A Portrait of Food and Drink in Commercial TV Series

Document Type



food; drink; presentation; commercial television; tweens

Identifier Data


Publication Source

Health Communication


This study examines the content and presentation of food and drink on fictional, commercial television. It provides the first comparison of food and drink consumption across different television program genres designated for different age groups. Data originated with a random sample of 50 taped episodes of children's shows, 50 episodes of “tween” programs (shows targeted for 9- to 14-year-olds), 40 episodes of afternoon soaps, and 50 episodes of prime time shows. The choice of TV series was based solely on the strength of Nielsen audience ratings. The study coded the foods for nutritional content and the drinks for alcoholic/nonalcoholic content, how they were used, and in what context. Findings indicate that foods were more commonly offered and consumed on children's shows, and that problematic foods (defined as oils, solid fats, and foods with added sugars) were significantly more prevalent in youth-oriented shows than in adult-oriented shows. Although there was only a negligible presence of alcohol on children's shows, the average hourly use of alcohol on the tween shows matched that of the adult programs; therefore, alcohol was as common in the shows directed at young audiences as in shows for adults. Negative outcomes were largely absent from food and drink behaviors on these TV series.

This document is currently not available here.