Picks and Pans Main: Video

UPDATED 05/08/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/08/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

YOUR ALCOHOL I.Q.

To the extent that it's possible to make a workable combination of a lecture on how to avoid getting drunk, a Family Feud-like quiz format and a celebrity interview show, this is a successful, informative 40-minute tape. It's moderated by L.A. Law stars (and real-life spouses) Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, who pose a series of multiple-choice, true/ false questions on drinking. How, for instance, do you slow the rate at which alcohol enters your blood: Eat a heavy meal before you drink; drink a heavy liquid like milk to line the stomach; drink coffee between alcoholic beverages; or snack as you drink? "Snack as you drink" is the answer, say Eikenberry, Tucker and their medical experts. Other questions include "What exactly causes someone to get drunk?" ("Drinking causes brain cells to go to sleep") and "Can men drink more than women?" (It depends on body size).

The questions are also pondered by a group of TV actors, including Patrick (Dallas) Duffy, Maria (227) Gibbs, Micky (The Monkees) Dolenz and Lisa (Knots Landing) Hartman, who deserves particular good-sport credit for allowing herself to appear as such a know-nothing, sputtering through most of her comments.

Underwritten by the Anheuser-Busch brewing empire, the tape has one patently self-serving section, in which it's argued that advertising doesn't affect how much people drink. Eikenberry and Tucker cite some research supporting this contention, and Dr. David Pittman of Washington University in St. Louis backs them up, but they don't address such issues as how a sports fan's lifetime of exposure to good-time beer commercials is likely to affect his attitude toward drinking.

The tape nonetheless raises, in a lively fashion, worthwhile concerns about the dangers of alcohol. The difficulty will be in finding an occasion to show it; the people who need to see it may be hard to pin down for this kind of nonspecific, preventive treatment. (Anheuser-Busch, free rental at local video stores)

BACK TO REALITY

This 31-minute tape, aimed primarily at treatment professionals, is part of a series produced by the Johnson Institute, a Minneapolis clinic that has treated substance abuse since 1966. The other tapes—including Enabling: Masking Reality, Intervention: Facing Reality, Co-Dependence: The Joy of Recovery and Choices & Consequences—provide more detail, but this one, anchored by Hugh Downs, hits the basics. It includes a brief historical survey of the conflicted role of alcohol in American society—the mindless macho tests of drinking capacity, for instance—but uses dramatizations to present the institute's program for treating addicts.

The program focuses on "intervention"—organizing an addict's family and friends to confront her or him in a carefully planned meeting where the family and friends discuss how the addict's behavior is hurting them and the addict and present their "bottom lines": what they will do if the addict doesn't go into treatment.

There are two serious problems in these tapes. One is that many of the actors in the dramatizations should be glazed and decorated with pineapple rings. (The cast is made up of professional Minneapolis-area actors.) This isn't a drama class, of course, but it's hard to accept the seriousness of crises presented in such distractingly unconvincing fashion. The other problem is that the tapes range in price from $445 to $565 apiece. A lot of money obviously wasn't lavished on production. The institute says its research costs justify these lofty, if not ludicrous, prices. Since the tapes are often repetitive, those interested might want to settle for the summarizing Back to Reality, at least for starters. (Johnson Institute; 800-231-5165)

HOW TO STOP THE ONE YOU LOVE FROM DRINKING AND USING DRUGS

Similar in orientation and more accessible, this 56-minute tape dramatizes the stories of three addiction-plagued families, with Mariette Hartley moderating.

This tape, too, endorses (and vividly shows the painful steps of) intervention. But the casts acting the stories include such old pros as Beah (Roots II) Richards and Colby (Salvador) Chester. Hartley, serious but not grim, gives a list of questions aimed at finding out if a person's drinking is out of control, such as "Have you stopped doing things as a family?"; "Does the person drink alone?"; "Does he or she show a personality change after drinking?" The tape also urges viewers to contact the National Council on Alcoholism (800-622-2255) or the Association of Intervention Specialists (612-831-4357). (Paramount, $24.95; 800-972-5858)

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