Frank Gallagher is a despicable, deplorable, good-for-nothing human being. He's a derelict father. He's a world-class mooch, leeching off anyone that he can sink his grubby claws into. Not often have I run across a character that is so utterly reprehensible that they quite possible have no redeeming value whatsoever. That's why I was surprised that William H. Macy took on this role. I'm not used to seeing him playing such an irredeemable idiot, but somehow it works.
'Shameless' was sold on the fact that Macy was taking on the starring role, but that marketing was a little misleading. Yes, big name movie actors have been turning to TV in droves over the past few years and hearing Macy's name attached to Showtime's new dramedy 'Shameless' sold me on watching the pilot, but the show had different plans. It had a trick up its sleeve. The first couple episodes were almost void of the well-known actor. Instead, during the first few episodes, we were treated to a family that we'd come to love – and despise – over the next 12 episodes.
'Shameless' is based on a British show of the same name. An eclectic dysfunctional family trying to survive day by day doing whatever they need to do. Yes, we've seen stories about dysfunction in family units before, but the real treat here lies in the rich and varied characters.
The genius was selling the show on the back of a big recognizable star like Macy, and then once we were hooked, reeling us in with the fantastic ensemble cast of characters placed around Macy's Frank. See, Frank Gallagher is everything I described above, and oh so much more. He is, simply put, a louse. He's left a gaggle of kids behind during his bumper car-like trip through life. Somehow Frank's kids have bonded together with him being mostly absent from their lives.
Debbie (Emma Kenney) is a head-strong, red-headed youngster who is trying her best to feel normal in the middle of this very dysfunctional family. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is far too smart to be Frank's kid, but instead of filling his days with studying to get into a good college he's far too obsessed with smoking pot and breaking any law he can. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is struggling with his sexuality and trying to keep it a secret as long as possibly in a house that is literally packed to the rafters with people. Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is a pyromaniac, who shows a tendency to become a serial killer at some point in his life. Although his ambitions are never that high, so he'll mostly likely just drop out and torture poor animals the rest of his life. Liam (Brennan & Blake Johnson) is the baby of the family, but there's no telling where he came from. Holding this ramshackle operation together is Fiona (Emmy Rossum) the eldest daughter.
Fiona spends all of her time doing the parenting duties that Frank tries so desperately to avoid. She makes sure the family has enough money to pay the bills. She takes the young ones to school. She makes lunches, fixes breakfast and spends just about every waking minute of her day doing something for someone else. Even the three or four jobs she does work go to help the family. In essence she's the exact opposite of Frank.
I first saw Rossum in the movie 'Dare' when it premiered at Sundance in 2009. I thought then that she'd become a star at some point. She had the skills and the drop-dead-gorgeous looks to pull it off. She's hit her stride with this show that's for sure. She consistently outshines the top-billed Macy and she's supposed to. Even though you started this series because William H. Macy was attached, you stay because Emmy Rossum is that compelling.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 12 hour-long episodes are spread across two 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They are packed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with an outer cardboard sleeve that the case slips nicely in to. The release is said to be a region free release, and also comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
Like Showtime's ' Dexter,' 'Shameless' shines on Blu-ray. It may have replaced the glitz and glamor of Miami's South Beach with the derelict surroundings of inner-city Chicago, but that doesn't mean that the visuals are any less stunning.
'Shameless' is with a Red One camera, but it never exhibits that flat digital feel. The show, instead, looks much more cinematic than I was expecting it to look. The Blu-ray is head and shoulders above the broadcast that I watched on Showtime last year.
The picture exhibited has a depth and substance that's hard to find in TV shows. Fine details like ashes from cigarettes or the stubble on Frank's permanent five-day shadow are crystal clear. Fans of Emmy Rossum and her penchant for taking off her clothes in this series, will be praising the Blu-ray quality if you know what I'm saying.
'Shameless' looks tremendous in high definition. I thought it looked rather good on television when I watched the original broadcasts, but I had no idea what I was missing until I laid eyes on these discs. The only quibble I have with the show (and it's so minor I even thought of not mentioning it at all) is that there are some shots where noise crops up. This happens mostly in darker, interior scenes. Those scenes are few and far between though. Besides the extremely occasional noise, I didn't notice any ugly compression artifacts. I didn't even notice hints of aliasing. All of the tightly packed brick walls of Chicago's South Side are represented in lifelike detail. Fans of this show are going to be ecstatic. I know I am.
What's more is that the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is, quite possibly, just as astoundingly awesome as the video. It's pretty rare that a dialogue-driven television show packs a wallop in the sound department, but this one does.
Ambient sound is rambunctious most of the time. Since much of the season is spent inside the Gallagher's busy beehive of a house, there is action going on all around the camera view. We hear kids yelling from the rear speakers as Fiona tries desperately to map out everyone's day all the while making their lunches for school. The streets of Chicago are full of the same kind of random, but delightful, ambient noise which makes you feel like you're right there.
Dialogue is always intelligible, even during Frank's drunken, slurred ramblings. The show, while light on LFE-heavy sound effects like explosions, does crank up the bass any time a rock or hip-hop song blares over the soundtrack. Or when the engine for a stolen car revs to life. It isn't a robust action movie delivering audio-gasms at every turn, but the show's dynamic calls for an intensely rich surround sound experience which is produced fantastically here on Blu-ray.
'Shameless' was one of my favorite new shows last season. I can't think of a show that has such a vast array of characters which interest me. So many shows have one, two or three characters that I really get in to, but I feel like I want to watch the lives of each of the characters on 'Shameless,' even the side characters that only get limited screen time. If you haven't given the show a chance, now is the time to get in. This season comes recommended.