Let me be honest: I never thought I would be writing this article. Several years ago, a lot of my friends talked about a rather popular British series called Shameless, and from what I had heard it wasn't - how can I put this - "my cup of tea". So, little did I think a couple of years later I would be sitting down to write an article titled why you should be watching Shameless. There is a difference however, as I am referring to the US remake.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give Shameless a shot. I had no idea that it would lead into long days and late nights bingeing - just one more episode I would tell myself, I have to see what happens next! A few weeks and six seasons later, I can tell you that I haven't been that enthralled in a series in a long time. Shameless tells the story of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, headed by Frank but in name only. Frank Gallagher is a drunk, thus eldest sibling Fiona raises the family in his absence. I urge you to give the show a shot - Here's why:
The best thing about Shameless is the characters. Focusing primarily on the dysfunctional Gallagher family, Shameless follows each of the characters as they struggle to make ends meet in the South Side of Chicago. Fiona Gallagher is as strong as she is beautiful, working extra hard to make sure all of her siblings don't go without. The elder brothers are equally enthralling, specifically Ian, who has had to deal with some pretty hard situations over the course of the past six seasons.
Outside of the Gallagher household, we also have the Jacksons - headed by the hilarious Sheila (played by the brilliant Joan Cusack), who is as cooky as can be, yet she is the heart of the series. Mickey and Mandy Milkovich are the rebels of the South Side, living on the outskirts of what is considered legal, these two often steal every scene they are in. Even recurring character Svetlana (arguably the funniest character in the show) is brilliant. With the exception of the occasional repetitive nature of Frank, there isn't a character that we despise - every character is excellently written.
Keeping it very real, Shameless is set in the South Side of Chicago. Inspired by the location of the original UK series (it was set in a council estate in Manchester), the show creators keep things as realistic as possible, despite fact that the series is primarily shot in California. Crime is rife and the Gallaghers do whatever is necessary to get food on the table, including breaking the law.
For a show of this genre, I found the acting to be incredibly impressive. Every actor is great, particularly Emmy Rossum and Cameron Monaghan. Over the past two seasons, Monaghan's character Ian has had some serious issues to deal with, which led to Monaghan producing several Emmy worthy scenes. Anyone who has seen Monaghan's recent stint in Gotham will know how good an actor he is, but he outdoes himself in Shameless.
Monaghan and his character take Shameless to another level of awesomeness. Season 5 had me on the edge of my seat at 3am in the morning. Monaghan, at the very least, deserves an Emmy for his portrayal of Ian. Similarly, Rossum is just captivating, her Fiona is probably one of the most 'real' characters on TV - I believe everything Rossum says. Captivating. When it comes to comedy acting, Joan Cusack and Isidora Goreshter are amazing - the two funniest ladies on TV. Interestingly, despite the fact that both of them make you laugh more than you thought possible, both actresses possess the ability to break your heart too. I often found myself a little emotional during some of Shiela's scenes and I'm delighted that Cusack won an Emmy for her role. I don't want to leave anyone out, but I cannot emphasise enough just how good the entire cast are.
For being a show that relies heavily on comedy, I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with some of the relationships on this show. From Mickey and Ian to 'Steve' and Fiona to the brilliant Kevin and Veronica - the standard of realistic relationships is amazing. I applaud the writers who dared to go places (instead of some of the watered down relationships we get on network television) and have relationships that are so reminiscent of real life.
Described primarily as a dramedy, Shameless manages to tell a rather bleak story with some undeniably award worthy comedy. Managing to maintain a healthy balance between the dramatic and the comedic is surely challenging for the writers, but they succeed week after week. I myself prefer when the show focuses on the drama, but some of the comedy moments from Frank, Shiela, Queenie or primarily Svetlana are incredible. People will have their preferences on which side of Shameless they prefer, but the writing never lets us down.
While this could potentially come under the same umbrella as the writing, I decided to categorise the storytelling separately. The writing focuses on the weekly episodes and how good they are, here I am discussing the overall storytelling process of Shameless. Several episodes of the first season featured title cards stating 'based on episode...of the British series' - similar to several other US adaptations of British TV series, the storylines were almost identical at the beginning. That's the easy part - it's how the writers and show producers managed to make their Shameless original that counts.
Moreover, they managed to make the show appeal to a different audience, despite the overlapping storylines with the British counterpart. Now, Shameless has cut all ties with the UK original and stands on it's own ground as a separate - and far superior - show. Six seasons in and the show still feels as fresh as the first season. Season six is perhaps the slowest season, storyline wise, but the series itself has not ran out of steam and I genuinely believe it could run for several more years.
So Here's What You Missed...?
Just so we're clear - I binged every episode. EVERY episode. So I didn't miss anything. Having said that, another thing that I absolutely love about Shameless is the opening segment of each episode. Breaking the fourth wall, a character (or several characters) will give an opening statement with distain in their voice, commenting how the viewer could have been stupid enough to have missed last weeks episode. This is then followed by a catch up/ 'previously on" segment. Interestingly, this segment often contains unaired footage, perhaps used to push the story onwards.
So there you have it, guys! That's my experience of watching Shameless for the first time. I hope you have enough information to want to watch it for yourself. I can't wait for the finale, but I'm dreading living in a Shameless-less world for the better part of a year. I eagerly await the seventh season of what is easily one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.