This season might just be Shameless' bleakest yet, and that is no mean feat. It's like when you started watching Breaking Bad, and thought, "It can't get worse than strangling someone and melting their body in a tub full of acid" – but then it did.
And watching Fiona's steady downspiral to implosion is certainly on par with watching that literal bloodbath burst its way through the ceiling on Breaking Bad. Yes, she gets bailed out of jail; yes, her tough public defender gets her out of serving actual time, but her face when she's read the crippling details of her three-year probation and lifetime as a convicted felon? It says it all. And even worse is watching Fiona yell out her guilt over Liam's overdose at an accusatory and stone-faced Lip – after he gives her the cruel truth that she might just have ruined her whole life with that ounce of cocaine, you could cut her self-loathing (not to mention Lip-loathing) with a knife. (We get even further down the hole when you factor in the fact that their screaming match was only put on pause because Frank is lying in his own refuse on the bathroom floor).
Yet, even as we feel for Fiona getting torn to shreds, Lip has a point. Liam could have died, and may even suffer lasting trauma (after getting teased on the bus, even Carl worries that Liam is now "retarded"). Lip can't trust his sister anymore, so he spends most of the episode carting Liam back and forth to his dorm room (it earns him serious points with the ladies – even his roommate's previously icy girlfriend), and the pressure of juggling school, work, and now a dysfunctional family of seven (did I count right?) all comes to a head in his blowout with Fiona. He doesn't want to be in her position; holding the Gallagher clan on his shoulders like a Southside Atlas – he wants to live his own life.
Well, tough luck, Lip. With the Gallagher family in the state it is now, he may never get the life he wants. Frank's dying and has less control over his bodily functions than ever, Fiona's to be on probation for the next three years, Ian's a drug-addled stripper – even sweet little Debbie has resorted to cutting (though given her shocked string of expletives at the pain, it doesn't seem like she'll be trying it again). No, the Gallaghers will continue on down, with no end in sight. It's all very Sisyphean, isn't it? Let's hope at least Sheila's having a good time on the Rez.
* Let's unpack this humdinger of a title: "A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard, and Parasitic Twin." Jailbird = Fiona, Invalid = Frank, Martyr = Lip? Cutter = Debbie, Retard = Liam, and Parasitic Twin = Huey (who, in V's words, "Ate Dewey").
* Yes, that's right: V's twins apparently resorbed their triplet. Which is a much grosser process than I'd previously thought.
* Mickey remains the lovelorn MVP on this season, perhaps even outstripping Lip's years of Karen Jackson-torchbearing. Though does he really have to punch every single person who calls him gay?
* Matt: "I should probably date girls my own age." Yes, Matt. Yes you should.
* I stand by my prediction that Lip will get it on with his roommate's girlfriend.
This is a message from the converted: Nicki Minaj is a fantastic American Idol judge. The best. Magnificent. More valuable than she could possibly know.
Yet, if you were speaking to me approximately a week and a half ago, I’d have told you all this Minaj nonsense would be the death of Idol and that her Twitter rants were only the tip of the iceberg. I can say it now: I was so, so wrong. Nicki, I love you.
RELATED: Colton Dixon Blogs the 'American Idol' Season Premiere
The rapper is the youngest member of the judging panel at age 30, and compared to Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, and Keith Urban (who also judged the Australian version of The Voice), her expertise in judging and producing music is far more limited. Of course we were wary when she burst onto the scene with snide looks for Mariah and her never-ending barrage of ridiculous nicknames. (Yes, that pasty, boring kid from Tennessee named Joel should definitely go around calling himself Jumanji.) What is she bringing to the table? And why does she keep calling everyone she likes “a staaaar”? And what possesses her to speak in a British accent randomly? The answers are: She’s bringing Nicki to the table, and she does those things because she’s Nicki-freaking-Minaj and that’s what Nicki-freaking-Minaj does. And it’s great.
