Emily Clark

TV Series Review

Let’s cut straight to the chase: Shameless is aptly named. This Showtime drama (based on the British series of the same name) has been airing since 2011, and its first 10 seasons can now be found on Netflix. It chronicles the life of one Frank Gallagher and his mess of children: Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl and Liam.

And this family really is quite the mess.

Frank is a neglectful alcoholic. Pretty much the only good he does for his kids is provide them with a disability check each month (when they can sober him up enough to collect it, that is). Monica, the Gallagher children’s bipolar mother (now deceased), ran off years ago. She made an appearance from time to time (sometimes to reconnect with Frank, sometimes with her lesbian lover in tow), but much like Frank, she never did much good for her kids. (At one point she discovered the kids’ secret stash of cash and blew it all on drugs, forcing the kids to scramble to earn enough money to pay the property tax on the house.)

Eldest child Fiona was forced to care for and raise her five younger siblings. For the most part, she did a good job—or at least a better job than her so-called “parents.” She worked wherever she could; she made sure the kids went to school; she even protected them from Frank and Monica’s emotional abuse by becoming her siblings’ legal guardian.

And to be quite frank, that love, which is echoed by the other Gallagher children, is just about the only redeeming quality this show has. They rally together to pay the bills each month (whether that means watering down the milk to make it last longer or taking on some not-quite-legal jobs to make the extra cash). They support each other through personal circumstances—such as when Ian comes out as gay or when Debbie realizes she’s pregnant. And even when they screw up or decide to leave (as Fiona eventually does), they still love each other unconditionally.

But boy-oh-boy, do the Gallagher kids screw up.

Honestly, you almost can’t blame them. They’re definitely a product of their dysfunctional parents and the systemic poverty that they’ve been raised in. But that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking to watch them struggle.

Nudity, sex (including same-sex pairings), physical abuse, drug use, binge-drinking and harsh language (up to and including the f-word) are a part of just about every episode of Shameless. There are also some subplots involving abortion, prostitution and “Gay Jesus.”

Perhaps if Shameless was only talking about its wide range of subject matter, it could be taken as a cautionary lesson as to the difficulties that families face when dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and even sex addiction. But sadly, we see each one of these topics play out on screen, making it a show that many would probably be ashamed to watch.

Episode Reviews

Jan. 26, 2020, Episode 12: “Gallavich!”

When the father of Ian’s fiancé, Mickey, burns down their wedding venue to stop Mickey from marrying a man, the Gallagher siblings pool their resources to find a new venue.

We see brief flashes of couples groping each other and having sex (including a same-sex couple) and a man’s nude backside is seen. A man masturbates on a toilet while holding a magazine with a male underwear model. A cake topper shows two men in a sexual position. A woman straddles and makes out with a man. A girl pretends to be having sex with another woman while on the phone with her mom. Two women wake up in bed together and we later see them dancing at a wedding. We see multiple people’s bare legs and hips as they use the toilet. (We also see people pulling down their underwear in these shots.) Several people are seen in their underwear and towels. Liam notices hickeys on Frank’s neck. Some women wear dresses with cleavage.

We hear about edible boxers. Someone alludes to bestiality. A girl accuses someone of having a STI. We hear several references to sex and even some graphic descriptions. Frank has several age-inappropriate discussions with Liam about sex. We hear about several extramarital affairs. Someone talks about sex toys and porn.

Two gay men are married by an Episcopal priest since the Catholic Church doesn’t allow same-sex marriages. We see them kiss. There are several conversations about homophobia and homosexuality. We hear about a gay Catholic priest who lives with a man with a “nipple ring.” A group of Ian’s supporters, called “Gay Jesus Groupies,” form a human wall to stop Mickey’s dad from ruining their wedding. The Gallaghers lie to the wedding venue’s owner that Debbie is the one marrying Mickey when they realize the owner is homophobic. We later learn her late husband was a closeted gay man. Someone talks crudely about trans women and male genitals. A bar has a baseball bat called the “f-g fixer.”

Debbie’s ex-girlfriend (who is a minor) runs away from home because of her mom’s homophobia. We later learn that the girl isn’t gay and she sleeps with Carl (offscreen), waking up in bed with him the next day. Debbie is then arrested for statutory rape after the girl’s mother reports it to the police.

When someone uses Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples of love winning, someone else says that one was crucified and the other two were shot.

Mickey loads a shotgun and attempts to go after his dad but is tackled and punched by Ian. A man threatens several people with a gun and punches another man. Mickey’s dad points a loaded gun at several people. We also hear that he threatened to shoot Mickey. A man is tackled and slapped several times. Someone gets bitten. Two people push each other around in a bathroom. A woman punches someone in the face. A man graphically describes shooting someone. Frank says a woman tried to stab him. Lip asks his friend to punch a woman if she tries to stop Ian’s wedding. We hear about a man being paralyzed after getting beaten up.

People drink throughout the show, especially at a wedding. Some scenes take place in a bar. Teenagers also drink. Lip attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after falling off the wagon at Ian’s wedding. People smoke cigarettes and marijuana joints. Women in their underwear cook meth in a lab. Several people ask Ian if he has taken his bipolar medication.

We hear multiple uses of the f-word and s-word, as well as “a–hole,” “b–tard,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “pr–k” and “p—y.” Both God’s and Christ’s names are misused, the former sometimes paired with “d–n.” “P—y” is written on the walls of a gym. We also see the f-word written on a piece of paper. Someone says, “Nut up.”

Two men urinate in a restroom (one in a sink). A little girl pulls a toothbrush from a toilet before putting it in her mouth. Someone pulls a stuffed animal out of a toilet. Someone talks about pooping. A man vomits into a trash bin. Someone scoffs at sterilizing water bottles before reusing them.

Liam lies to Frank to trick him into going to Ian’s wedding. We hear about childhood abuse and neglect. Lip’s girlfriend threatens to leave town with their son after accusing him of loving his family more than he loves her.

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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