“Shameless” Examines True Family Values


James Cullinane

"Shameless" Examines True Meaning of Family Values

In an era where reality TV rules the airwaves, Americans are often sent searching for quality scripts in British television.  These British scripts are primary sources for many American pilots. Very rarely, American adaptations of British television shows are able to achieve the same success on both coasts of the Atlantic.  In an attempt to replicate the success of “The Office”, Showtime has adapted one of England’s most beloved television series, “Shameless”, a story of an unconventional family struggling to get by.

On January 9, 2011, “Shameless” made its widely anticipated debut.  The Gallaghers, a highly atypical family living in the slums of Chicago, struggle to make ends meet.  Each of the six Gallagher children pull their own weight.  The ring leader of the Gallagher family on the other hand, Frank (William H. Macy) lives off of disability checks, used mainly to cover his bar tabs.  This role is far out of the norm for Macy, yet he plays it so perfectly that it appears natural.  With no mother in the Gallagher family portrait, eldest sister Fiona (Emmy Rossum) willingly accepts the burden of raising her brothers and sisters, while taking care of her alcoholic father.  The remainder of the motley crew that is the Gallaghers, look up to Fiona as their primary care taker.

Following Fiona in the Gallagher family tree are five unique children of differing ages, and in one case, differing races.  The oldest Gallagher son, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is an intelligent high school student who contributes to paying bills by tutoring a possible love interest from an upper class, yet broken family.  Not much younger than Lip, is Ian (Cameron Monaghan), a closeted homosexual who has a job at a convenient store.  As Lip discovers in the pilot episode, Ian is also in the midst of an affair with Kash, the married owner of this convenient store.  The youngest Gallagher siblings are featured sparingly in the pilot episode, but Deb (Emma Kenney) is shown to be very mature for her young age, discussing the family’s financial situation and helping Fiona take care of Frank.  Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is briefly shown to have a tendency towards animal cruelty and pyromania, very fitting hobbies for his personality.  Liam (Brennan Kane Johnson and Blake Alexander) is the youngest Gallagher and appears to be partly African-American, which Frank and Fiona are often amused by.

“Shameless” follows the blueprint of its British brethren to a tee.  Fortunately, this script translates brilliantly to American television, much like “The Office”.  Macy’s performance as Frank is pure genius, despite his small role in the pilot.  Whether it be Frank gallivanting around a bonfire or simply staring at his washing machine, Macy masterfully attracts the attention of viewers in an awe inspiring manner.

Rossum’s performance as Fiona compliments Macy perfectly.  Despite the lack of appeciation Fiona receives from Frank, it is made obvious to viewers that she still has a deep love for her father.  When Fiona is not playing mother to her siblings, she is in a budding relationship with a wealthy car thief named Steve (Justin Chatwin).  Fiona’s best friend and neighbor Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and her boyfriend Kevin (Steve Howey) are always around for Fiona and Frank as either moral support or for drinking buddies.  The Gallaghers, despite their flaws, are always there for each other.

To put it simply, “Shameless” is a brilliant masterpiece which will add to Showtime’s impressive television resume.  “Shameless” delves into a world which most will never know, yet does so in an incredibly personal manner.  The adventures of this seemingly dysfunctional family prove that in reality, the Gallaghers may in fact be as functional as families come.