What happens when you put an alcoholic father, six clever children and a desperate lack of money all under the same roof on the west side of Chicago? You get the new American version of the British show, “Shameless.” It’s rough, gritty, hilarious and most importantly, unapologetic.
Each family member contributes to the survival of the Gallagher family in their own unique way. Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), the father, drinks like a fish but collects disability insurance for his supposed migraines. Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the 21 year-old daughter, is the rock of the Gallagher family. Stunningly beautiful, Fiona manages to fulfill the role of the mother, keep the family in order and work multiple jobs — all at the same time.
Then there’s Lip (Jeremy Allen White). Short for “Phillip,” Lip is a genius and raises money for the family by writing papers, taking the SAT test for other students and doing other people’s taxes. One year younger than Lip is Ian (Cameron Monaghan). Ian is industrious with an incredible work ethic. He participates in ROTC, harboring dreams of becoming a paratrooper, but he and Lip keep his secret: he’s gay. Not only is his sexuality a detriment to his safety on the west side of Chicago, but he also is in a relationship with a married Muslim man, Kash (Pej Vahdat), who owns the local convenience store. When their relationship implodes, and I’m predicting that it will, it might take the whole Gallagher family down with it.
Debbie (Emma Kenney) is the second daughter and seems to be sent from God Himself. She raises money for UNICEF throughout the year, but only keeps half. Although she is 11 years old, she takes care of her baby brother Liam. Finally, there is Carl (Ethan Cutkosky). Although Carl is very disturbed and treats animals and people unethically, he goes out of his way to seek revenge on those who go after the Gallagher family. Not that I’m condoning his behavior, but his actions show that his heart is in the right place. For those readers who watch Showtime’s “Dexter,” there are many similarities between Carl and a young Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Let’s just hope Carl doesn’t move to Miami or The Dark Passenger might have another rival.
Although the portrait of family members in “Shameless” seems to create a depressing example of a lower-middle class American family on the west side of Chicago, the key word is the title: shameless. Every one of these characters don’t care that what they do to keep their family stable is shameful, because it’s simply not important.
You can switch to any channel nowadays to see sex, drugs and violence. What makes “Shameless” special is not the rather graphic “romantic encounters” between Fiona and Steve (Justin Chatwin), but to witness how even the most dysfunctional family keeps everything from falling apart. Unlike shows such as “Skins” and “Gossip Girl,” the focus is not on what the characters do, but why they do it. Family means everything to the Gallaghers, and maybe it’s because they’re Irish, but nothing comes between the members of one the worst families in the Windy City.
That’s the whole point of the show. Everyone uses their talents for the greater good of their very dysfunctional family, even if they are a bit crude at times. One thing we can learn from the Gallaghers is that your flaws don’t define who you are, only your gifts and abilities.
Steven Piccione is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at [email protected]. Hulu Saxa appears every other Friday in the guide.