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Television's most underrated series
on May 6, 2013
The last fifteen years or so have been referred to by many as the golden age of television, and I can't help but agree - what was once a (mostly) simplistic medium has finally has given us some great stuff to chew on. The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad, Deadwood and a handful of others have captured me the same way that great film or literature does - if not more so. I, like many others, become attached to these characters in a way that only long-form narratives can achieve.
As someone who constantly reads about, writes about and discusses these types of series on the internet, Shameless wasn't even on my radar. No one ever brings it up in "greatest series" discussions; and the critical reception, while mostly positive, isn't exactly overwhelming. I had seen the pilot episode around the time it premiered and wasn't impressed (and *still* not impressed with it, to be honest), so I avoided the show for years despite my girlfriend's glowing recommendations.
After seeing the first couple episodes of Season Three earlier this year, I immediately went out and bought the first two seasons on Blu-Ray. Wow. This is rich, hilarious stuff. It makes me laugh, cry, think, and even puts me on the edge of my seat from time to time. The characters, while often living up to the show's title, are downright loveable. Even ones I loathed at first, like deadbeat dad Frank (brilliantly portrayed by William H Macy), his wretched mother Grammy Gallagher, or "dirtiest white-boy in America" Mickey Milkovich, ended up gaining my sympathy. Every character is three-dimensional, and is brought to life by the best ensemble cast this side of Six Feet Under.
Sure, this show is "outrageous" - perhaps the most outrageous and over-the-top project in the medium's history in some respects - but never for the sake of outrageousness. These shocking moments end up going somewhere that's real, funny, or tragic. The writers will deliberately exaggerate certain life (usually poverty-driven) issues in order to make very real statements about them, without any false sentimentality or heavy-handed moralizing.
Season Three, while in my opinion not *quite* as great as the first two, is still wonderful, and doesn't feel even remotely contrived or tired. There are some big twists that bring the story into darker territory, and the stakes have never been higher.
I'm amazed that boring, paper-thin melodramas like Mad Men and Girls have received more acclaim and awards than this. I just hope that Shameless can someday get the recognition it deserves - and if not, oh well. It's a great series nonetheless, and in my opinion, the very best "dramedy" TV has to offer.