wine on TV, returning to Tami pouring herself a glass felt neither contrived or silly but more like catching up with an old friend.

Write to Lettie at wine@wsj.com

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