Now, naysayers, stay with me for a moment. Since Simon Cowell got tired and tuned out during Season 9 and then left us with the clueless patrol in Seasons 10 and 11 (sorry, Steven and JLo), Idol has lacked that special something. Sure, we’ve fallen in love with contestants (America sure fell hard for Mr. Phillip Phillips), but the judges have simply been there, woken up occasionally by the loud isms and wasms of Steven Tyler and the periodical misunderstandings of the way things like fish work by Randy and his all-powerful Yo pin. We yearned week in and week out for the wise, and sometimes harsh, words of mega-producer and mentor Jimmy Iovine, because our regular panel lacked teeth. With Nicki at the table, that’s not a problem anymore. (But, don’t leave us, Jimmy!) Nicki brings out the harder sides of her fellow judges.
RELATED: The 'American Idol' Effect: Our Addiction the Culture of Tragedy
This year, Randy is far more inclined to tell a contestant, “You’re tone deaf, dawg.” And he actually did. Whereas he would mask his true feelings with niceties in the past, or be buried under Simon’s avalanche of mean on the original panel, Randy gets to throw his 30 years of music biz know-how around. And it’s because Nicki is there. It’s because she fosters an atmosphere in which anything goes, from calling a tone-deaf contestant “boo-boo” and giving him puppy dog eyes, to teasing a young woman for her last name resembling a ladies’ nether regions (ahem, Bush), to telling Mariah “she’s a b***h” within 10 minutes of their first audition session. Nicki is a loose cannon in an ever-changing wardrobe of technicolor dreams. Plus, she is the most entertaining judge we’ve seen on this show since Simon.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the girl is Simon. She consistently favors contestants’ looks, style, and general air of awesomeness over their talent and you can see her fighting to enjoy a country singer, no matter how close their voices come to making angels weep tears of joy. If she hates your voice, she'll find something nice to say about you or a complete non-sequitur to soften the blow. She’s not going to tell someone where their technical flaws lie and she’s not about to tell anyone they’re “delusional” (one of Simon’s favorite words). She’s not in charge, but she's the inadvertent taste-maker. She’s the new judge to love, hate, and obsess over. She’s the one we’re here to see. Why else would the panel have a fourth judge? Nicki is the ace in the hole.
Wednesday night’s walkout incident was only further ammunition for why: She’s an atypical judge and she knows it. The fight that stopped the Charlotte auditions was initiated because Nicki felt marginalized. She felt like her vision for contestants was at odds with Randy’s and Mariah’s vision, and when Randy threw out his “30 years of experience” as justification, Nicki didn’t fire back with some overconfident remark. She was legitimately hurt: She’s the outsider, and Randy’s retort shook her confidence, so she retreated to lick her wounds. Nicki doesn’t have the upper hand. She’s the newcomer, the underdog, and very often the black sheep. How could you not love her? She’s doing everything she can to make her mark, and she’s doing so by being her outrageous, weird self. In what other year would someone like Chicago’s androgynous Kez Ban be so heralded? When else would we spend so much time getting to know an outrageous attention hog with a collection of blonde and pink wigs like Ashley Smith from Charlotte? Only during the reign of Nicki.
Let’s face it. We’re in the era of the new American Idol and the new Idol is Nicki.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Fox]
You Might Also Like:
Hot Young Politicans
Who Wore This Crazy Hat?
Stars Who Changed Their Look
S2E1: Oh, what the difference a season can make. Of course, by season, I mean those times when the leaves change color, not the moments between a season premiere and a season finale. Our favorite South Side Chicago family is back and just as out of whack as ever, only this time around they’re a little looser on account of the summer heat and freedom from down jackets and winter hats. Considering we first got to know Shameless’ Frank (William H. Macy) and his six kids in the dead of winter, it’s a bit jarring to find them flailing around in short shorts and flip flops, but it doesn’t take too long for us to realize that they’re all the same as they ever were – except for Fiona (Emmy Rossum).
