09 Jan TV Recommendation: Shameless (U.S.)
Shameless Sundays are back! My favorite (currently running) TV show returns this Sunday at 9 PM EST on Showtime for its 5th season. I binge watched this show from the pilot episode for the first time last winter and was immediately captivated by it. Shameless is the US remake of the popular UK comedy-drama of the same name. In preparation for the premiere, a couple buddies and I re-watched Shameless from the very beginning.
For me, it’s all about the characters. The show follows the life and transgressions of Frank Gallagher (portrayed William H. Macy) and his family on the south side of Chicago. Frank is an alcoholic and addict, living solely on disability and social security checks from a dead aunt; none of which he shares with his six kids. Bill Macy has mastered the art of the “drunken soapbox rant” for this roll, as Frank Gallagher is full of questionable, self-righteous ideologies. Each act he commits is more heinous than the last and Macy does an incredible job making the viewer despise the character, but crave his scenes week to week.
The rest of the Gallagher clan lives together in a crammed, rundown house in the Chicago “hood.” They survive, due in most part by their eldest sister Fiona (Emmy Rossum). Fiona Gallagher is an incredibly strong and admirable lead character, and Emmy does a phenomenal job with the role that carries the brunt of the show. Fiona has to work upwards of 12 part-time jobs to support her younger brothers and sisters; and although they need to scrape for every penny to get by, the family is wealthy in love.
Fiona gets some help on the family and financial fronts from her next oldest sibling Lip (Jeremy Allen White). Lip, short for Philip, is an incredibly intelligent, “rebel without a cause” type character. He gets into fights, he smokes weed and drinks too much; however, he’s able to help out through clever scams like tricking north-side kids into paying for a fake Wilco concert, and taking the SATs for kids at school. A lot of what Lip does and says can be perceived as harsh or malicious, but to me, it generally feels very honest. I think I identify with this character so well because he’s got the balls so say some of the shit I wish I could.
All of the Gallagher children are incredibly close, and they have formed an interesting dynamic of a family within a family. It’s almost as if their utter disdain for Frank and their absent, bipolar mother, Monica (Chloe Webb), is the driving force holding the Gallaghers together. After Fiona and Lip come Ian (Cameron Monaghan), Debbie (Emma Kenney), Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), and Liam (Brennan Kane and Blake Alexander Johnson). The Gallaghers span across a bevy of different ages, genders, sexual orientations, personalities, etc., which makes finding a relatable character in this show super easy.
Along with Gallaghers, I’m a tremendous fan of the characters Kevin Ball and Veronica Fisher (Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton). Kev and V live next door, and are every bit as shameless as the Gallaghers. Kev works mainly at the local bar in the neighborhood, The Alibi Room, and runs a bub-and-tug in the apartment above. V works in a nursing home and makes sex tapes online. The two are naturally hysterical together. They never fight for long and their relationship is truly the only source of stability in Fiona’s life.
The show is known for being an extremely raw and real “drama-dey.” Although Shameless made the jump from drama to comedy for the Emmy Awards, season four was by far the darkest of the show to date. Last year, instead of being the rock of the family, Fiona struggled. She showed shades of her father and made a string of bad decisions we had never come to expect from her character. After sleeping with her boss/boyfriend’s deadbeat brother and almost killing baby Liam with cocaine, she breaks probation to go on a bender. Along with that, we almost lose Frank entirely as he finally sees some repercussions for his actions. After being a committed alcoholic from the age of 12, Frank’s brush with death feels stained with karma, and I found myself actually pitying him.
Shameless is coming off of arguably its best season yet. The writers have done a spectacular job at taking the template from the original show and bringing the script to where it is now. The writing feels more serious, the dialogue feels more real, and they no longer rely on the shock-factor comedic effect. It is able to flow more organically from the different scenarios of the script. They’ve rid themselves of all UK storylines, and have done a lot to change up the dynamic of the show. Lip goes to college, which I never thought we’d see; and also becomes the leader of the family. Mandy Milkovich (Emma Greenwell) and Karen Jackson (Laura Wiggins) are no longer driving forces in his storyline and we finally see some real growth in his character. We also get to see Fiona completely independent of Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin) first time since the pilot to frightening results, and Ian’s relationship with Mickey that starts to really bring the Gallaghers and Milkovichs together.
Going forward, I’m really excited to see how they build on the end of season four. Season 5 appears to be predominantly set in the summertime, which we haven’t really seen since season 2. It also seems that this season will be a bit lighter that last year; however, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered from the bleak, yet phenomenal season 4. How is Mandy going to affect Lip’s life at college? Is Jimmy/Steve/Jack back for good (and what the fuck are we supposed to call him now, anyway)? Is Ian’s bipolar disorder going to cause a role reversal of sorts with Mickey (Noel Fisher)? Will Frank return to his old ways or has he changed at all? And how are they going to continue to work the wacky and hysterical Sheila Jackson (Joan Cusack) into the plot? There is so much to expand on and I’m just really excited see what the Gallaghers have been up to. Glad to have Shameless back in my life.