The current run of Shameless finishes tomorrow at 10pm on Channel 4. Matthew Laidlow takes a look at the Gallagher phenomenon.
Back in 2004, Channel 4 launched Shameless. Set in the fictional estate of Chatsworth in Manchester, the show focussed on the Gallagher family. Would it be thrilling TV if the clan were respectful, hard working and positive? Don’t be daft; instead storylines looked at merry subjects such as drugs, intimate affairs, alcoholism and generally how to make more money to spend in the pub by pulling a scam on someone.
If you’ve never watched the show, you might be surprised that it’s still going strong. We’re halfway through the ninth series in 2012 and it successfully transferred to the US where it’s just been renewed for a third season. But how many times can an audience watch one person go mental on LSD and heroin?
Well in all honesty, probably once or twice at the most, but Shameless has been extremely clever in how new characters are integrated in to the program. After all, eight years focussing on one family would be boring. To an extent, Shameless got there long before Skins in terms of introducing a new cast and still covering similar plots whilst keeping it all fresh.
Over the years, members of the Gallagher household have slowly left the Chatsworth Estate for various reasons. Combined with the moving in of other families, most notably the Maguires, the writers of the show have at least realised that children grow up and naturally move on.
Basically, to use a Neighbours metaphor- they’ve all gone to stay with Scott and Charlene in Adeleide.
Therefore, the only original Gallagher member left is Frank, who was always the show’s main focus. To think that an alcoholic unemployed member of society who fleeced benefits whilst failing to effectively look after their six children would offer such endless TV entertainment.
Real life Frank Gallaghers on Jeremy Kyle don’t get an easy ride.
Could you say it’s lazy writing by constantly getting new characters to move in such as Jackson and Avril? Technically yes, but imagine if soaps like Eastenders or Home and Away maintained their initial casts from the starting run (although Corrie has come close)? Christ, it’d be more painful to watch then it already is.
But surely, after an eight year broadcast, it must be time to go? Skins has just been axed after a shorter run and that featured much less subtle cast changes and near identical storylines where drugged up kids looked to “find themselves.” Who could forget thrilling episodes with lines like:
“Oh boo hoo, I did a sick after eating drugs like they were fruit pastilles.”
So how do you end a programme like Shameless? Ironically perhaps, an almost ideal plot that would have brought Shameless to a tidy conclusion has already been broadcast as part of the beginning of this current series. Perhaps linking in with the idea of broken Britain, the Chatsworth Estate saw its residents all facing eviction from their homes due to a crackdown on benefit frauds and illegal activity.
For a piece of escapism TV, it made sense and was strangely compelling to watch. So enthralling that it became a two part special. Yikes, it was good! In a typical David v Goliath battle, the residents ended up taking back their homes and everyone was happy. Hooray.
However, this would have proved a perfect, neat and tidy ending for the show.
As things stand, we’re halfway through the current series of Shameless, but after tomorrow, in an adopted American style, the transmission stops for a few months. It’s either a case of Channel 4 giving us a major cliff hanger, or the commissioner at the broadcaster has realised people are bloody sick of it and can air the remaining episodes (12-22) in the summer in a 2am time slot when nobody is watching.
How an ending will come about without it being main character Frank Gallagher’s drunken dream all along will be interesting to see. The series has always been a very tongue in cheek look at society and life in Britain and Channel 4 would find it difficult to find an equally impressive replacement.
Although one solution would be to hack into CCTV footage from the Revolution Vodka Bar toilets and broadcast that.
With more central characters like Carl from the Gallagher family and Mickey from the Maguire clan departing, the remaining half of the series will have to either snowball into a plot that’ll be the end of everything, or simply pull out another relative to introduce or bring in a new family who’ve been rehoused due to unruly behaviour in their last estate.
Or there’ll be an explosion that’ll kill ‘em all.
The final episode of Shameless (until the Summer) airs tomorrow night, 10pm, Channel 4