Patrick Gower: On Booze review - why it made us so uncomfortable

What appears on the surface to be a topic on the lighter side for the acclaimed journalist is in...
What appears on the surface to be a topic on the lighter side for the acclaimed journalist is in fact a mirage for his toughest lesson yet. Photo: Supplied
OPINION: We've watched as Patrick Gower tackled meth, marijuana and hate - but his latest documentary is the hardest-hitting so far.

And this time he's confronting something entirely legal - booze.

While the previous documentaries had their own indisputable impacts, they also left us with one conclusion: "Sad for them, but they aren't me".

But Patrick Gower: On Booze is different. It tackles its subject matter in such a way that it changes the viewer's conclusion from "that's not me" to "s**t - is that me?"

Because what appears on the surface to be a topic on the lighter side, it's all just a mirage for Gower's toughest lesson yet.

As he sinks his teeth into the issues that this legal drug is causing the country, we see a different side of the journalist - and a different side of ourselves.

While alcohol plagues our nation, its hospitals, its police resources, its victims of domestic violence and our bodies, we and Gower believe this is "honestly just normal".

But it's not normal, is it? To rely on a substance for good times, healing and escape.

And that escapism is something that Gower delved too deep into one night after covering the 2017 election.

The political journalist revealed that he once missed a live AM Show cross because he was drinking whiskey with Winston Peters. He simply didn't turn up for a live TV slot after a night of stress release and celebration with Peters. Peters signed to go with Labour, there was whiskey and Gower remembers nothing else.

"I think that was the lowest point in my career," shares a clearly remorseful Gower.

"People were like, 'is he okay?'" the journalist revealed. But he wasn't okay.

"The stress of work had got on top and I couldn't handle the stress or the alcohol or anything else."

According to Gower's close friend and fellow broadcaster Corin Dann, despite seeing him battling, nobody wanted to talk to him about it. Sure, people were worried about their friend and his coping methods, but nobody wanted to mention it.

Does that sound "normal"?

Faced with the harsh truth that it's actually not "normal" to drink by default, Gower and the viewer shift uncomfortably on the couch.

Author and recovering alcoholic Lotta Dann, Corin's wife, may have put it best when she tells Gower "that is the prevailing culture we live in", and none of us are talking about it. Why?

The way we as a nation view a product that is killing us has to change and Gower faces it himself head-on – albeit eventually.

But Gower never attempts to glamorise booze, he lets us set it in all its shape-shifting forms and quite literally with its fly down.

He feels the shame, he owns up to his behaviour, he shifts uncomfortably - and he becomes us.

Patrick Gower and close friend Corin Dann. Photo: Supplied
Patrick Gower and close friend Corin Dann. Photo: Supplied
Ultimately, he decides to change, giving up the booze and showing all of us it's possible to make a different choice.

Because we see too clearly that we simply have to change this country's narrative and Paddy is part of that narrative.

"Here's a fact. You're as bad as I am," stammers a drunken Gower, battling with his booze. It feels like Fred Dagg telling us as a nation we are s**t at farming. And it stings.

It's uncomfortable because it has to be - nobody is going to move from a warm, comfortable and familiar environment by choice, you have to prod them with a stick.

That's why this documentary is different. It's all of us being forced to face our behaviours, not just the narrator.

  • Watch Patrick Gower: On Booze on ThreeNow.

Where to get help:

Alcohol and Drug Helpline NZ

-By Jenni Mortimer, NZ Herald Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor


Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter