Genre: Comedy / Drama
Watched: April 8-12, 2011
Status: First Season
Summary: A guilty pleasure
Shameless is Showtime’s latest entry in the “edgy comedy” category, a slot they’re fond of (Weeds, Dexter). In any case, Shameless is an American remake of a British show, and centers around a working class Chicago family with an extraordinarily bad and alcoholic father named Frank (William H. Macy) and a bevy of often delinquent children and associated hangers on.
While Macy is great, nicely straddling the line between likable and incorrigible, the show is anchored by oldest daughter and effective mom Fiona (Emmy Rossum). I never noticed her before (she had minor roles in a couple movies I’ve seen), but she’s fantastic in this role. She brings to the table a wining hand of tough, sexy, vulnerable, and sheer chutzpah.
Tone wise, this show is much like Weeds in that it mixes (attempted) social satire with the ridiculously scandalous and the sketchy. This blending of comedy with the truly unwholesome seems to be more and more popular, but it first knocked itself on my consciousness in the mid 90s with Reese Witherspoon‘s Freeway. I mean in Shameless we’re talking baby-napping, highly inappropriate sex, “borrowing” the elderly, all sorts of fraud, at least 4 or 5 different portrayals of male backdoor action, blow jobs under the kitchen table, some really really bad parenting, and I’m just getting started. But the show tries to wash down this heavy stuff with a big tongue in cheek and a medium dose of Guy Ritchie-style cinematography.
It’s a pretty titillating show too — like watching a sexy train-wreck with lots of nudity.
And overall I think it succeeds, and succeeds well, not so much because it’s funny — it is — but because it manages to make us care about the characters. This is a complex tonal balance, and the season finale isn’t perfect, but despite all the unrealism, and the unbelievable (and unacceptable) stuff spun with a comic touch, there remains a realistic feel to the people. I found myself glued, pounding through the season in 3-4 episode-at-a-time video-on-demand bindges. While the players’ actions may at times be comic, their emotional response is not.