The special one-hour season 5 finale of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” aired on October 25, 2010. The episode centered on Khloe’s birthday celebration thrown on the yacht of a family friend in New York. In hopes of endless birthday fun, Kourtney, Kim, and Kris hop on a flight to NYC, but Bruce decides to stay behind.

Disgruntled about spending the weekend without the girls, Bruce decides to use the time to bond with his step-son, Rob. Rob talks Bruce into a night out on the town. To make the outing more enjoyable Rob invites his guy friends and the girls from the band BG5. While out on the town Bruce finds it hard to let loose and enjoy the young Hollywood club scene.

As Bruce sits and complains he is “too old” to be out partying, Rob changes his mind by showing him a picture Kris sends via text from the yacht party. The photo shows Kris draped around a stripper pole. Bruce takes one look at the picture and immediately makes it his new mission of the night to party like a rock star. Bruce shows off his dance moves and drinks the night away.

At the close of the night, Bruce decides to get behind the wheel in order to drive back to his home in Calabasas, California. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles if an individual’s blood alcohol concentration level is .08% or above that individual may be arrested for driving under the influence. While it is unclear how much alcohol Bruce has consumed, it seems apparent from his actions, speech and appearance he is likely over the legal limit.  TV Guide posted a clip from the night on their website. The clip is titled, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Wild Boys” and the description reads: “Season 5, Episode 11: Bruce gets his ears pierced while out on the town with Rob and the guys. Plus, check out their drunken drive-thru trip.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission released a recent study in August which indicated an estimated 17 million people have driven drunk at least once during the past year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission’s study also revealed 1 in 5 Americans have driven within 2 hours of drinking alcohol in the past year and 4 out of 5 Americans identify drunk driving as a “major threat” to their safety. This “major threat” is not only a perception by the American public; it is in fact, a reality. MADD reports as many as 2 million drunk drivers are on the road at any given time.

While these statistics seem alarming, we must ask ourselves – do we encourage and support drunk driving through reality television shows? Since reality shows took off in 1990 they have been associated with alcohol. In fact, some of the most memorable reality show moments from the past ten years involve alcohol consumption. Commentators question whether producers intentionally provide the cast of reality shows with alcohol to make for juicier footage. A New York Times article claims reality show veterans have revealed alcohol is one of many producers’ favorite tools. Dave Kerpen, the star of Fox’s reality dating show “Paradise Hotel”, revealed in the same article, he downed 8 long island ice teas on his first night of filming (click here to read the entire article). The article also stated, Sarah Kozer, a contestant on “Joe Millionare” stated she was drunk or close to it on 90% of her on-air scenes. Stuart Krasnow, an Oxygen Network producer has stated to the New York Times he would be willing to bet his mortgage there has been a reality show producer who has “used alcohol to get more out of their contestants.” Producers who encourage alcohol consumption on set should be aware this behavior might lead to possible network liability issues as well problems with legal capacity.

Whether or not alcohol consumption is induced by producers or consumed by reality show stars as a result of their own free will, one result remains – alcohol and its effects are broad-casted across television every minute of the day. The season finale of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” is not the only time the Kardashian family has been associated with drinking and driving. In March of 2007, Khloe was arrested for driving under the influence (see mug shot below).

The episode documenting Khloe’s arrest aired during an earlier season of the show. A month later, Khloe decided to speak out against drinking and driving on an episode of the The Tyra Banks Show for this very reason it seems television may be a double-edged  sword. When it comes to the issue of drinking and driving critics might argue television condones or even promotes drinking and driving. Others would argue it has been the best medium of reducing the number of individuals who get behind the wheel after consuming alcoholic beverages.

The positive effects of using television as a medium to stop drinking and driving are evident. This upcoming holiday season will mark the 22 ad anniversary of the U.S. Designated Drivers Campaign. The U.S. Designated Drivers Campaign is a commercial advertising campaign created by the Harvard School of Public Health in partnership with all major Hollywood studios and prominent prime-time television networks such as ABCCBS, and NBC to prevent drunk driving. Click here to read about the television media strategy.

The entertainment industry has taken a further stand against drunk driving through the formation of RADDRADD, also known as the “Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety”, is a non-profit group internationally recognized for advocating road safety. The group focuses on sending messages through television and other outlets which are “non-judgmental, hip and positive.” RADD encourages the use of designated drivers, making responsible road behavior the norm, wearing a seatbelt, and safe driving through control behind the wheel. RADD is best known for its two most recognizable slogans, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” and “Your lifestyle is your business. Don’t take it on the road.”  Various celebrities have been used in numerous commercials for the program throughout the years to discourage drinking and driving. RADD also has a long list of celebrity supporters including ZZ TopMarc AnthonyAlice CooperAerosmithBarry Bonds, and The Who.

With the good comes the bad. While some may argue television shows such as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” condone and even promote drinking and driving, others point to the television as a valuable tool used to fight that very activity.

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