By Tammy Ruggles
Shameless is a Showtime family drama with a healthy injection of comedy that stands family-values-TV on its head. If you can’t relate to the predictable, boring, or perfect TV families we’ve been handed over the years, maybe The Gallaghers on Shameless are what you’re looking for. Or maybe you’d like to watch a family that can make you feel like yours is pretty normal. Yes, it has its unrealistic moments and plots, but overall, there is some charm and warmth layered into this highly dysfunctional, resourceful, and unpredictable family.
Let’s start with the parents. You have Frank, played by William H. Macy, who is a hardcore alcoholic. So hardcore that his wife, Monica, left their six children in his hands. She is seldom seen, but does make appearances, one with her same-sex partner when she returns to claim the youngest, Liam, who is about two years old. Since Frank is an unreliable alcoholic, and Monica is absent, the majority of the parenting falls on Fiona’s shoulders, since she’s the oldest. For better or worse, children of alcoholics tend to naturally step into the caretaking role. She is the anchor of the family, even though her younger siblings try to help out in their own way.
Shameless isn’t afraid to show how life is for some families, what they have to do to get by, and what they have going on in their hearts and lives. They do shamelessly cross the line once in a while in order to put food on the table, pay the bills, or stay together as a family unit, and it’s this underlying bond that makes this show so appealing. No matter what else is going on in the plot, from a dad that goes missing, to a teenager who struggles to come out to his family while having rendezvous with his married boss, to one of the younger boys on the verge of being expelled from school for disruptive, near-disturbing behavior, this family loves one another and has a lot of heart. As train-wreckish as Frank is, he loves his kids, tries in his own way, albeit halfhearted, but, being an alcoholic, is selfish and careless. And Monica loves them too. She just has her own set of problems. None of these characters, including the kids, are perfect. They are each flawed in his or her own way, and shine with their strengths and weaknesses.
There is sex, substance use, and inappropriate behavior. But at its core, also feels real. The plots are compelling, the acting is stellar, the surprises will rock you, and there are moments that will make you cry as well as laugh. This character-driven family drama is based on the UK version, and is definitely binge-worthy. There are eleven seasons in all, with the first one being my favorite since it launches the storylines and familiarizes you with the characters. Chances are you’ll be hooked from the first episode, and each one will fly by as you find yourself deeply invested. If you like a long series worth your time, where you can watch a family grow from childhood to adulthood over the years, don’t miss Showtime’s Shameless.