Shameless: Rinse and Repeat

Showtime's Shameless lived up to its name in Season 1, starting with a pilot full of shocking behavior and never really letting up. While the violence and sex often felt forced -- it's Showtime, so here, have some nudity! -- the show also developed a lot of heart as storylines focused on what the Gallagher family was missing, both materially and spiritually, and always required them to come together to solve the problem at hand. Sometimes the hardships were trivial, like having to steal a hot water heater or organize a sham wedding, while at others they struck a deeper chord and redefined relationships, as happened when the family's absent mother returned.

Great acting trumped some of the more unbelievable scenarios, and several great characters emerged as the younger Gallaghers were forced into maturity -- especially Jeremy Allen White as Lip and Emma Kenney as Debbie. Most of all, Shameless was extremely clever about its depiction of poverty. None of the kids seemed to suffer, because they're far too smart for that; they'd simply hatch a new money-making scheme or seek out the right neighborhood barter to achieve their goals.

The second season began Sunday night with "Summertime," an episode that essentially reset the series, at least to the point that new viewers can easily jump on board. The setup is the same: William H. Macy's alcoholic, degenerate Frank generally leaves his six kids (ages 2 through 22) to fend for themselves in Chicago with no substantial means of income. The kids are now a year older, but they're mostly the same mischievous bunch, and Fiona's (Emmy Rossum) romantic endeavors -- which dominated large swaths of the plot in Season 1 -- have been largely reset in the wake of her standing up Steve (Justin Chatwin), her car thief boyfriend with a double life, as he made his way out of town in the Season 1 finale.

The most notable difference is that Shameless has traded the bleak Chicago winter that so defined the first season for a scorching summer. This change of seasons greatly frees up the characters to return to their darker instincts -- a handy way to rev up some wacky situations. With no kids to get to school, Fiona gets a true summer vacation: She's waitressing at a club, partying all night and sleeping all day, and leaving her younger sister Debbie responsible for a babysitting/summer camp service run out of their living room.

With sure-to-return love interest Steve gone for now, Fiona is playing the field a bit, even with friendly/creepy (but still interested!) policeman Tony living next door -- in the house he blackmailed from Steve. Got all that? Good, because Fiona's got a new flame, a hotshot from J.P. Morgan who can almost keep up with her partying ways, and she's also crushing on a bartender who won't give her the time of day. There's surely drama ahead, but for now Fiona is bizarrely carefree.

Lip has taken to new business ventures -- a fight club and an ice cream truck (with weed available if you ask nicely and have ID to prove you're at least 14 years old). He still isn't tempted by the offer of higher education, but he's happy to sell weed to the college professor who tried to do right by him. He also continues to pine after Karen, who's now dating a 38-year-old fellow Sex Addicts Anonymous member/Lip lookalike (Lip-alike?). Ian, whose Season 1 storyline wrapped up quite nicely when he came out to Fiona, is focused on getting into West Point with Lip's help as a tutor. Kevin and Veronica are battling over Kevin's "accidental" farming of a bit too much weed in the basement of The Alibi Room. And other minor characters have progressed in small, but meaningful ways. Joan Cusak's agoraphobic Sheila has progressed to 100 steps outside the house, and may soon see Frank for who he really is. And Amy Smart's Jasmine, a late addition to the Season 1 cast, has come a bit unhinged (at least relative to Shameless standards) as she cheats on her husband and parties with Fiona, much to Veronica's disapproval.

If you can stomach Shameless's excessive... well, everything, you might find a show you love. Or at least a few characters you can relate to, if you're from a dysfunctional family yourself (and who isn't, at least to some degree?). Season 2 is poised to deliver plenty more cleverly written solutions to improve life at the Gallagher residence -- trading babysitting a fireman's children for a free fill-up of the family pool made me smile. And the major characters all face ticking time bombs in their unsettled relationships, so the insanity has only begun.

One thing is for certain -- very few shows on TV today could end a season premiere with an entire neighborhood coming together to celebrate a marijuana bonfire and have it feel just right.


What did you think of the Season 2 premiere? Are you excited about where the Gallaghers are headed, or do you wish they had learned a few more lessons from Season 1?

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"Good, because Fiona's got a new flame, a hotshot from J.P. Morgan who can almost keep up with her partying ways, and she's also crushing on a bartender who won't give her the time of day."



