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What Are You Doing, 'Shameless'?

By Emily Cutler | TV | December 17, 2019 |

By Emily Cutler | TV | December 17, 2019 |


The question I tried to pose for this article is “does Lip learn how to swim?” But maybe it should be, “Hey, remember when season 10 of Shameless briefly introduced the fact that Lip doesn’t know how to swim, and showed an immense amount of anxiety about his son Freddie swimming before they abandoned that thread altogether?” Or maybe, “when you have the opportunity to get Lip Gallagher shirtless, you take it.” No, I don’t care that that last one wasn’t a question.

Because here’s what I really want to say about Shameless at the halfway point of its tenth season: What’s up, guys?

What are you doing? And why? And where do you think you’re going? And how do you plan on getting there? You’ve had six full hours of show to advance the plot for characters we’ve known for a decade, and I honestly can’t remember one important thing that’s happened. That doesn’t mean that the show is bad necessarily. Shameless has really never been about more than dealing with being poor, abused, and neglected in America. But as the Gallagher kids have grown older, their exploits have only gotten lower-stakes as the influence that Frank and now-deceased Monica can exert on them. They’re all really on their own, and while I love seeing accurate portrayals of what it’s like to be poor or working-class in the U.S., that means there isn’t the baked-in drama of dealing with active abuse.

So instead we’ve got: Debbie managing the money by purchasing and then returning fancy clothes and goods for herself, Liam attempting to figure out his blackness in an all-white family, Ian working through relationship issues while imprisoned with Mickey, Carl juggling two girls and a job, Frank running scams with Mikey (yes, different character from Mickey), and Lip getting a handle on fatherhood (hands down the best plotline given how often he feels the need for skin-to-skin contact with his son). It’s a lot of stuff happening, but it doesn’t feel like it’s actually going anywhere. Again, it’s not a huge issue, but then all of that stuff has to be entertaining or impactful enough to stand on its own.

Also, it’s not like the concept of having very important vignettes in between mostly nothingness is new to Shameless. Remember back in season two when Monica stole the squirrel fund? Nothing really came of that as far as plot, except for the fact that I can quote at you verbatim because Lip shouts, “The first rule you learn in this house? You hide the goddamn money.” And Fiona recognizes that Monica will never be able to show up for her and that Fiona’s dreams once again have to take a backseat to her family’s needs. Now we’ve got a lot of nothing with interjections of … Veronica forgetting how to do the Electric Slide? (Which, give me a goddamn break. I don’t care how many white people are around you, or how white you actually are. If you’re between the ages of 25 and 55, and have ever danced at a wedding, you know how to do the effing Electric Slide. Giving V a plot where she feels the need to reconnect with her mom, brother-nephew (yeah, that’s a thing we all pretend didn’t happen), and other black friends is one thing, but don’t cheapen it by pretending Veronica fucking Fisher wouldn’t know how to dance.)

The point of all of this is, I love you, Shameless. I’ll always love you. But if the best you’re going to do for us is “here is a fairly easily resolved problem you’ll forget about in the next thirty minutes,” you better make sure you’re paying Jeremy Allen White enough for that gym membership.

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