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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this award-winning British drama -- which follows the loving-but-dysfunctional Gallagher family, who live in a Manchester housing project -- is both dramatic and funny, with mature themes (alcoholism, child abandonment, homosexuality, and drug use, just to name a few), as well as nudity and lots of profanity (including "f--k"). The family patriarch is an alcoholic; the children must often take on parental roles to survive and to avoid being separated by social services. Despite its TV-14 rating, the show is quite adult-oriented and isn't really age-appropriate for younger teens.
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What's the story?
Award-winning British drama series SHAMELESS follows the misadventures of the Gallaghers, a quirky, dysfunctional working-class family living in a Manchester public housing project. David Threlfall stars as Frank Gallagher, an unemployed alcoholic who wound up supporting his six children after his wife, Monica (Annabelle Apsion), left him for another woman. Since Frank is hardly a responsible parent, oldest daughter Fiona (Anne-Marie Duff) acts as a surrogate mother to her siblings. Occasionally looking in on them is Frank's agoraphobic girlfriend, Sheila (Maggie O'Neill), who also has several children. Fiona's boyfriend, Steve (James McAvoy); her brassy best friend/neighbor Veronica (Maxine Peake); Veronica's husband Kev (Dean Lennox Kelly); and the Maguires -- a notorious family of thugs who control much of the neighborhood -- add to the fray. Together they all somehow manage to scrape through, even managing to find the love and support they need in each other.
Is it any good?
This decidedly mature show focuses on how the Gallagher children cope with living in what often seems like total anarchy. They each find their own way to come to terms with their father's behavior -- which is often shamelessly ridiculous and sometimes downright mean thanks to his endless drinking. They also spend a lot of their time evading the British authorities, who would separate the clan and place them in foster care if they knew about their circumstances. Meanwhile, in the absence of any real parent, the children embark in their own process of self-discovery and problem solving, which often leads to funny-but-inappropriate behavior like lying, stealing, sexual activity, and drug use.
Despite these serious themes, Shameless manages to tell the Gallaghers' story in a sweet, amusing way thanks to outstanding writing. And while the show's vision of Britian's impoverished working class is somewhat romanticized and over the top, it also offers pointed commentary about Britian's welfare system. Overall, it's an entertaining pick for mature viewers, who will be able to appreciate its underlying sensitivity and celebration of family loyalty and love. But with strong content that runs the gamut from frequent swearing to nudity, it's definitely not for young kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many ways in which television tackles serious themes. Is it ever appropriate to present alcoholism and drug use as humorous topics, or should they always be treated seriously? Families can also discuss some of the differences between American TV shows and those from other countries. Aside from the accent, what sets British series apart from their American counterparts? Why is some content (swearing, nudity) more accepted in other countries' shows?