What it’s about:
Meet the Gallagher family. In this United States adaptation of the U.K. series, unemployed father Frank (William Hall Macy, Jurassic Park) spends his days drinking and his nights passed out on the floor of his home. His oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum, Phantom of the Opera) dropped out of school in order to take care of her five younger siblings in the place of an absent mother. Fiona learns to depend on only herself, save for maybe the couple living next door, Kevin and Veronica, as well as Steve, a charming car thief bent on wooing her.
Why it’s so good:
The struggles depicted on “Shameless” aren’t the kind of problems that are normally seen on television, with the show runners clearly making an effort to portray the daily toils of an impoverished American family as realistically as possible. The title is fitting in the sense that there really isn’t anything this family won’t do — legal or illegal — to keep their family running, and you’ll quickly find yourself rooting them on. Despite the dire circumstances that plague the Gallagher family, the show contains a lot of dark humor, including characters like Sheila Jackson (Joan Cusack, Toy Story 2 and 3), a neighborhood woman whose agoraphobia (fear of public places) prevents her from leaving the house, often with comedic results. The younger Gallaghers, such as the big-hearted ten-year-old Debbie and trouble-making eight-year-old Carl, tend to lighten heavier circumstances as well.
Why you should binge it:
The Gallagher family, and their friends, are too compelling to watch only sporadically. While the show doesn’t usually end with shocking cliffhangers (although they do occasionally), the threads of each episode do lead into one another. There is no telling what to expect from each episode, making it far more addicting than your standard formulaic plot. Also, once you get going, good luck getting the theme song out of your head.
Overall, the acting on “Shameless” is phenomenal. Macy, Cusack and Rossum are all great lead characters, and the kids are equally well-developed, so it would be hard to pick just one favorite. Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) brings a Jesse Pinkman quality to Fiona’s love interest Steve, as his character manages to attract trouble on all sides while still maintaining a large degree of charm. However, the fan-favorite relationship would be middle child Ian Gallagher’s romance with rough-and-tough Mickey Milkovich, a relationship of ups and downs as both teenagers come to terms with their own sexuality.
While Frank is well played, his character is often hard to sympathize with as his misdemeanors hurt both himself and his family. While the show attempts to go into heavier plotlines, it’s still painful to watch a drunk and bloodied father turn around and beat one of his own sons. “Shameless” toys with the line between entertainment and realism to a mostly positive outcome, but the constant drug and alcohol abuse may be bothersome to some.