Last Sunday one of my new favourite shows HBO’s Shameless wrapped up its second season in typical outrageously, emotional, hilarious fashion. Sooner or later I presume that something shall have to give and I shall have to stop increasing my TV viewing, but hopefully it’s not soon. I only began the first season of the show three weeks ago and caught up with the show just in time for the third to last episode of the season and it’s been such a thrilling ride I think I must set aside a space for it only. Even if I’m finding it incredibly difficult to get back into the groove of writing paragraphs of analysis. So, allow me my shortcomings and let me note some fine things about this show – point form, a few musings on Shameless to celebrate their great 24 episode run.
- Speaking of the comedic and dramatic – the most interesting thing Shameless for me is its tone. The show maintains a decidedly frenetic tonal movement overlapping between farce, comedy, and drama and ultimately I think of it as a dramatic comedy. A consistent comedy with significant dramatic beats, which is odd because it’s submitted as a drama for awards’ consideration.
- Which, of course, brings me to the issue of awards. It’s not directly related to the actual show but the paucity of awards love this show has received surprises both because of how excellent in quality it is on all fronts and because of how different from almost everything on television. Generally, awards’ bodies tend to reward that, alas not here.
- Shameless features some of the finest casts on television at the moment – they’re all casted to perfection and on top of that have exceptional rapport among themselves which is one of the reasons the show manages to get away with some the conceits like older sister Fiona’s boyfriend’s hidden identity (just the right amount of dashing, pretentious and adorable courtesy of Justin Chatwin) work.
- Characters have been poor on the small screen before, but I struggle to remember any which tackles it with as must gusto as Shameless does. Because of its comedic overtones they poorness never seems truly chronic but in a show with so many minor, but firmly established, details like struggling to pay for heat, a washing machine or even getting lunch for the brood the show approaches the issue honestly, and sincerely without making it seem like an element of martyrdom or something gratuitous.
- I suppose, now is as good a time as any to note that Shameless, like The Office and a slew of other shows, is based on a British series. I mention specifically only to note that James McAvoy and his wife Anne Marie Duff starred as lovers on it, even though – naturally – as the American version develops it gets more and more different. I’ve seen only the pilot of the UK version and even with my overwhelmingly anglophile nature I prefer the US version.
- Joan Cusack, an excellent comedienne, is not a part of the family but plays an agoraphobic woman who Frank was in a relationship and whose daughter is dating one of the Gallagher boys. With a character painted so broadly this could be the show’s most tenuous arc, and yet Joan Cusack delivers as one of the finest performers on the show. For one, she’s the most adept at being comedic and better yet being comedic WHILE being dramatic which is something embarrassingly few performers are capable of doing (see Bening in Running with Scissors, Lemmon in The Apartment or Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, for example.)
- And, the way I’m talking her up it’d seem that Cusack is my MVP and I can’t even be sure because the performers are all so on point. Emmy Rossum, who has never truly been allowed to reach her potential on film, is astounding as the de facto matriarch of the family. She’s admittedly better in the character’s dramatic beats. In her comedic beats she has this adorable, but occasionally annoying, tendency to play it too cutesy but when tragedy strikes the family and Fiona must steel herself and give up for her siblings Rossum breaks your heart. The fact than more than half of the 12 women nominated for Best Actress at last year’s Emmy only makes her lack of laurels that much more unfortunate.
Season 1: A-
Season 2: B+
Any Shameless to commiserate with me?