Reverend Richard Coles: Time to end glamorous depiction of alcoholism on TV

·3 min read
Reverend Richard Coles has revealed his partner died of alcoholism. (Getty Images)
Reverend Richard Coles believes alcholism is portrayed as glamorous on TV. (Getty Images)

Reverend Richard Coles has said it is time for TV to stop romanticising alcohol and offer a more realistic portrayal of addiction.

The Communards star turned Anglican priest - whose husband David Coles died in December 2019 after a lengthy battle with alcoholism - said he is a big fan of the TV show Narcos, but lamented its glamorous portrayal of drinking.

Coles, 59, told the Radio Times: "My husband David died of alcoholic liver disease. He was 43, a clergyman, and a former A&E charge nurse. Not an obvious victim, you might think, of alcoholism, but he had been drinking excessively since his teenage years, as a palliative – alcohol is the most readily available anaesthetic in the world – and as a recreation.”

Read more: Reverend Richard Coles reveals partner died of alcoholism

The reverend - who took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2017 - went on: "[Narcos] pulls no punches depicting the extremes of that [the drug] trade”

Wagner Moura's Pablo Escobar and Juan Pablo Raba's right-hand man Gustavo in Narcos. (Netflix)
Wagner Moura's Pablo Escobar and Juan Pablo Raba's right-hand man Gustavo in 'Narcos'. (Netflix)

“But if one of the aims of the producers is to alert us to the terrible consequences, there is an irony. The barons have all the trappings that come with wealth and power … and in these locations, they drink rare tequila, or even rarer Scotch, from heavy crystal tumblers …. But actually those luscious liquids, the ample rewards of sin, are far deadlier than the crack that paid for them."

Coles said alcohol is the world's deadliest drug. He went on to praise the portrayal of addiction in BBC Radio 4 agricultural soap opera The Archers, which has depicted young, successful businesswoman Alice Carter, played by Hollie Chapman's slowly developing battle with alcoholism.

The Archers (Credit: BBC)
'The Archers' is a Radio 4 soap about rural life. (BBC)

He said: "The account of her descent into the chaos that addiction brings, and the effect it had on those around her, was unsparing, and it became a talking point for Ambridge [the fictional village where the Archers is set] aficionados everywhere. Why? Partly because of the excellence of the writing, directing, and acting, but also because the story is such a familiar one, and touches so many, regardless of background, income, or fortune.

Coles added: “But if we are to make realistic decisions about how we poison ourselves, we need the information, the hard facts, not the romanticised, glamorised, falsified version of alcohol that entertainment offers and advertising promotes. We need more Ambridge, less Guadalajara, to restore a bit of realism to a distorted picture.”

The Radio 4 presenter met his late husband David after a church service in Norwich in 2007 and they entered into a civil partnership in 2011.

David's alcoholism became so severe he lost his job as a priest and his licence from the bishop. Coles reveals he would come home to find him unconscious on the floor surrounded by bottles.

Read more: Richard Coles says death of partner left him sometimes feeling life is over

Coles announced his death in December 2019 is a series of devastating tweets. But waited until March 2021 to reveal he had struggled with alcohol addiction - because of the stigma surrounding the disease.

He said: "I wanted to get a sense of why David was so important to those who loved him before we got to a discussion of what killed him.”

Watch: Richard Coles discusses his husband's alcoholism in his memoir