TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Shameless TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Dysfunctional family dramedy oozes booze, drugs, and sex.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 50 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 138 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Even though there's familial love at the root, the show depicts the Gallaghers' overblown dysfunction in such a way that it almost seems charming. What's more, iffy choices rarely net negative consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Every character -- with the exception of the toddler who's still in diapers -- makes repeated and intentionally negative choices. Like stealing food or clothing. Or drinking underage and smoking pot. Or "borrowing" a senile woman from a retirement home to cash a dead woman's social security checks. Also, the children are all enablers of their alcoholic father's behavior.


Occasional acts of violence (mostly punching, but also one graphic scene in which a father gives his son a bloody nose) and some incidents involving neighborhood bullying.


Full-frontal male and female nudity, plus frank depictions of sexual acts, including teens and adults engaged in intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation. A teen character who recently realized he's gay is also carrying on a sexual relationship with his married male boss.


Strong, unbleeped language, including "f--k," "s--t" and "c--k," in addition to sexually charged terms like "finger-bang."


Some brand names appear in passing, including Best Buy, Molson, and Oberweis Dairy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character is a dysfunctional alcoholic who spends nights (and most mornings) passed out on the floor. His children -- some who appear to be as young as 8 or 9 -- also drink beer occasionally and smoke marijuana in addition to regular cigarettes.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytoric1031 December 30, 2017

VERY innapropriate

I was excited to watch this show since most of my friends watch and love it and I will admit it was pretty entertaining, but maybe 15 minutes into the pilot, th... Continue reading
Adult Written bylavender_lily November 15, 2011

Ok for Teens

Definitely not appropriate for small children, but teenagers can watch. They speak and swear in a true to life form - overall it does have positive messages and... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byinnieidk April 8, 2015

A really good TV show!

I love it! It's one of my favourite. Teens should enjoy this show, don't stop them from watching it. It's worth it. Come on, every teen or kid k... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byjunehamilton September 5, 2020

Not for sheltered or immature teens, but otherwise fantastic

I'd say Shameless is acceptable for mature teens 14+. If you're worried about excessive swearing, sex, and substance use, then watch it with your chil... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family humor

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate