What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, even though it stars kids -- one of whom is young enough to be in diapers -- this mature primetime dramedy about an alcoholic single father and his six children clearly wasn't meant for kids. For one thing, there are graphic depictions of sex (with both male and female nudity) and occasional drug use (including pot and cocaine), along with the ongoing abuse of alcohol (by kids and adults) in its many forms. But along with that, the kids themselves engage in iffy, illegal behavior that doesn't typically court negative consequences. Needless to say, the family patriarch is a parent's nightmare of a role model who, in addition to drinking away his wages, spends half of his life passed out on the floor. In one instance, he even head-butts his son, causing bloody injury.
What's the story?
The way Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) lives is SHAMELESS, whether he's spending 100 percent of his bogus disability money on booze, cashing his dead Aunt Ginger's social security checks, or playing boy-toy to an enabling agoraphobic (Joan Cusack) so he can take her money, too. But while Frank is out getting cranked up -- or, more commonly, passed out on the floor -- his oldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), is keeping the rest of the family in line. In the meantime, she's also warding off dueling suitors (Justin Chatwin and Tyler Jacob Moore) who couldn't be more different.
Is it any good?
Most Americans have probably never seen the critically acclaimed British series of the same name that inspired Showtime's Shameless, which casts Macy -- better known for playing marginally troubled, golly-gee characters like Fargo's Jerry Lundegaard -- as a generally unlikable alcoholic father who drinks away his disability check and essentially leaves his six children to fend for themselves. And it seems like the producers are taking advantage of that by rebranding the U.S. version as a sexed-up, in-your-face shocker that throws any of the original series' subtleties out the window.
But a strange thing happens a few episodes in, once you get past the shock value of seeing an elementary-schooler swilling a beer in plain sight of his family, who only seem mildly annoyed that he's drinking it: You find yourself rooting for the Gallagher kids (admirably anchored by Rossum, and Jeremy Allen White and Cameron Monaghan, who play her two younger brothers), even though they'd try to rip you off if you met them in person. Sadly, the same can't be said for Macy, who, in spite of the Oscar nod under his belt and costumers' desperate attempts to make him look homeless, just isn't believable as a working class deadbeat.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about alcoholism and the real-life consequences of substance abuse. What makes someone an alcoholic? How does alcoholism affect families, particularly those with children? Does the show handle the topic responsibly and/or realistically?
Is it OK to lie or steal if you're only doing it to survive? Have these characters' negative choices sprung from necessity, or do they have other options? How often do their actions have negative consequences?
How do the Gallaghers compare to the families you know? Do the show's graphic depictions of drinking, drugging, and sex glamorize the family's behavior in any way, or make it seem even more outrageous?