I decided to give "Shameless" a try after a very convincing push from a co-worker. The shows stars William H. Macy (Bill, as his wife Felicity Huffman calls him) as Frank Gallagher, a deadbeat dad to six kids on the south side of Chicago. I had seen Macy walk the red carpet many times in years past when he was nominated for this role, so I was expecting him to be on screen most of the time. As it turns out, the actors playing his six children get much more air time.
Frank's eldest daughter, Fiona, is played by Emmy Rossum. Before seeing her in this role I always though of Rossum as ladylike and delicate. As Fiona, she is anything but ladylike. Her father's inconsistent presence forces her to step up and take care of her siblings, even if it means doing terrible things to pay the bills.
The second born is Philip, who everyone calls Lip. Though he seems a bit odd looking, he has a disarming way about him. He uses that charm to get out of all kinds of tough situations. Over the course of the six seasons, he became one of my favorite characters. As the only Gallagher kid with exceptional intellectual aptitude, he struggles to live on the south side, while also trying to thrive in college and secure a strategic internship.
Ian is the third child. I actually really loved his character in the first few seasons, but he took a strange turn in season five and I never really got back on his side. Ian's first boyfriend, Mickey, has a flair for the dramatic, always making mountains out of molehills. The fireworks of their relationship light up the screen and you can't look away.
Debbie is the only other girl in the family and is forced to grow up the fastest. She has a great heart, but the family's circumstances wind up corrupting her. Like Ian's story, Debbie's went down a strange path in the final two seasons also.
Carl, the fifth in line, has the most sympathy for his father, Frank. No matter what Franks does, Carl still offers to let him in and help him pull off his crazy, illegal schemes. In season six, Carl gets an endearing storyline when he has his first crush (on a police officer's daughter, naturally).
Liam is the youngest Gallagher, still in diapers when the show begins. Though he never has any dialogue, the older kids are always racing around to take care of him.
In addition to the Gallagher family, the show has some pretty amazing supporting actors - Joan Cusack, Dermot Mulroney, Harry Hamlin and Jake McDorman (Evan from "Greek").
The show is called "Shameless," which is a mild description of the behaviors demonstrated on screen. I can think of a few more appropriate words - amoral, depraved, sickening - but weirdly, you become really invested in the Gallagher kids. You want them to be able to stay together (Child Protective Services is a constant threat) and you sincerely root for them, even Fiona, who becomes pretty unlikable by the end of season five.
I watched the first six seasons on Netflix. Each season has 12 episodes, one hour long each. Season seven is airing right now on Showtime.
If you do decide to give "Shameless" a try, I wouldn't recommend watching it in a public place (on a plane, on a train, on a bus). There is so much nudity that the people around you will definitely think you are watching something else!