It’s no secret, the writers of Rock Paper Watch are all TV junkies. While there are shows that the three of us watch together, each writer also has their personal favorites. Starting a new blog series titled “A Show You Should Be Watching (But Probably Aren’t),” here are a couple of reasons why you should join us in our Shameless guilty pleasure viewing.
As unfortunate as it is, Shameless often gets overlooked among the prestige of Sunday-night television. It lacks the esteem of Mad Men, the following of Girls, and the twists and turns of True Detective. When it debuted in 2011 it was considered a dark comedy closely tied to the UK original of the same name. The show follows a family of misfits, The Gallaghers, and the debauchery that ensues as they try to make ends meat using any means necessary. It’s easy to tune-in just to see what The Gallaghers will do next since it often involves sex, drugs, violence, and theft. But somewhere in the midst of the craziness, Shameless created a genuine and sympathetic young cast of characters desperately looking for a way to survive their self-destructive behavior.
The magic of Shameless is in it’s growth. On Sunday night, it wraps up its fourth, and easily best, season. When the show began, it was a guilty pleasure, raunchy comedy. Now, it’s a heart wrenching story of a family struggling with addiction. The family patriarch, Frank (William H. Macy) has for four seasons been drinking himself into oblivion. That oblivion finally arrived when this year he discovered he needed a new liver. Frank has been mostly unconscious this season, giving us plenty of time to focus on his childrens’ struggles.
In the previous seasons, the eldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), has been the pillar of strength for the Gallagher clan. With their drunk and disorderly father and MIA mom, Fiona stepped into the parent role and became the legal guardian of her five siblings. Prior to this season, we watched Fiona work dead-end job after dead-end job to make ends meat and have enough food to make the kids’ lunches every morning. At the end of season three, Fiona finally gets a decent job with a cup company and things are looking up for the Gallaghers. That bliss is short lived as season four starts Fiona’s fast and dramatic downward spiral (similar to that of her father’s). She is arrested when Liam (Brennan Kane Johnson & Blake Alexander Johnson), her four year old brother, ingests her cocaine. The cocaine that was given to her by her boss/boyfriend’s brother, Robbie, who she was also sleeping with. So in one mass sweep, she loses her job, her life, and the family loses its stability. Fiona avoids serious jail time by pleading guilty for child endangerment and is put on probation. Where we stand now, Fiona is facing a ninety-day prison sentence after a night long bender with Robbie and his friends, breaking her probation. Fiona’s self-destructive behavior is a result of her not knowing who she is anymore, she can’t find a job, the kids don’t need her, and she’s dealing with this paralyzing guilt. Much like her father, instead of facing her own problems, she goes on a binge. Can Fiona make it through this?
The show’s amazing storytelling is, in no small part, due to the amazing performances of it’s younger cast. Over the years, these actors have grown beautifully into their characters making season four it’s best yet. The eldest Gallagher son, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is the family genius. In past seasons, we’ve seen Lip use his intelligence to mastermind quick money-making schemes. But this season Lip is off at college and actually having to work for his grades to maintain his scholarship, as well as act as the responsible Gallagher during Fiona’s downward spiral.
Cameron Monaghan as Ian and Noel Fisher as Mickey
Next in the line, is Ian (Cameron Monaghan). Ian has been labeled as a “unique” gay character for television. In the first few seasons, he’s mostly in the closet and in a secret relationship with the neighborhood thug, Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher). Ian and Mickey are both scared, oppressed boys who are just as likely to throw punches out of frustration as they are to be affectionate towards each other. In an effort to preserve his masquerade of being straight, Mickey marries a Russian prostitute that is pregnant with his child at the end of season three. Ian runs away to the Army using Lip’s name. After going AWOL, Ian begins working in a gay-club and dabbling in prostitution. Mickey takes it upon himself to find Ian and is emerged into the affluent gay scene of Chicago. There, he can kiss Ian in public without fear. During Sunday night’s episode, in a moment that had fans cheering, Mickey came out to his homophobic father. What should have been a depressing and disturbing scene of a father beating the life out of his son, was ultimately uplifting as Ian stepped in to defend Mickey. In the end, broken and bloody, the boys shared a sweet kiss and smile in relief.
That brings us to Debbie (Emma Kenney) and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky). The middle Gallaghers are often overlooked in the chaos but this season has had poignant storylines and plenty of depth for both characters. For Debbie, she’s trying desperately to navigate being a teenage girl, which let’s admit is the worst. She has found two friends that glamorize sexual promiscuity. That’s so out of character for Debbie she doesn’t know how to act. When her efforts to be promiscuous lead to bullying, she finds herself feeling lost and confused. Carl takes it on himself to find Frank an organ donor. When his efforts are replaced by Frank’s long lost daughter Sammi (Emily Bergl) he seeks out affection by finding the Bonnie to his Clyde. Ah, teenage love. There’s nothing like it. Now add-in robbing convenience stores at gunpoint and you’ve got Carl in season four.
With the conclusion of Shameless season four happening Sunday, April 6 at 9pm, I’m desperate to see what’s next for the Gallagher family and you should be too. Now that Frank has a new liver, will he get his act together? How will Fiona handle prison? Will Lip be able to juggle his familial responsibilities and college life? We know better than to expect a happily ever after for Ian and Mickey, but will this couple last? What’s next for Debbie? And will Carl be the youngest Gallagher in prison?