Show 101: Shameless

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SHOW: Shameless (UK)

RETURNS: Series 8 starts on Channel 4 tonight (Monday 10) at 10pm. It airs every night this week.

THE PREMISE: The residents of Chatsworth Estate are a dysfunctional bunch: they cheat, take drugs and beat one another up. In the center of all this is alcoholic Frank Gallagher (David Threlfall), who has more children than clean socks. Far from being the ideal father, he leaves his brood to raise themselves while he spouts drunk opinions and ruins his relationships with women--currently he’s engaged to Libby the librarian, played by Father Ted’s Pauline McLynn. An intoxicated Frank sums the show up when, in the series’s opening credits, he yells: “Come and watch pikeys making a mess of the lives they were given by him upstairs.” Amen.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: There’s nothing like Shameless on TV at the moment--though a surprisingly promising US remake has just started in America. No topic is too controversial for the BAFTA-winning drama--particularly in the bedroom department--so the storylines are (mostly) unique. Meanwhile, the humour laced in amongst the plots makes the show easy to watch and enjoy.

WHY YOU MIGHT HATE IT: If you get embarrassed by nudity then Shameless is not for you. Every season the storylines get more extreme, thus the characters get more bare and unbelievable. Plots can be taken too far so if you’re looking for a realistic drama it might be better to look elsewhere.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: It’s safe to assume that most of the characters have already slept with one another. Frank has already had two wives, and spawned at least eight children. Mother to most of these is Monica, a scheming liar who often got pregnant in order to keep her husband interested. She was last seen in season six but is expected to return--as always--now that Frank seems to be moving on. He met Libby, a librarian, last season during an unlikely visit to her place of work and they were engaged by the end of the series. Libby’s mother is less than impressed with her daughter’s choice in man, but the bride-to-be is smitten with her lover and is intent on having them wed. How such a greasy man woos so many women remains a mystery, however.

Elsewhere, the gangster family of the estate has finally dissolved. After months of separation--following the death of their daughter, Mandy--drug-dealing Paddy Maguire and his demanding wife Mimi broke up last season (though it turns out their marriage was never legal in the first place). Psychopath enemy Roscoe threatened Mimi during the finale, where it was revealed she was having a baby. With Paddy now gone, Mimi is left to pick up the pieces and work out who the father of her unborn child is. Meanwhile, Mimi’s oldest son Jamie is also unsure whether he’s the true father of his son, Connor. His wife Karen had an affair with his woman-beating best mate Joe, who manipulated him into thinking he wasn’t the real father. Joe has since been murdered (by Frank’s well-meaning, honorary son Ian) after he tried to strangle Karen as they fled with baby Connor to Ireland. Neither Karen or Connor have been since, but they will be back soon.

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