Shameless US - Season 2

Starring: William H Macy, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Kenney, Shanola Hampton, Steve Howey, Justin Chatwin, Laura Slade Wiggins, Joan Cusack
Rating: ****

What has made Shameless such a marvellous success in the US, is the fact they have stayed so faithful to the original. Many shows over the years have tried to make it big in America, but unfortunately (SKINS) have failed; this is because rather than stick to the original format and success, they try to branch off straight away. Not Shameless, what they have done so brilliantly in creating an almost carbon copy for their first season, so America gets to experience the characters we love, and they fall in love with them as well. Now they have the opportunity to take their characters anywhere they want, and they have and it's absolutely fantastic.

Following the six children and one deadbeat dad of the Gallagher clan, Shameless overflows with life and, more specifically, with the barely controlled chaos of life on the financial edge. Sure, it isn't politically correct for Lip (White), the High School genius, to be selling all sorts of naughties from an ice cream van. Unfortunately though, the Gallagher's have a need, and luckily he and his partner have a code: No armpit hair, no beer.

With one series under the belt, the family patriarch and pariah, Frank Gallagher (Macy), is actually starting to develop that charm and warmth that the writers have been trying to give him. Somehow, Macy's slurring and crooked grin manage to break down the audiences barriers and help you like him, and with a character like Frank he needs to have some sort of redeeming factor, or he would be unwatchable, luckily Macy does a brilliant job. But while Macy is the anti-hero, the real heart of the show is the eldest daughter, Fiona (Rossum), who has taken on the role of mother to her younger siblings, protector of them from Frank and primary paycheck earner and money wrangler.

Around her, we have Lip (short for Phillip) wanted for his academic skills by a local professor but more intrigued by his multiple hustles; the teenager Ian (Monaghan), trying to combine his homosexuality and a patriotism that, this season, sees him seeking a future in the Army; Debbie (Kenney), a marvellously wise tween; and 10-year-old Carl, the wannabe anarchist whose creative destruction's are always good for a laugh and a sense of impending doom. Finally, of course, we have toddler Liam, who in the American version is black, with two white parents?!?!

Season 2 sees Fiona back to the grind, juggling premature, unwanted motherhood and the desires of a single young adult life. She's waitressing at a generic dance club, and her casual fling with a customer leads her to another in her series of temporary escapes. The casting for the younger cast is superb, with special credit going to Emma Kenney, who is eerily soulful as Debbie, and Cameron Monaghan, who as Ian makes us feel for him all the way. The conflict between his sexuality and his intolerant neighbourhood, which he plays brilliantly and is a credit to the series.

My favourite character is Sheila (Cusack), who is the neighbourhood agoraphobic Frank shacks up with because she has a house and she'll let him stay in it. Joan Cusack is absolutely stunning in the role, managing to make the character human, rather than comic character it could become if not careful.

With much of the world and country going through or coming out of a recession, Shameless truly has arrived in the States at the right time. A story about a family making do with what they have and just getting by, whilst maintaining their love for each other and remaining funny is just what everyone needs, and Shameless has it.
Shameless US - Promo