White trash is the same the world over
But that's exactly where "Shameless" lives. A quick bit of research tells me that the British council estates where Frank Gallagher and his brood live are the royal equivalent of America's projects: homes for those who can't afford anything better. That sums up Frank and his family pretty well. Six kids, no mom and a dad who's best known for sleeping-off his benders. If that's not the makings for feel-good family fun time, I'd like to know what is.
There's a ton of story that unfurls in the span of these 50-minute episodes, including meeting Fiona's new boyfriend, a good guy by the name of Steve, Lip's new girlfriend, a whore by the name of Karen, and Ian's boyfriend Kash, a married Pakistani man with two kids. Dysfunctional relationships are key to the whole tale, which eventually intertwines and crosses over itself, as Frank becomes involved with Sheila, a kinky agoraphobic, who happens to be Karen's mom. The only truly healthy relationships in the mix are Fiona and Steve, which has plenty of problems though, and Kevin and Veronica, the Gallaghers' neighbors. Kev and Veronica are the most "normal" of the bunch, though Veronica has been fired from her job for theft. There's a little bit of everything in here, except for respect for a respectful life. Police, and anyone with a proper job who wants to make a living, are treated like losers and morons.
Though I start to cringe when I think about lives like the Gallaghers', watching them unfold in this series, mixing drama and comedy to create a world that's very real, it's quite entertaining. Partially it's the artistic, almost documentary-like style of the production, but it's mainly the storyline and acting. When things really start to come together and fall apart, the series gains serious momentum, becoming a show that wouldn't be out of place on HBO. The problem is, the story becomes too big for the show to contain in just seven episodes. Because of that, when Debbie gets the spotlight for one brilliant episode, Kevin and Veronica try to get married, and the question of Mom's status is raised, the Karen and Kash stories, both of which have a lot of promise, are basically shoved to the side. Maybe they come back in Season Two, but they disappear without a mention, which was frustrating.
There are plenty of stand-out episodes in this season's offerings, especially the previously mentioned Debbie episode, which is as good a caper as any I've seen lately, but you can't pick out just one or two to check out. Like the new trend in American TV, "Shameless" is a serial, and each episode builds off the last one. You have to be willing to buy in, which shouldn't be too hard after the first episode. Like a car wreck, you may not want to look, but you can't really look away.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is clear as a bell, which is good, considering the weight of the actors' accents. The frequent use of music comes across well also, though there's nothing dynamic about the track, which is center-focused pretty much the whole way.
The other extra is a 10 minute interview with the show's creator. Paul Abbott. The production is a bit dark, but the info shared gives some good insight into the series, as Abbott talks about the inspiration for the show, his connection to the characters and the show's surprising success, despite the very edgy subject matter.
The Bottom Line