Fiona is crushing on the DJ, not a bartender. Every girl who has ever cocktailed knows DJs are way hotter than bartenders. Bartenders are ridiculously pedestrian, hello!
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WOW really 4.c.h.a.n is a bad word?
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Ya i love the show, its like a toned down 4chan tv show. Hate recast's, Jane Levy does a 30min sitcom how freaking hard can it be to do a few lines onces every 2-3 episodes. It probably had 2 do with money.
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Love this show! Not advertised as much as it should be! Macy is amazing!
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I watched season 1 again over the weekend to refresh my memory for season 2 and the first thing I realized was that TV.com somehow ignored Shameless since it last aired in March. No nominations in the polls or mentions in the favorite TV moments... Shameless might be a remake, but as this review here says, it had great moments... I mean come on, Kurt and Blaines gay kiss on Glee pales in comparison to Ian's and Mickey's make out sessions.... Or Joan Cusack as Sheila.. I almost fell off my bed laughing during her tap dance improv to cheer up Frank. The show might be disappointing to fans of the UK original, but I loved season 1 and am looking foward to see the characters evolving in season 2!
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Having watched the original for about 7 seasons (I gave up after that) I can say that the US version is on a par. The main difference being that Frank is the best thing about the UK version (especially after most of the kids flew the coop) whereas the kids are the best thing about the US version. To me William H. Macey is just wrong as Frank. Anyway, the problem with the UK version was the increasing ridiculousness of the plot. The first couple of seasons were brilliant, where, for the most part, the plot was believeable. Later seasons are more and more ridiculous and this is something that the US version really needs to avoid. The first season was brilliant, but the Frank taking Liam to a gang lair storyline in the opening episode of season two was too far and possibly a sign that the writers are already moving the plot into the realms of ridiculous. This show has a great cast and some really great characters, but it needs to keep a healthy balance between realism and entertaining.
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I've been watching Season 1 the past few days. Has anyone seen the English version. Maybe it's just a cultural difference but i find it a bit hard to get into, dont get me wrong i like the English version, but still.
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great show period what can i say William h macy love um as frank
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good premiere.



honestly I'm glad Steve/Jimmy isn't back yet, atleast for now. Justin Chatwin is alright and all but I prefered Tony (the cop) to Steve/Jimmy.. and James Wolk over both of them lol is it just me, or is Showtime trying to make this like Weeds 2.0? just seemed a little more like Weeds than Shameless to me. also it was weird they just recast Mandy.. I know Jane Levy is on Suburgatory and it's double the episode order and she's probably too busy or can't do other shows, but still, why recast? would've been less weird if they just introduced a new character, new girl didn't seem to fit as well as Mandy
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You're dead on regarding the recast... I'd rather have seen a different character play the beard than recast Mandy with someone who just doesn't, hmmm... doesn't seem to succeed in understanding the character the way Levy did. It might as well just BE a different character because I CANNOT accept this new girl as Mandy. I don't know if it's because she's so bad or because Levy was so good--probably a little bit of both, but for me, it was the most disappointing thing in the season premiere of the show I grew to love last year. (Now I'm already starting to drool waiting for both "Game of Thrones" and "The Borgias" to be back on.
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if they are going to follow the roles in the uk then Steve wont be back for some time and Mandy will become a more frequent character soon so it will make more sense to recast her is the former actress can't meet the demands.
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Thank you. It's not like Mandy is in the show as much as everyone else. It wouldn't even be that much. Unless, of course, they plan to use her more this season. I love the character but honestly, I rather they mention her than have someone new playing her.
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One of my top-5 shows, hands down. It's hard to explain, but it somehow radiates warmth. It's just really enjoyable to watch. It would be really easy to turn a show like this to a dark drama with drug abuse, serious crime and everything going to hell. But instead it's a quirky story about everyone pitching in (using only slightly illegal methods) to make ends meet, despite the hardship they are facing. And I really like the dialogue, too. It wasn't evident so much in this episode, but during the first season it was fun to watch the rapid dialogue flow between Frank (if he was around) and the 5 children.
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Except for the unforgivable recasting of Mandy, I thought the premiere was pitch perfect.



Keep it up!
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because Jane Levy has a show on ABC called Suburgatory, so she's kinda busy
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Yea, I get that, I watch Suburgatory, but I'd rather they just not have her on there and use her when they can. This isn't a soap opera or a sitcom so it irks me when they try to recast. Not to mention the girl kinda sucks. Granted she had like two lines so it might be a quick judgement but still. I love Jane Levy.
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I absolutely agree.
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