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

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 86 reviews

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 bysassieo December 17, 2015

Shameless TV Show on Showtime must be paid for by Big Tobacco

This show has every single character, even showing a 12 year old, smoking excessively. There is constant smoking of pot and cigarettes in the faces of infants,... Continue reading
Adult Written byLLC4260 January 14, 2013

I am a fan but this show is NOT for kids. Of any age.

Uh...at 38, *I* can barely watch this show. While I am a fan and it is beautifully acted and I do root for the success of the Gallagher kids, there is simply NO... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byBellatrix-Lestrange March 22, 2015

Appropriate for Mature Older Teens

There is a lot of sex, nudity, substance abuse and swearing. The show uses dark humor and slurs quite often. There is rape. There are heterosexual and homosexua... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMickeyMilkovichBabe August 11, 2014


I'm 13 and love this show. Even I have to admit I'm probably a bit young to watch it but all my other 13 year old friends watch it and love it as well... 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

For kids who love family humor

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