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Shameless: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] [Import]
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Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) is a prototype deadbeat dad. No, he's more than that. If there were an award for "world's worst dad," Frank Gallagher would doubtlessly win. He has custody of his children (sort of) as his ex wife (Monica) is estranged. However, Frank Gallagher doing his familial duty is about as common as a Labrador singing Verdi opera. Frank is a drunk & puts more effort into trying to "game the system" of getting disability checks than he does into simply making an honest living.
Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is the catalyst of the show. She is by far the most likeable character & the one we empathize with the most. As the eldest daughter, she has taken it upon herself to take on the duties of being the surrogate mother of her younger siblings. She is often frustrated & overwhelmed with the tasks life has dealt her, but she still finds a way to face each & every day with her winning smile. Unlike her father, she works odd jobs & does her best to support the rest of her family.
Laura Slade Wiggins (Karen) delivers a command performance as the girl-next-door who is caught in the body of teenage girl with an overactive libido. Full confession: Laura Slade Wiggins has "got the goods." She is built like a cheerleader and she's the type of woman whom guys like me dream of taking to the mall. Her acting talents outstrip this role; I look forward to seeing more of her. For now, all I can say is....WOW!!!
Somewhat surprisingly, as raucous as this show is, it still finds a way to have some rather poignant, heart wrenching moments. While most of it is obnoxious humor, the fact that these moments exist in the series is profound. So, bottom line is, if you're looking for an off-the-wall adventure in Chicago, the Gallaghers would be elated to invite you over to their house. Be sure to accept the invitation! 8-)
Holy Bad Behavior there Batman!
Yeah, yeah, I know cable was supposed to be pushing the envelope, but except for the F-word getting worked to death, it was pretty much business as usual. Or more to the point, BS as usual. Dexter? Come on...same old cheap Moralizing for Dummies, only now we have a serial killer teaching Bad Guys about the wages of sin, not Jim Anderson teaching Bud and Kitten about good citizenship. I cancelled my cable and walked away for a couple years. I took another peek a couple of weeks ago and fell right off of my high horse!
When did TV get so smart? So funny? So...seditious? When did they start using real writers, not frat boys or survivors of the Sheldon Schwartz School of Sitcoms? It all started with Treme, an amazing show about New Orleans that got it all right, the characters, the place, the setting, the music...everything. Next came The Wire. Another eye opener. Gritty, violent and good. I sensed a new direction but still I had no clue how far things had gone. So then I watched The Vikings. Let's hear it for Violence. Eye-bugging, jaw dropping, violence with severed aortas pumping away, torsos cleaved in two, limbs flying, eyes gouged. And that's just the opening credits.
I thought I had seen it all...until I watched the first episode of "Shameless."
Real, honest, funny, horrible...it's a family. The way families really are. More or less. It feels real. Frank is not going to be Father of the Year, and Child Protective Services would have a field day if they peeked in the window. But he loves his kids albeit in his own way. The kids look after one another. And love one another. That's not necessarily a given even when the parents are church-going, steadfast, homework monitoring, balanced meal serving pillars of the community. But the language is coarse, the kids are lighting up doobies, and no moral values are being ingrained. They're just getting along day to day.
So is this a good thing, this new celebration of the sordid? This wallowing in sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of Bad Behavior? What impact will it have on society? What will happen to our children if they grow up seeing stuff on TV you would not discuss with your husband or wife (or both)? In the first episode of "Shameless", I saw a kid do something with his underwear (and for good reason) that had me torn between hysterical laughter and abject horror. The show shocked my modesty, which is some good trick, believe you me. But mostly I just like it. Shameless is not pandering to our lower instincts, it's really funny. Witty, even. Bright, clever and disgusting. How's that for the trifecta?
Into the fourth episode now, and am torn between wanting to marry Frank or having him put down like a rabid dog. He is a drunk, a welfare cheat, an absentee father with the parenting skills of a newt. And it is a joy to behold. William Macy is one of the best things ever to happen to movies or television. The entire cast is good. So far it keeps getting better.
And really, did the old school kind of television, the kind that taught Good Behavior have any influence on us? Did anyone ever not cheat on a spouse or on their income taxes because of Mike Brady's endless sermonizing? Do you ever see a criminal or some poor drugged out wretch or other miscreant and say to yourself "There but for the grace of June and Ward Cleaver go I?"
Enjoy the bad stuff without guilt. It cannot possible make us any worse than we already are. Four stars because this is a good show, not a great show. Some episodes are a lot better than others. Compared to Treme, The Wire or Breaking Bad, it's not quite top tier. And there is not nearly enough William Macy.