×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Shameless

If Showtime has specialized in high-concept moms -- Pot dealer! Multiple personalities! Cancer! -- its latest dad is harder to pin down.

With:
Frank - William H. Macy Fiona - Emmy Rossum Sheila - Joan Cusack Steve - Justin Chatwin Lip - Jeremy Allen White Ian - Cameron Monaghan Carl - Ethan Cutkosky Debbie - Emma Kenney Kev - Steve Howey Veronica - Shanola Hampton Karen - Laura Slade Wiggins

If Showtime has specialized in high-concept moms — Pot dealer! Multiple personalities! Cancer! — its latest dad is harder to pin down. In “Shameless,” whose limited charms require diligent excavation to uncover, William H. Macy stars as the ne’er-do-well sire to six impoverished children scraping to get by — from toddler to twentysomething Emmy Rossum — but it’s the kids who are alright, while dad is a familiar amalgam of lower-class excess. Not entirely devoid of worthwhile moments, this adaptation of a U.K. series wallows in dreariness without offering enough dramatic compensation in return.

Clearly, in light of his recent feature “The Company Men,” producer John Wells has an enduring interest in economic struggles and the toll they can exact on a family. Yet in this long-gestating collaboration with British series originator Paul Abbott, “Shameless” goes well beyond lost middle-class moorings to focus on a clan where life is a constant struggle just to keep the heat and lights on.

With their father Frank (Macy) a near-absentee drunk/slacker and mom long gone, the six Gallagher kids have come to rely on big-sis Fiona (Rossum) as their protector, surrogate mom and the glue that keeps them afloat. Everyone works odd jobs, and the youths aren’t above a little petty larceny.

That doesn’t leave Fiona much time for herself, which explains why she dances at a local club with such reckless abandon as to catch the eye of the smooth Steve (Justin Chatwin), initiating an intense if tumultuous on-and-off relationship.

More interesting, at least at times, are her younger brothers: Lip (Jeremy Allen White), who tries using his smarts to talk his way out of jams; and closeted gay Ian (Cameron Monaghan). The interplay between those two gives “Shameless” what little soul it possesses.

Much of the rest of the three episodes previewed, by contrast, simply stumble along, employing what’s becoming an overused mix of broad, almost silly comedy with more sober exchanges. Other than passing out hammered, Frank doesn’t contribute much on any level, and while Macy can look woeful with the best of them, there’s precious little he can do with a character that spends long stretches passed out on the floor.

Rossum is certainly appealing, but too many of the supporting players (led by Joan Cusack as a germaphobic mom, and the Gallaghers’ wacky neighbors) come across as cartoonish concoctions there to capitalize on pay-cable license rather than service the story.

The series does cast light on a world (relocated to the grimiest part of Chicago) where nothing comes easy, and kids don’t have the luxury of idleness or childhood.

For the most part, there’s nothing here to be ashamed of. It’s just that at a time when TV drama is so flush with riches, “Shameless” plays like a poor relative.

Shameless

Showtime, Sun. Jan. 9, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles and Chicago by John Wells Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Wells, Paul Abbott, Andrew Stearn; co-executive producer, Mark Mylod; producers, Nancy M. Pimental, Cindy Caponera, Barbara A. Hall; director, Mylod; writers, Abbott, Wells, based on the series created by Abbott;

Crew: Camera, J. Michael Muro; production designer, Stephen Altman; editor, David Moritz; casting, John Frank Levey, Melanie Burgess. RUNNING TIME: 60 MIN.

Cast: Frank - William H. Macy Fiona - Emmy Rossum Sheila - Joan Cusack Steve - Justin Chatwin Lip - Jeremy Allen White Ian - Cameron Monaghan Carl - Ethan Cutkosky Debbie - Emma Kenney Kev - Steve Howey Veronica - Shanola Hampton Karen - Laura Slade Wiggins

More TV

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • FILE - In this April 5,

    CBS Claims Commitment to Ending Harassment. Its Actions Say Otherwise (Column)

    At this point, a new breaking sexual harassment case at CBS isn’t exactly a surprise. Over and over again, powerful CBS company men from producers to executives to the ex-CEO himself have made headlines for propagating decades of harassment and abuse, with dozens of witnesses affirming that the pattern was business as usual. But as [...]

  • Willow ShieldsVariety Portrait Studio, Beautycon Festival

    'Hunger Games' Alum Willow Shields Joins Netflix Drama Series 'Spinning Out'

    Willow Shields has been cast in a series regular role in “Spinning Out,” the upcoming ice skating drama series at Netflix. She joins a cast that also includes Kaya Scodelario, who was announced as the series lead on Thursday, taking over the role originally held by Emma Roberts. Shields will star as Serena, Kat Baker’s (Scodelario) [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    James Corden's Fulwell 73 to Develop Sci-Fi Drama at CBS (EXCLUSIVE)

    CBS is developing a drama series that hails from James Corden’s production company, Fulwell 73, Variety has learned exclusively. The series is titled “Embody.” In the series, after a mission gone wrong renders her permanently blind, a special agent volunteers for an experimental government program that can temporarily transfer her consciousness into someone else’s body, giving [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content