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Sunday, January 09, 2011

"Shameless" Review: Not My Kind of Family

In my opinion, William H. Macy is one of our finest actors. And there’s nothing in his new Showtime drama, “Shameless,” to change my opinion of him.

My opinion of the show is another story…

“Shameless” is a remake of a UK show about the Gallaghers, a working-class family in Chicago. Frank (Macy), the patriarch, would prefer to spend his disability check on booze than on his six kids. In fact, he’s rarely home, leaving oldest child Fiona (Emmy Rossum) to run the house. All of the older kids earn money to help pay the bills—both honestly and dishonestly.

In the pilot, Fiona discovers there may be more to life than just playing mom when she meets the charming Steve (Justin Chatwin). Her oldest brother, Lip (Jeremy Allen White), finds himself in a mess with Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins), the girl he tutors. And he has even more on his plate when he discovers a secret about younger brother, Ian (Cameron Monaghan).

The cast is great. Rossum is a real revelation and it’s always great to see Joan Cusack (Karen’s mother, Sheila). And the show is gritty and real—the kind of stuff executive producer John Wells (“ER”) is great at.

So why was I not completely blown away?

I think it stems from the fact that the show is as shameless as the Gallaghers.

Because it’s on Showtime, it can get away with a lot more. But where the show gets in trouble is when it does more just because it can. For example, Karen is more interested in doing sexual favors for Lip than she is in studying. And there is plenty of frank discussion between Lip and Ian.

But the biggest problem is Frank. Yes, he’s totally realistic, but that doesn’t make him any easier to watch. It’s clear that we’re supposed to like him and maybe even think he’s a little funny. But his actions make that completely impossible.

“Shameless” is not a terrible show. It’s just that the Gallaghers are not a family I want to spend an hour with.

“Shameless” premieres Sunday, January 9th at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Please note the show contains adult language and situations.

Photo Credit: Showtime