Friday, February 28, 2014

Fangirl Friday-- Shameless


I'm a Shameless Fangirl

There are some things I'm a little ashamed of fangirling about.  Movies on ABC Family for one, like the Bring It On sequels and old kids movies like Richie Rich. But, there's one thing I'm not ashamed of being a fangirl about and that's the Showtime hit, Shameless.
(Though, I am a little ashamed of that phrasing....) I adore Shameless and the Gallagher family that it features. I have loved it​ since the first episode. I have so many reasons for loving this show, join me after the break and I'll tell you why I love this show and the Gallagher family!

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There are so many reasons to love Shameless. But, I'm just going to concentrate on my biggest reasons for loving this hilarious, heartbreaking, ridiculous, insane show.

Location
This might seem silly on the surface, but Shameless takes place in my beloved home town, Chicago. 
That is why I started watching it initially. ​I have a huge amount of home town love and pride. Not only does Shameless take place in Chicago, but it takes place on the south side, which is where I grew up. They aren't in my neighborhood, but even still, the south side is it's own breed of people regardless of neighborhood. They feature and mention a lot of places I am intimately familiar with. There are, of course, some inaccuracies in dialect and geography. But, they do a pretty damn good job of replicating life as a south sider and even though I'm not too far from home, it makes me miss living in the city a little less.
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Characters
The Gallagher family are the focus of Shameless. They consist of dad Frank, daughters Fiona and Debbie, and sons Lip (short for Phillip), Ian, Carl and Liam. They are an interesting bunch with an unusual dynamic and a lot of issues. But, they are all sympathetic and lovable in their own way. Without them, the show wouldn't be nearly as successful. The remainder of the cast includes friends, neighbors, lovers and other neighborhood folks that round out the colorful world of the show. As I mentioned, I grew up on the south side in an Irish family. A lot of the characters featured are archetypes that I am intimately familiar with. Fortunately, I had a normal childhood. But, I think that with a few changes in circumstances, the Gallagher clan could reflect what my family could have become had my parents been a little less stable.

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Frank, the Gallagher father, is a raging alcoholic and drug user. He will take the high any way he can get it. He also is running a constant scam to collect disability checks. He is a user in all senses of the word. He takes advantage of any situation he can. But, even as he sinks to a new low in nearly every episode, you still feel a modicum of sympathy for him.






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Fiona, the eldest daughter, is probably the most sympathetic character on the show. Twenty one at the start of the first season, Fiona is raising her five younger siblings on her own. She works any and all jobs she can get, and they are still only just managing to scrape by because three of the other kids pitch in what they can. Fiona still tries to have a life of her own, but feels a profound guilt at leaving her siblings to care for each other while she goes out and has fun.


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Lip, or Phillip, the oldest brother, is a rebel with a genius level IQ. He's a 17 year old punk in every way. But, he is also extremely protective and caring towards his siblings and has a razor sharp wit. However, Lip does have a streak of Frank in him, since he makes most of his money by taking the SATs for other students and other scams of that utilize his intelligence.




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Ian is a 16 year old aspiring Marine. He is also gay, something he hides from most of the world outside of his family. Compared to the rest of his family, Ian is a responsible teen. But, he does have a small wild streak and a penchant for bad boys, just like his older sister. (Ian is also hard to describe without spoiling story lines!)






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Debbie, the younger daughter, is 11 going on 30. She is mature and wise beyond her years. She also has a motherly streak, caring for the youngest Gallagher, 2 year old Liam and running a day care during the summer. But, Debbie is still 11. She still expects her dad to be a dad sometimes and gets upset when he disappoints her yet again. She's also ecstatic when given a baby doll to care for. And, for the record, that is Liam in that gif. Yes, he's black. 



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Carl is a 10 year old nightmare. He steals, he gets in fights at school, and he is destructive. He also has a bit of a sadistic streak. He also has no problem going along with Frank's most recent scam if he's needed. He is the problem child of the Gallagher clan much to Fiona's chagrin.





