It’s hard to believe that we’ve already had 7 seasons and 84 episodes of the comedy-drama “Shameless.” In that long period of time, we’ve had plenty of time to fall in love with the characters and understand what makes the Gallagher family so unique. By almost any measure – like an 8.7/10.0 rating on IMDb – the show has more than its share of committed and loyal fans. So what are some of the reasons why fans love the Showtime TV show “Shameless” so much?
#1: William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher
The show has always revolved around the Oscar-nominated William H. Macy, who has introduced the world to Frank Gallagher, a single father of six who spends much of his time drunk (or plotting new ways to get money to get drunk). He’s largely distant from any real parenting duties, and is responsible for his kids growing up poor and struggling with life on Chicago’s South Side.
On the surface, that’s hardly the recipe for a sympathetic character. In fact, you might even call Frank Gallagher more of an “anti-hero” than a “hero” – he’s someone that you don’t want your kids to emulate. He’s a deadbeat, an addict and someone who only schemes and steals to get ahead in life. Yet, there’s something very captivating about him. He is a polarizing character, but someone that binds his family closer to him merely by the fact of being such an absentee father.
#2: Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher
It’s William H. Macy, in fact, who makes us appreciate the beautiful and talented Emmy Rossum so much. She’s everything that he’s not – she’s attractive, intelligent and resilient. She’s someone who cares for the family and puts all of their interests first, not hers.
And, yet, she’s not a perfect angel either. She doesn’t even have a high school graduation, and has a weakness for men who steal cars and drink. And, yet, you feel that she’s just looking for someone to fix her life and tell her that she’s doing OK. She’s been called “one of the most real characters on TV,” and for good reason. She has plenty of positive features, but also plenty of flaws. But don’t we all?
#3: All the messy romances
Throughout all the daily grievances, addictions and pettiness, there’s always the romance. And that can be wonderfully uplifting (or at least, sustaining) when confronted with a grim view of the world. We have the wonderful and talented Joan Cusack (as Sheila, one of Frank’s potential love interests, as well as the always scene-stealing Svetlana. We have Justin Chatwin (playing Jimmy Lishmann), as someone who steals for a living but who desires Fiona. And, of course, we have the budding gay relationship between Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich. It’s all the messiness of being young and in love, and having so many confusing feelings.
#4: The great Gallagher kids
Fiona (Emmy Rossum) may get most of the attention – and deservedly so – but the other Gallagher kids also play a huge role in making the show so much fun. One of the best characters is Phillip “Lip” Gallagher. He’s smart but self-destructive. You get the feeling that he could be one of the smartest kids in his class, but driven by circumstances, he’s selling pot out of the back of an ice cream truck. And so it goes with the rest of the family – they all seem to be resilient, if a bit damaged.
#5: The attitude of the “So here’s what you missed” segment
The opening of every episode always starts with a “so here’s what you missed” segment, and it’s a real winner. This is more than just the traditional “Previously on…” segment that’s now become such a cliché on TV. Instead, “Shameless” delivers this segment with a bit of attitude and character. (It’s almost as if the characters voicing the segment have a total disdain for the viewers, who were just too ignorant or drunk to have missed the last episode.)
#6: The shamelessness of keeping it real
In life, you have to “own” what you have become. And to do so, you often have to be shameless. And that’s why, at the end of the day, we really love and respect “Shameless” – the show could have sold out and showed us some sickly, sentimental view of what it means to be poor and working class. But this is life as it’s being lived in America today.
As one fan has pointed out, this show just wouldn’t mean as much if it was filmed in a trailer park – that would have turned all the characters into just stereotypes. Instead, these characters feel like real, three-dimensional characters who might live a few blocks down from us.
For much of its first 7 seasons, “Shameless” has been primarily a social media phenomenon, an entertainment favorite that’s shared via word-of-mouth, Twitter and Tumblr. The critics may have been missing out on the show, but fans have not.