PHD #4: Shameless Edition


There is nothing shameless about what I am about to unload. Granted, I must profess an apology in advance to any timeline errors as I’m too disgruntled to go back and pay excruciating detail as to what and where and when exactly I grew distraught with the show. However, I promise entertaining and thought-provoking points.

First of all, Shameless is one of many American-takes-on-British-television TV shows – it’s not as exclusive as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or today’s House of Cards, but that is exactly what gave it character – initially. Shameless was the underground band you would talk to friends about in hushed tones, your jaw stubbornly jutted out as you insisted how grand an adventure it was. “We’re doing something right,” you’d say, “William H. Macy has found his Heisenberg role,” you’d whistle in awe, and, “Damn, did that really happen to Fiona?” you’d demand taken aback. Now you’re left with an awful taste in your mouth as you apathetically utter, “Did that really happen… again?”

Shameless is the most successful hit on TV about poverty since Roseanne and her Midwest blues departed the screen. The show digs into controversial themes regarding financial issues, race, gender, and religion, sexuality, and gives a whole new meaning to family bonding. When the Gallaghers come together, it is automatically guaranteed shit will go down. Now said shit has come upstream and has hit the fan three times over.

Currently in its fifth season, the show has seemingly left behind its original family and adopted a new one. Same faces and voices, sure, but it’s only a shell of what used to be. Matriarch Fiona is now anything but the strong person she used to be, which granted happens with character development, but there needs to be just cause. What, do you also accidentally lose sight of your cocaine for your four-year-old brother to ingest when you spent the last decade keeping extensive tabs on all five of your siblings and their wellbeing with hardly any complaints? If that doesn’t produce ground for a plot-hole, I have no idea what would.

Understandably Fiona Gallagher is addicted to sex, as is on display throughout each season, but losing the apparent love-of-her-life JimmySteve sends her into this intangible path of self-destruction that has her coming out worse than the show’s true antagonist – Frank. I understand twists and turns, however distasteful they may be, but what I cannot fathom is how a character can effortlessly abandon the moral compass they have clung to for years and, for what, because they were lonely? Newsflash: Fiona was inexplicably independent, even after she was swayed into believing JimmySteve was “the one,” and was doing fine without him until the idea of screwing her next boyfriend over with his brother popped into her head. Since then it has been nothing but a downward spiral for our female lead, whose younger sister Debbie is following close behind in attempts to blow her out of Lake Michigan (that body of water works – get it, Chicago?).

There’s definitely still room for improvement with the character, which is what gives Shameless its true grit.

Second sibling Lip may have also been giving viewers a run for their money by biting his tongue and attending college starting season four – but were we really surprised to see a student of his accomplishments pass up a full-ride scholarship in order to stay on the hard streets of Chicago? If any sort of change was necessary, it was Lip growing more responsible with age – but reasonably so; we can still find him smoking a blunt near the dumpster when he’s supposed to be on work study duty and saying just about anything to get in a random girl’s pants. There’s definitely still room for improvement with the character, which is what gives Shameless its true grit.

Ian is runner-up for disappointment following Debbie and Fiona. Inevitably one of the Gallaghers would be blessed with the Monica gene in developing bipolar disorder, but really, did it have to be right after Mickey grew into his heart and accepted the two of them for the couple they were? No, that’s not obvious at all, you’re not reaching for ridiculous drama whatsoever, Shameless. Had this started to develop for Ian even in the final stages of season 3, it would be far more acceptable than bombarding viewers to all of the Gallaghers changing. That’s not a chain reaction – I do declare bullshit.

Debbie’s development, or rather downfall, may just be the most disappointing of all. Debbie was undoubtedly the kind glue that held the family together, as a good student and sweet-hearted girl that always wanted to lend a helping hand. For all the times she has been stepped on during her journey, she has only grown more genuine. That could no longer be said starting season four and I cannot possibly stress how terrifying the character has become. This is the girl who organized a bake sale to help Karen pay for her abortion, babysat neighborhood children for her sister as she slept off her late nights, and always had the softest heart when it came to letting her unfit parents stumble back over it. Now she’s 14 years old raping a 20 year-old? How are we sure she’s not the one with bipolar disorder, huh?

There’s not much to say about Carl. He may be a smidge more likable and easy going on the eyes – he’s resembling Justin Bieber though, I don’t quite know how I feel about that – but he’s still Frank’s sidekick in all things mischievous and stupid. Carl definitely gets a dismissive pass on this, along with Liam at that. What more could be done with a four-year-old? I suppose he could be killed, but that alone was a close call – phew.

Now Frank, where to start with Frank? How about how deceiving the show was to even attempt to make him a decent human being by the end of season three, then turn him back into a scumbag in season four, and really made us all wish he could be killed this season – or was that just my feelings? Overall, this character is both predictable and unpredictable in the most tedious of scenarios that only make my eyes roll. His development has meant nothing to the show as far as I’m concerned, other than introducing a seventh Gallagher offspring that makes me never want to be associated with another human being.

The last but not least of all important aspect of this Shameless textual analysis is JimmySteve, or now he would go by JimmySteveJack. All I can say is WHAT? WHAT WAS THAT? The end of the third season left most viewers in despair knowing that JimmySteve was either going to be killed or held at bay until the show called for another annoying twist in its plot. However, when the show returned in season four, a gunshot was added to the scene that only made the season finale far more confusing because instead of that shot being of value, it was a mechanism used to manipulate so that viewers would be surprised and all the more happy to see JimmySteve’s return. I won’t lie: I only stayed tuned for season five because of him, which makes all the more sense for me to be flabbergasted and downright homicidal with where this season’s episode seven left off. What was even the point of JimmySteve making a return for a three-parter when it was only used to have Fiona feel better about herself? JimmySteve was the device used to drive Fiona to drugs and now into the arms of another, a man she supposedly deserves according to new husband Gus.

What can we take away from this? Plothole after plothole in a galaxy of plotholes is what has become of Shameless. Thank you, Showtime, I’ll definitely use the timeslot I’d reserved for you on better things – like patiently waiting for the next episode of Better Call Saul.

Ani is a twenty-something SoCal native driven by all things pop culture. Armed with a Master’s in communication studies, she spends her days analyzing her surroundings, enjoying live shows and film, traveling the world, eating pho, and being an opinionated individual. She also happens to be the biggest I Love Lucy fan of her generation.

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