By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Dysfunctional family dramedy has booze, drugs, and sex.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Despite the many issues the family deals with, there is love for each other especially among the siblings. Familial love can be complicated but it's important.
Positive Role Models
Although most of the characters act in questionable (and sometimes criminal) ways, they occasionally display admirable traits. Fiona dedicates herself to raising her siblings, sometimes at the cost of her own well-being. Carl becomes a police officer after witnessing a crime and also tries to find Frank an organ donor.
The youngest sibling, Liam, is the only Black family member among the White Gallaghers (a paternity test reveals that White-passing Frank is indeed his biological father). Liam looks up to V, their Black neighbor, who becomes a second mother to him. At first Liam is exploited by other family members, such as his father making him ask for money in the streets. The character gets more agency in later seasons. A queer Black character appears late in the series but their storyline is at the service of White characters. Several LGBTQ+ characters appear throughout but have negative traits, like recklessness and violent behavior.
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Violence & Scariness
Graphic suicide and a gory scene in which someone's limbs are cut off. Other 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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Full-frontal male and female nudity, plus graphic depictions of sexual acts, including teens and adults engaged in intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation. Underage teen characters have sex with adults. Scenes take place at strip clubs. Main characters engage with sex workers.
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Strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "c--t," and "c--k," in addition to terms like "finger bang."
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Products & Purchases
Some brand names appear in passing, including Best Buy, Molson, and Oberweis Dairy.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character has a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol and spends nights (and most mornings) passed out on the floor. His children -- some who appear to be as young as 8 or 9 -- drink beer occasionally and smoke marijuana, in addition to regular cigarettes. Characters also use cocaine and other illicit drugs. Abuse of prescription pills and pain medication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Shameless (which was inspired by a British series) is a mature dramedy about a single father of six who struggles with alcoholism. Expect graphic depictions of sex, full-frontal nudity, and occasional drug use (including pot, cocaine, and abuse of prescription drugs), along with ongoing alcohol abuse (by kids and adults). Kids engage in iffy, illegal behavior that doesn't typically result in negative consequences. There are also depictions of psychological and physical violence (including a suicide scene).
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What's the Story?
Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), the main character of SHAMELESS, is a single father who deals with alcohol and drug addiction as he tries to raise six kids. This means it's often up to his oldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), to keep the rest of the family in line, often at the cost of her own well-being.
Is It Any Good?
Not all viewers have seen the original, critically acclaimed series that inspired this remake. But like its British counterpart, this Shameless is a complex, often harrowing, family drama with comedic elements, which casts Macy as a generally unlikable "alcoholic" father who leaves his six children to fend for themselves.
The U.S. version starts 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 seeing an elementary schooler swilling a beer in plain sight of his family members, 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 probably try to rip you off if you met them in person. The series cleverly explores the lives of those living at the margins of American society, as is the case of the Gallaghers, who experience poverty and try their best to lead satisfying lives.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about alcoholism and the real-life consequences of substance abuse. How does this affect families, particularly those with children? Does the show handle the topic responsibly and/or realistically?
Does living in poverty justify acting outside the law and doing anything possible to survive?
How do the Gallaghers compare to families you know? Do the show's graphic depictions of drinking, drugs, and sex glamorize the family's behavior in any way?
Liam doesn't seem to grapple with any identity issues despite being the only Black child in an otherwise all-White family. Do you think this is realistic? What is it like for children of color raised in predominantly White families?
- Premiere date: January 9, 2011
- Cast: Emmy Rossum, Joan Cusack, William H. Macy
- Network: Showtime
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: June 1, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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