After leaving Steve (Justin Chatwin) at the airport to embark on his escape to Costa Rica by his lonesome, Fiona is hitting the single life hard, working at a Chicago nightclub and having sex on the beach (a Lake Michigan beach, but still) with her stock broker Steve-look-a-like. Frank is still living with and mooching off of Sheila (Joan Cusack), but her agoraphobia is getting closer and closer to being a thing of the past and Karen warns Frank his days as a house guest and sex toy are nearing an end. Lip is still all about Karen – even after she had sex with a very-drugged up Frank on her webcam last season – but she’s too busy going to Sex Addicts Anonymous and abstaining with her 37-year-old biker boyfriend to give him what he so desperately wants. Luckily, he and Kev have their own summer side business to serve as a distraction. Ian is feeling the sting of continuing to work for his ex while pretending not to notice that the actress who plays his fake girlfriend was awkwardly replaced this season. As usual, things are pretty nuts for the down-on-their-luck family, and if this episode is any indication, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Watch the full episode here in case you missed it!
“She probably did his taxes and then did him.” –Veronica
Just as she showed up to shake up Fiona’s almost happy little situation last season, Jasmine (Amy Smart) waltzes back into the picture from the start, bringing her sugar daddy, David, by Fiona’s nightclub and enticing Fiona into a night on the town. Fi’s got her own date for the private party: Adam (James Wolk, Lone Star) is a successful business man of indeterminate nature, but his biggest draw is that he looks like Steve. Still, Fiona’s clearly not looking for just one guy; just minutes before her Mr. Right Now drops by, she’s working her hardest to get the attention of a rather douchey D.J. By the end of the night, she’s flapping her arms in the wind in the back of David’s convertible, drinking liquor straight from the bottle, and ending her evening with the aformentioned sex on the beach with Adam. When Adam drops her off that morning, we learn that not only did Officer Tony’s little plan to get Steve out of the picture break Fiona’s heart, it also didn’t win him his lady love. He’s still working on the house next door and wallowing in his bitterness about not getting Fiona. It still amazes me that a do-gooder cop could be so far from likable, but then again, when you’re looking at the world from the Gallaghers’ point of view, everything tends to shift a bit.
In addition to her cocktail waitress job at the club, Fiona and Debbie are running a daycare out of the Gallagher house. And by Fiona and Debbie are running a daycare, I mean Debbie is running it while Fiona sleeps until Debbie needs her help with some sort of terrible accident or injury. All this running around in addition to the trouble inevitably brought around by Frank seems to make Fiona wonder about Jasmine’s Summer pasttime, but V quickly shoots down the idea of a sugar daddy relationship as ridiculous – plus, though things aren’t serious with Adam from Fiona’s perspective, he’s showing some serious interest in her, encouraging her to get back to training after she smoked in him in an early morning race on the beach. While Fiona may not be thinking about a future with Adam, this whole thing gets her to remember her days as a high school track champion and by the end of the episode, she’s finally determined to do something for herself: she starts training to beat the record mile time. She was never able to do it in high school, but it seems she’s tired of feeling like she’s not good at something, and this period of trying to get over Steve is no better time to get that feeling of accomplishment back. Of course, that doesn’t keep us from wondering when old Stevie/Jimmy boy is going to crop back up again – because that’s all I can think about.
“Now what are we supposed to live on? Sheila’s single disability checks? How does Mr. Osama Obama expect us to live off of that?” –Frank
Frank’s little “wet dream” of a living situation is getting tough. Clearly, the accident at the plant was a bust because he’s back to worrying about where his money is going to come from and with Sheila just weeks from curing her agorophobia enough to start making it to the store and the Alibi Room, he’s feeling his days are numbered. So instead of figuring his affairs out, clearly the best option is to pick a fight with a six-foot tall guy named Baby at the Alibi Room. Frank bets him he can’t get taserd twice by a taser without falling to the groud, the problem is Baby really can take it and Frank ends up owing the oversized man with a violent streak 10 thousand dollars. When he takes baby Liam out on the streets as a sympathy ploy while he panhandles (because that’s how most people make 10 grand in a day, right?), Baby drives by and kidnaps him, later deciding to keep Liam as collateral until Frank can get him the money. From there, Frank actually does try his hardest (in the most Frank way possible) to make the money – he performs sexual favors in a bar called the Manhole. Just when you think you’ve see Frank’s worst side, he always manages to surprise you. This still doesn’t earn him enough cash and once again, Fiona has to save the day. She and the kids grab Frank and burst into Baby’s hide-out, dump all the cash they have and grab their baby brother. Later, she pays off the remainder of Frank’s debt with one of Kev’s surplus marijuana plants and while it was an extremely convenient plot point, it’s so badass I can’t really fault the writers for it.
