I didn’t want to write about this show until I had a bit of a better idea about it. This is yet another British show remade for American TV, but unlike most other cases, I have not seen the UK version so I cannot compare. Therefore, I will discuss this show as its own thing (but will maybe one day go back to check it out).
Shameless follows a family of seven (six kids and a dad who might as well be another kid) as they deal with poverty, sexuality, alcoholism, and other issues. While Frank Gallagher, the dad, collects a disability check and drinks his days away, his kids fight to hold it together. Fiona is the oldest and the brunt of the child-raising falls to her. She contributes the largest amount of money for rent, she makes sure things run smoothly, and she protects “her kids” fiercely, even if that means getting in her father’s face. Lip, the second in the family, is super smart and earns money for the family by tutoring. He’s the oversexualized one in the family. Ian, third in line, helps out by working in a grocery store. He’s learning about his own sexuality with the help of his employer, an older man. Debbie is the sweetest of the children, still harboring an inexplicable love and gentleness for her father despite everything he does to them (such as come in and punch Ian for no good reason). We haven’t learned much about the second to youngest kid, Carl, but I’m sure that will change as time goes by. Liam, the youngest, is too young to be much of a character at the moment. He’s more of the “who do we drop him on this week,” but the really story about him is that he is clearly not form the same mother. (Their mother, from what we have learned, up and left one day. I imagine at some point they will seek her out and we will see that dealt with, but it’s probably a while away.)
For non-family members, we have Steve, the well-off guy who is in love with Fiona but doesn’t know how to relate to someone from such a different way of life. He tries giving her expensive gifts and taking care of Fiona by leaving Frank in Canada to keep him away from the family, but none of these acts are appreciated. (Instead he makes Fiona feel like she’s been looked down on or pitied as a charity case.) The neighbors, Veronica and Kev, get drawn into the family drama (Veronica doesn’t really mind but Kev is more reluctant since they don’t exactly have money to spare). Finally there is Karen, the rich girl who Lip tutors, with the OCD mother and the temperamental father.
It’s a lot to take in, with so many characters and distinct personalities. At its heart though, this show is about a family banding together in the face of extreme poverty. The show pulls it off well. The family is endearing in their antics and in the way they organize a manhunt when Frank goes missing. There is a love there that you can’t escape. The show is a commentary on the unconditional love children can have for their parents. It’s sad but inspiring at the same time to see it. Another good show by Showtime.