January 11, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Shameless”


SHAMELESS:  Sunday 9PM on Showtime

John Wells comes from the broadcast network school of showrunning, where he kept ER going for 22 (or more) episodes per year for more than a decade, and barely missed a beat when Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing.  He’s on the short list of producers you’d want overseeing your veteran serialized drama, and Showtime’s SHAMELESS–unlike some of that network’s other series that have struggled after their initial seasons–entered its 6th stanza tonight hardly the worse for wear under his stewardship.

Some months had passed in the lives of the Gallaghers since we saw them last, but as usual, not much had changed.  The season’s opening hour, written by Wells and directed by Christopher Chulack (who’s been working with Wells at least since ER), found Frank (William H. Macy) still in a spiritual funk at the loss of his beloved Bianca, a crisis that led to him both testing out various religions and humping her grave.  Fiona (Emmy Rossum), still involved with her boss Sean (Dermot Mulroney), was about to take one of her stumbling steps toward respectability by assuming Assistant Manager duties at Sean’s diner.  Lip (Jeremy Allen White) was still in his inappropriate relationship with professor Helene (Sasha Alexander), and considering the possibility of going into teaching himself.  Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), who had thrived in juvie, arrived home with a hulking 18-year old murderer as his houseguest.  Ian (Cameron Monaghan) was still reluctantly on his meds, and mourning the prison sentence of Mickey (Noel Fisher).  Yuppies were still infesting the neighborhood.  The most dramatic initial plot turn concerned Debbie (Emma Kenney), whose plan to lure her hot boyfriend into marriage with a pregnancy seemed ruined when his family transported him hastily to Florida.

For a show largely about chaos, Shameless has always been an efficient, even tidy piece of storytelling, and that’s still the case.  Rossum, who’s never gotten the acclaim she deserves for serving as the center of the Shameless whirlwind, is as assured as ever, and by now the younger leads have grown capable of taking on heavy narratives themselves, notably Cutkosky and Kenney, which has allowed for the seamless departure of former regulars Joan Cusack and Emily Bergl, among others.  The series knows its mix of raucous comedy and trenchant drama well, and it’s still, with Homeland, Showtime’s biggest original hit.  Since the stories of the Gallaghers have no particular ending, and the show’s structure can easily allow for one or more family members to take their leave if contractual issues intrude, there’s no reason to think that Shameless won’t be able to continue for an indefinite future, half-crazed yet steady under Wells’ command.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."