‘Shameless’ is the Best Show You’re Not Watching

By season six, a show usually starts to slip. The main cast slowly leaves for other projects like an indie movie where the characters hang out with other hipsters in LA and spend $34 dollars on brunch, as though that’s a normal experience for everyday people on a Wednesday. Writers run out of ideas and repackage that storyline from season one about a family member getting sick. Et cetera, et cetera.

Shameless isn’t perfect but 5 years in, the show still seems as fresh as it was in 2011. The Gallaghers are all still there and we’ve experienced the growing pains with them. A quick history: mom Monica left and dad Frank (William H. Macy) is too drunk to really do anything, let alone raise a family. Eldest daughter Fiona has held the family together and raised her 5 siblings (her kids, really) since before she knew it was abnormal.

Fiona’s still the forced matriarch of the family six seasons in, though she has almost every reason to shirk off the responsibility and reclaim the ragged remains of her youth. She’s had her fair share of fuck-ups too–she’s not a saint. But she’s always well-intentioned and easy to root for.

For her portrayal of the hard-working, compassionate, deeply-flawed Fiona, Emmy Rossum has gone unrecognized year after year. Awards aren’t everything, but when a performance as raw as Rossum’s is ignored, I lose a little hope. #AnEmmyForEmmy2016

William H. Macy is often the most recognized of the bunch, but I’d argue his performance is tertiary to Rossum’s and to Jeremy Allen White’s, who plays the oldest son, Phillip (Lip).

Lip had the misfortune of being the family genius. One of the most frustrating experiences is watching Lip struggle to fight the inner-slacker (which comes with being effortlessly good at everything he’s ever done). He’s the one that can break the poverty chain the rest of the Gallaghers may be doomed to. It’s not that the rest of the Gallaghers don’t deserve it, but Lip has the school smarts to match his street smarts, something the rest of his siblings don’t quite have. If only he’d use them.

Following Lip is, in order, Ian, Debbie, Carl and baby Liam. Each is uniquely talented–even Carl, who has a penchant for setting things on fire. They all get their own storylines and each actor, though relatively young, knows their character inside-out by now.

It’s rare for me to be entertained by each storyline in an episode, but I’m always genuinely looking forward to catching up with all of the Gallaghers (and friends) for 50-something minutes each week.

Shameless has been picked up for a season 7 by Showtime, and I see no reason to worry I’ll fall out of the habit of watching every week by next year. It’s time more people catch on before the original run is over.

 

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