Of course, while Baby is off his back, Frank’s still got the issue of Sheila’s soon-to-be expired hospitality and hopefully, we’ll get to see what Frank does when no one will let him call their house his home.
”Isn’t it wonderful? Mr. Kevin is going to help all the old people who are going blind.” –Ethel
Apparently, Summertime is when our favorite Canaryville residents make their extra cash. Lip and Kev are running their own ice cream truck business which doubles as a venue for selling weed. While you’d think getting the old ice cream truck up and running again would be the main conflict for this plot, it’s actually Kev’s over-ambitious crop. Thanks to Ethel’s green thumb, Kev’s got about 10 times the product he normally moves – and he’s got a super-sized electric bill to help keep it all healthy. It seems easy enough: sell the extra weed and pay off the 9 thousand dollar electric bill, right? Wrong. This isn’t Weeds. Veronica rightly tells Kev it’s too risky and she makes him get rid of the excess. The easy fix comes when Kev lights almost the entire excess pile on fire, allowing most of the neighborhood to come out and enjoy the various…byproducts of his crop’s destruction. Of course, to keep things interesting, Kev keeps two bags for himself and almost gets caught by Tony, who’s still annoyinging living next door.
Ian’s got some issues as well. He’s still got his fake girlfriend, Mandy, to lean on, but the producers saw fit to keep her around with a different actress when Jane Levy left for the lead role on Surburgatory and the idea of a new actress is just a bit too distracting for me. It wouldn’t have been impossible for him to lose his confidant and struggle with consequences. Now all I can focus on his how much I wish Levy was still on the show. Anyway, Kash is rebounding from Ian right in front of his face, bringing men disguised in burkas into the backroom. This mostly just annoys Ian until Kash delivers the bombshell: he’s leaving his pregnant wife because he can’t handle being in the closet. This is probably the most interesting occurrence in the whole episode because it strikes such a chord for Ian – he obviously understands the pain of living life with a constant disguise, but his mother abandoned him for similar reasons and his life has been difficult ever since. It’s obvious that Kash abandoning his children and unborn child is more painful to Ian than any amount of backroom philandering could ever be.
This episode didn’t set up anything too hairy or leave us with a cliffhanger, but if Season Two is anything like Season One, we’re setting in on a journey that’s sure to snowball into insanity. Either that, or someone has replaced the Gallaghers with a more stable family.
Did you like the season premiere? Are you looking forward to next weeks? When do you think Steve/Jimmy will make his Fiona-shattering return? Sound off in the comments or tell me what you think on Twitter (@KelseaStahler).
Shelley Long of Cheers briefly hospitalized
Former Cheers star Shelley Long was released from the hospital on Friday after being treated for a minor drug interaction, The Associated Press reports. Long apparently took an extra dose of a medication prescribed for back pain for an injury that happened on the set of Cheers. "Shelley took an extra pain pill for her back, which she hurt when she fell on the set of Cheers many years ago," said Long's manager Martin Mickelson. "She had a reaction to it ... but she is now home and she is fine." Mickelson denied allegations that the actress, 55, overdosed on painkillers after the end of her 22-year marriage with stockbroker Bruce Tyson. Long, who played the neurotic Diane Chambers on the 1980's hit sitcom Cheers was reportedly hospitalized on Nov. 16.
"Camp Cupcake" inmates enjoy Stewart's company
Looks like prison inmates at the federal corrections camp in Alderson, West Virginia, are pleased to have Martha Stewart as their fellow inmate. According to the Associated Press, inmates are reportedly vying for the attention of the famous homemaker. At mealtime, inmates look forward to the opportunity to eat their meals with Stewart. Carol Gilbert, 57, who is serving time for obstructing the national defense and damaging government property, says that although the setting could be better, eating with Stewart is an enjoyable experience. ("We're not talking about a tea party," said Gilbert's attorney. "We're talking about a big cafeteria setting with terrible food.") Stewart was convicted on obstruction of justice in May and began serving a five-month prison sentence that started Oct. 8. Stewart's publicist was not immediately available for comment.
