TV

'Shameless' Series Premiere

In some regards, watching Shameless is reminiscent of watching Jerry Springer's show, in that we might be fascinated by the dysfunction and illogic.


Shameless

Airtime: Sundays, 10pm
Cast: William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Justin Chatwin
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Showtime
Air date: 2011-01-09
Website
Trailer
Amazon
Doing my job, unsuspecting, when out of nowhere, I am struck in the mid-section by a flying headless chicken. I was lucky. It almost missed me.

-- Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy)

Collecting disability is just one of the scams Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) uses to support his alcoholism and drug habits. He also buried his Aunt Ginger in the backyard after she died doing cocaine with him, so that he could continue to live in her house and cash her Social Security checks. However, to hear it from Frank, he's a victim, struggling to raise his six children as a single parent after his "psycho" wife left him. Still, and no matter how much he insists otherwise, Frank's not a conventionally "good" parent.

Similarly, despite Frank's prominence in the promotions for Showtime's new series Shameless, he is not the show's focus. That would be his oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum). She anchors not only the series but the family as well, making sure that bills are paid (although all the kids chip), the laundry's done, everyone eats and gets off to school. Frank shows up at home only to sleep off his latest drunk. In fact, it is 40 minutes into the premiere episode before he actually converses with any of his children.

Fiona's life is complicated when she meets Steve (Justin Chatwin), who's been watching her in nightclubs for months (she still has time to get out) and finally has a chance to impress her when someone snatches her purse. After a night of hot sex on the kitchen floor (interrupted when the cops bring her dad home, passed out again), Steve tries to work his way into her life by buying her a new washing machine. Fiona's initial impression of Steve as a spoiled, rich boy changes when she learns the true source of his income.

Dealing with an alcoholic father and budding romance would be enough for any 20something woman, but Fiona must also deal with her siblings' various turmoils. Oldest brother Lip (Jeremy Allan White), who works as a tutor as well as taking pre-college exams and writing papers for classmates, is getting "hummers" under the kitchen table from Karen (Laura Wiggins), one of his clients, while her oblivious mother Sheila (Joan Cusack) cooks within eyesight. Concerned his brother Ian (Cameron Monagham) is gay, Lip drags Ian along to enjoy Karen's services, only to be found out by her father. In fact, Ian is gay and sleeping with his married boss.

All this confusion might explain why little brother Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) likes to melt his toys in appliances and Debbie (Emma Kenney) voices her desire for a stable household. That is, one not full of fights, drugs, and sex: it's as if cameras have followed home some of Jerry Springer's guests and recorded each white trash moment.

In some regards, watching Shameless is reminiscent of watching Springer's show, in that we might be fascinated by the dysfunction and illogic. This is particularly true regarding Frank. It's difficult to determine whether it's his drinking or mental illness or a combination that brings on his abhorrent hygiene and frequent rants as he walks down the street. He resents it when he's arrested for vagrancy, even though he appears to have nowhere to go and suffers from delusions. In his mythical world, Frank is a wounded warrior, perpetually raging against a system that is intent on denying him what he deserves.

All this worries Fiona, of course, and her compassion keeps Shameless -- a remake of a hit British show -- from being a glib mockery of poverty. She is the yin to Frank's yang, organized, focused, and efficient. We can see why it's been hard for her to establish a lasting romance, given her many responsibilities. And in this she resembles the increasing number of young adults who play parent both to younger siblings and parents. She keeps the family together, encouraging all members to protect one another and their home: they're like a modern-day Waltons living in the slums of Chicago.

Another asset lifting Shameless is its humor, though it's not as frequent as promos would indicate. Primarily, it's situational, as when Frank woos the newly separated Sheila in hopes of gaining free room and board. Both an agoraphobic and a tiger in the bedroom, she's the sort of eccentric supporting character who generates "situations," for instance, leaving Frank shocked when she handcuffs him to the bed and pulls out a massive dildo. The following morning, she is back in June Clever mode, lovingly placing a pillow in the kitchen chair for the now limping Frank.

As you'd expect, his schemes rarely pan out, but they don't always provide jokes either. In the opening segment of the premiere episode, Frank declares, "We may not have much, but all of us know the most important thing in this life… We know how to fucking party." Yet, this is misleading: their life is anything but a party.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image