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There is also Kev and Veronica, the Gallaghers' next door neighbors, who are basically family. Kev is a bartender and Veronica works in a retirement home, but fancies herself a nurse. The other major character is Sheila, an agoraphobic, who Frank scams into a relationship that gives him free room and board and give Sheila someone to take care of.




Actors
You can't have such great characters without having great actors. Shameless is filled with them. Obviously, since am so desperately in love with this show, I think that all of the actors are fantastic. But, I think special mentions are deserved for three of the cast members.

William H. Macy
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It's a rare actor that can make a raging drunk and the worst father alive sympathetic, but Mr. Macy manages it with aplomb. He is basically the exact opposite of Frank in real life. He's intelligent, caring, and most importantly sober. I don't know how he does it, but even while Frank is pretending to have cancer, or collecting a dead relative's social security check, he manages to make you feel for Frank. He perfectly portrays the hold that addiction can have on someone's life. And, more importantly, he makes you see that Frank's choices aren't always his own, that he is ruled by his demons.






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Emmy Rossum
Emmy is an outstanding talent. She goes from Mama Bear protecting her cubs to scared and upset girl in a heartbeat. Fiona can be a little harsh, but Emmy also brings a vulnerability to the role that is a necessity for Fiona. For someone who's upbringing was nowhere close to what Fiona has to deal with, Emmy does a great job of replicating what south side girls are like. Especially girls that have to deal with what Fiona does on a day to day basis. Watching her, you'd never know that she's the same girl that played Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.





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Joan Cusack
Ms. Cusack is the lone Emmy nominee for Shameless. She's been nominated for all three of their seasons so far. And, rightly so. Her character, Sheila, is an agoraphobe with a host of other issues. But, even while you are shaking your head and laughing at the shear insanity that is Sheila Jackson, you feel sorry for her. She makes a character that could very easily become nothing but comic relief a real three dimensional character. Not every actress could pull off such a feat, but Joan Cusack manages the challenge with skill.




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Honorable Mention: Noel Fisher
Noel is on this list because he is such a chameleon actor. He is like a different person in everything I've seen him in. I am endlessly impressed by actors like this. You might remember him as the over-eager lab tech in Law & Order: SVU. Or, maybe you saw him in the Hatfield & McCoys mini-series as the simple-minded son. He's been in tons of other movies and TV shows and he's like a new person in everything.




Storylines
The stories on Shameless are totally and 100% insane. That's the only word there is to describe it. There are so many crazy characters on the show that it leads to some pretty insane stories. I don't want to be too specific and spoil something, should I convince you to give the show a shot. So, I will try to keep this as vague as I can. But, I want to give you some examples of the crazy stories that these writers come up with.
One of the kids starts a meth lab in their basement, with some help from an older relative.
An inadvertently kidnapped toddler that has to be returned without anyone knowing he was kidnapped.
The "I Have A Dream" speech used as a college application essay for MIT.
Tutoring sessions masquerading as sexual encounters.
The Gallaghers borrow a patient at Veronica's retirement home for the day.
A car thief who runs away from his upper middle class life and medical school...to become a car thief who then marries the daughter of the head of a drug cartel.
A 13 year old foster daughter pulled from a polygamous religious cult with her son.
And, finally, a plan to have a baby by having sex with your mother-in-law.


So, as you can see, the Gallaghers' life is filled with craziness and colorful people. But, the show has such heart, you can't help but love them. Even when they are doing something completely insane and stupid. The stories are great. But, the characters and the actors portraying them are what make the show so great. I can't imagine what it would be like to live like they do. But, they have so much fun and get into such crazy predicaments, that I sometimes wish I did live like they do. If only for a little while.

And, as a send off to this piece, I leave you with the Shameless Christmas carol the cast did after season one. I adore this. I listen to it sometimes, even when it's not Christmas because it's so much fun. Also, listen to the end to hear some really impressive vocals by Emmy Rossum. 



I hope you enjoyed reading about Shameless! Check it out on Showtime! Let me know below what you love about Shameless or if I've convinced you to give it a shot!

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