NBC Sports exec survives jet crash
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and his son survived a corporate jet crash on Sunday morning that left two people dead and his youngest son missing, the AP reports. The jet, carrying six passengers, crashed just after takeoff and burst into flames at the Montrose Regional Airport in southwest Colorado. A witness to the crash said that the cockpit of the plane was ripped off and Charles Ebersol helped his 57-year-old father escape through the front of the plane. The pilot and the flight attendant were killed, Ebersol's youngest son is missing, and three other passengers were left hospitalized in Colorado. Ebersol's wife of 23 years, actress Susan Saint James, was not on the plane. The plane, a a CL-602 Challenger that can hold up to 19 passengers, was registered to Jet Alliance of Melville, N.J., which offered condolences but gave no additional comment. Best known for his work as executive producer of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's, Ebersol became president of NBC Sports in 1989.
Vibe magazine speaks out about awards show violence
Vibe magazine president Kenard Gibbs addressed the violence that happened at the Vibe Awards recently by stating that this will not stop the show from carrying on next year, Reuters reports. "We're doing the awards show next year," Gibbs said. "If we don't, it will be counter to all the things we have been able to do with the brand and the culture." Young Buck, of the rap group G-Unit, is allegedly responsible for stabbing a man who hit Dr. Dre during the taping of the Vibe awards on Nov. 15; he was released from police custody after making bail. After calling the altercation "sickening," Gibbs said he wonders how much of an impact recent violence at music and sporting events will affect and ultimately label black artists and athletes. "There's a common theme to all this," Gibbs added. "Young black males gone wild. Taking street mentality to resolve conflict and bringing it into entertainment and sports has gone unchecked. All of us within the culture have to look at this and develop some means of accountability." The January edition of Vibe magazine plans to examine not only the awards night incident, but also attitudes within the hip-hop culture that may take some responsibility.
Brits vote Baywatch worst U.S. TV import
California lifeguard show Baywatch topped the charts as the worst U.S. television import in a recent British survey, the AP reports. Ranked as the world's most popular program, Baywatch was aired in over 140 countries between 1989 and 2001. Broadcast magazine's poll of about 20 program buyers for Britain and cable and satellite channels praised the show for being a "series about a muscular lifeguard and his crew of pneumatic young helpers with raging hormones" but criticized the show for scripts "of mind-numbing predictability: beachgoer is saved from drowning." Second "worst" place went to The Anna Nicole Show. On their 25 best U.S. imports list were The Simpsons, Dallas, M*A*S*H and 24.
Former lead singer of Midnight Oil hospitalized
Former lead singer of the band Midnight Oil Peter Garrett was hospitalized after collapsing on the beach in Sydney following a routine morning swim. According to the AP, Garrett was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital from Maroubra beach in Sydney early Saturday morning. After undergoing tests to determine why he collapsed, the singer was released from the hospital on Saturday night. Garrett, 51, has no history or medical problems and appears to very healthy and fit. "It's good to be back on my feet again," said Garrett. The former rock star was elected in October as a lawmaker with the opposition Labor Party.
Unpaid royalties to be addressed for Pink Floyd song
A group of 23 former London schoolchildren are asking to be compensated for lending their vocal tracks to Pink Floyd's 1979 classic album Another Brick in the Wall. The teenage students are now asking for compensation for singing the anthem "We don't need no education." After deeming the lyrics "scandalous," the Islington Green School students were not allowed to appear on television, making it harder for them to have proof that their voices were those heard in the famous song. The album sold over 12 million copies and the single became a number one hit in Britain and America. The school was paid about 1,000 pounds ($1,860) and was later given a platinum record of the song, but the students were never given individual compensation for their work. If the application for royalties is considered, the music royalties society will be responsible for paying each person involved about 200 pounds. Pink Floyd will not be responsible for the money.