I know that there are a lot of folks who might watch Shameless from week to week and get bent out of shape about how unrealistic some of the storylines are. And sure! Some of them are beyond unrealistic! I mean, can you imagine an old white dude being elected to Congress with a history of sexually assaulting minors, or his campaign manager skimming money off the top of those contributions? That would never happen in America!
There are also some of the smaller stories. For instance, this week, Liam — who is, I dunno, nine or ten years old — thought that he’d somehow impregnated a classmate, who tries to pin the responsibility for her child on the sexually ignorant kid. That’s absurd! Until I remember that when my brother was about Liam’s age, he came home one night and told me about being “forked” — in an act of foreplay, a girl a couple of years older than him had run a fork all over his naked body until he, uh, finished. Or my father telling me that he thought he’d gotten my mother pregnant by holding her hand when they were teenagers. He just didn’t know any better.
Frank also ended up getting erectile dysfunction after he had to start taking generic pills for his liver after he began peeing brown, which is ridiculous until I remember my grandfather — who used to bring home prostitutes, a real Frank Gallagher, he was — also used to cough literal bile. Like, disgusting black chunks of bile. The man died with bile-encrusted lips, and there was no funeral. In fact, I’ve never been to a family member’s funeral in my life, because poor people can’t afford funerals. Funerals were for TV, I thought! It’s like when I moved to the Northeast and found out that people serve meals at weddings! For everyone. It blew my mind.
My brother is like a real-life Lip, too, a good-looking charming dude with a lot of talent, whose life was derailed by drinking and drugs starting around age 12. He was in rehab by 13. He once got a DWI … on his bicycle! He once had a violent acid-flashback in his middle-school classroom. He once tried to set himself on fire with a gallon of gasoline. My father was once late to my police interrogation because he’d walked in on my brother trying to take his life. Oh, and my sister wasn’t much older than Debbie when she got pregnant, and the father disappeared almost as quickly as Debbie’s baby-daddy.
Basically, what I’m saying is: As far-fetched as Shameless may seem, when you are poor, that shit follows you around. I wouldn’t call it unrealistic, so much as a heightened version of reality designed with a comedic tilt in mind, and without that sense of humor, poor people would be even more f**ked than they already are. It’s what I continue to love about Shameless: It treats the problems that accompany poverty not as the life-altering events they might be for the privileged among us, but as the everyday cost of living.
That’s why the series also treats Ian’s potential imprisonment so casually. He might be put away for ten years, and the only advice Debbie and Lip can offer Fiona is to back off and stop going “Fiona” all over him. Lip and Ian have a sweet moment before Ian goes to court, but the show doesn’t get lost in it. It’s because there’s also a lot of compartmentalization — it’s important to be there for your family, but you also can’t give your life over to their problems, because you’ve got so many of your own. The problems of your brother, your sister, your mother, and your father are their problems. Prison is treated like a time-out. Like they’re on an extended vacation and you don’t have to think about them for 2-4 years.
With all of that said, however, there is one plot point this season that is seriously sticking in my craw: Kassidi is dead. She was murdered. Carl’s wife was murdered to the death. There has been no investigation. There’s been nothing. No mention of it. They couldn’t think of any other way to exit that storyline than to simply kill the wife and never mention it again. When Carl brought up his ex this week, he didn’t say, “My ex, who was murdered by my military school classmate, who was never investigated, even though my ex came from a wealthy family.”
On the other hand, Katey Sagal made her first appearance in last night’s episode — and her brand of crazy gave Frank his boner back — and next week, Lip will play sober companion to Courteney Cox. The casting in this series is getting fancy.
Header Image Source: Showtime