That’s right. I made a play on the word “shameless” in the title of this post. It was there for the taking, so I did it. But I’m actually serious. Few freshman shows reeled me in this past TV season, and Showtime’s Shameless was one of the few. I haven’t seen the British version, nor am I necessarily interested yet, but I’ll tell you why I loved this f’ed up American family.
There are a lot of reasons, the first of which is Jeremy Allen white. As Lip, the second oldest Gallagher, he was absolutely perfect. Deserving of acting award nominations, I’d say. Lip Gallagher is an incredibly smart, sneaky, resourceful, sexy high school senior, and the part looks like it was written for White. He exudes this innate confidence and swagger that isn’t pretentious, hipster, or self-aware. He acts the way he does out of survival, he is unapologetic, and he is not lacking in pride. In short, he is mesmerizing whenever he’s on screen. That is, when Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin aren’t making out and drawing attention away from him. These two had great chemistry and were a joy to watch even when they weren’t getting it on, because their relationship was so unique and intriguing and fluid and… weird. He saw beyond her “hood girl” surface and she saw past his questionable income. It just worked.
I also loved Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton as Kev and Veronica, the mismatched perfect match next door. In fact, I wish the first season contained more of them. They are so trashy and lovable together, with his greasy hair and her affinity for animal-print everything. And everyone else is pretty fantastic, too: Cameron Monaghan as Ian, the gay Gallagher; Emma Kenney as Debs, the fierce Gallagher; Ethan Cutosky as Carl, the pyro Gallagher; and the Johnson twins as Liam, the cutest Gallagher. They all work so well together, and it’s truly fascinating watching how these kids work together to survive on no budget. Even if the whole thing is fake, I had a grand old time imagining it was real, and that there really were scrappy kids like these on the south side of Chicago showing everyone how to stretch a dime. Inspiring.
Geez, and then there’s Joan Cusack, who also stole every scene she was in as agoraphobic Sheila. And… I could go on. But if you’ll notice, it took me this long to mention William H. Macy, who plays the anti-patriarch Frank. I’m pretty sure he is my least favorite character on the show, and it’s not just because he’s a complete douchebag. It’s because Macy—a fantastic actor, of course—is simply too erudite to play the role of a guy who looks homeless all the time. It’s almost like Kelsey Grammer out there in the dirty snow, with his precise pronunciation and general glibness. Just doesn’t work for me. Also, he’s way too fit to be playing this good-for-nothing deadbeat.
But I digress. Shameless has almost too many characters to keep track of, and yet the whole thing works. After each storyline is abandoned, or at least temporarily paused, you want more, and then you’re distracted by something else totally intriguing. I loved the Cameron-Kash tale, and started to miss it when it took a backseat to Steve and Fiona’s romance, but then Steve’s background came into the foreground, and I didn’t care anymore. And this sort of thing happens with every episode. I found myself rooting passionately for each character to make something of him or herself, because their situation is a great disadvantage to them as well as an unbeatable source of inspiration and strength. I can’t wait for the second season, and I hope Shameless returns next year with an unabashed vengeance. I wouldn’t expect anything else.