Review: Showtime's 'Shameless'
“Shameless” seems like a good show, alternately hard to take yet fascinating. It’s about the Gallagher family dealing with poverty and alcoholism, but to make it salaciously entertaining, they have more wild shenanigans than depressing despair.
Frank (William H. Macy) is the showy part because he’s the alcoholic patriarch, but it seems to be Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum) show. She’s the one who gets all the chores done around the house, and that extends to gathering free bathroom supplies from her motel day job and keeping up with basic medical treatments to avoid pricey ER visits.
Every episode of the show is busy. With five kids, no activity is simple. Then add the neighbors and Fiona’s love interest Steve (Justin Chatwin). Cross talking and running around the house makes me antsy. When the episode deals with getting Frank back from Canada or scamming the social security department, “Shameless” is packed with busy energy getting all the elements into place, from making fake grandma memorabilia to kidnapping a ringer from the old folks home.
Of course it’s cable, and desperate times lead to debauchery. As high school tutor, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) gets a BJ under the table from Karen (Laura Slade Wigins). I appreciate the balls of doing that while the parents are home, especially bringing brother Ian over (Cameron Monaghan) for some servicing of his own.
Ian is gay though and I like the show’s portrayal of Lip and Ian dealing with sexuality. Lip’s insensitive at times because a teenager in this environment wouldn’t be 100% progressively thinking. He’s a good brother though and he’s not condemning Ian. Fiona’s relationships are sexy. When she and Kevin get down and dirty you won’t be disappointed with what is shown. Veronica (Shanola Hampton) does her ironing topless on a webcam, continuing to have casual conversations.
There is an interesting drama about how an outsider can deal with this family. Steve’s charity and attempts to help aren’t necessarily going to win him any points. The Gallaghers are set in their dysfunction so Steve’s not going to save them.
Three in a row was a lot to take in, but even in a single episode it’s exhausting watching these people drink so much. Frank gets slobbering drunk. He freaks out. He babbles and at the opening of episode two, he gets violent. So it goes there. But Fiona goes clubbing and parties at home. Kev lets Frank run up a bar tab. Karen’s mom Sheila (Joan Cusack) gives the kids beer. They’re all enablers.
There’s just enough humor to save it from Precious territory. It’s not laugh out loud, but the Gallagher’s dig at each other. Old ladies overdose on drugs. Flirting with an agoraphobic turns into a game of dominatrix sex toys. I don’t know why I’d voluntarily listen to Frank’s drunken ramblings. I avoid those in real life. I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun though. These are the consequences of salacious activities, so we pay the price for indulging as voyeurs.
"Shameless" premieres Sunday, January 9th at 10PM EST on Showtime.