'Shameless' Recap: Pilot

Jan 10, 2011 | 4:25am EST

S1:E1 Rounding up Showtime's Sunday night lineup is Shameless, starring William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher, a drunk father with enough stubble to clothe a recently sheared sheep, who's completely incapable of caring for his six kids. He spends his disability checks on drinks at the local bar and likes to fall asleep asleep on the floor with a box of Cheese-Its under his head. This means his oldest daughter Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum, has the responsibility of caring for her siblings by getting them to school on time and making sure they all have jobs by the time they're 9 years old.

This was only the pilot episode, so I'm going to refrain from dwelling too much on the times when the writing seemed like screenwriter writing as opposed to actual character dialog. I'm going to try and postpone talking about the times when William H. Macy is obviously acting, instead of really becoming the man who's such a drunk that he doesn't wake up when his daughter kicks him in the ribs. However I'm not going to postpone saying this episode seemed totally disjointed: it was hard to be told of how horribly Frank's alcoholism (which isn't acted very well at all) has affected the family, and then be asked to the capacity to laugh when Lip (Jeremy Allen White) tells the girl he tutors in physics that he still has to charge her for the session, even if she does give him a blow job. Viewers were pulled in two very different directions in the first episode -- they were asked to forget the father's lifestyle because of how tightly knit it has made the siblings, and it was bold of producers Paul Abbot and John Wells to do this. Even though Abbot says he set out to create a show full of characters who's sofa we'd want to hang out on, I'm not sure it's hardly even a house we'd want to live next door to. But let's go through the episode's high points anyway.

"90 percent of the world's problems are caused by words that come in pairs. you know, we're healthy and we're happy but when people ask we say, 'not bad.'" - Steve

After we've been introduced to the family's situation (like the overcrowded house, Frank's habitual state of unconsciousness, the lack of clean clothes, and Fiona having no choice but to water down last fraction of milk because she can't afford another gallon until next week), we're given the hint that producers will step away from chronicling poverty in Chicago when we're introduced to Steve (Justin Chatwin) who meets Fiona at a club when her purse is stolen. When Steve chases the thief outside and receives a punch from the bouncer, Fiona and her next door neighbor Veronica (who likes to gag her husband and put things inside him), take him back to the Gallagher house to treat his wounds and he meets Fiona's five siblings. Once they're alone again, Steve regales Fiona with the story that he's always been too timid to ask her out. She says they can't make out or anything, so Steve turns the kitchen lights out and utters the above statement (which not even Mark Zuckerberg would think was applicable to the situation), but it's enough for Fiona to oblige him in some sex on the kitchen sink and kitchen floor. It is interrupted by the police arriving to bring her intoxicated father back home.

"Let me smell your breath. PORKGRINES?" -Cash's wife

Since their father is so unreliable, all the Gallagher children have jobs or some source of income if they're over the age of 9. The oldest three have jobs: Fiona cleans hotels and works at a concession stand in some stadium somewhere, Lip tutors science, and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) works at a grocery store. None of Ian's family members know he's gay except for Cash, the owner of the grocery store, but that's only because he's the one Ian has sex with after he finishes putting the oranges next to the apples. Cash is Muslim (and not allowed to eat pork) and married to a white woman. She obviously doesn't know her husband is gay because she cares enough to keep coming up with excuses to Cash's parents as to why Cash doesn't attend services at the local mosque anymore. This whole plot line indicates that if Ian has a secret life that's resulted from his father's absence, the others must too...which we're bound to find out sooner or later.

"Jesus Fiona, if all you want is to be needed, then congratulations, you've got yourself a job for life with this joker." - Ian

While Frank is passed out on the floor one night, Ian expresses his resentment towards him and his lack of involvement in the family by rolling up pieces of toilet paper into little balls and tossing them into his father's open mouth. Fiona sits down across from Ian tries to comfort his feelings that his father dislikes him the most out of all his kids. She says it's just because he looks the most like their mother out of all of them. Fiona admits that her father doesn't bother her so much because she likes to be needed, and she feels content that she's the provider for her family even though she shouldn't have to be. Ian doesn't seem to understand why she feels this way and can't believe that she's still able to exhibit love for her father even though he exhibits absolutely none to his children. Ian leaves and Fiona's alone with her father, and in an obviously rare moment, she kicks him in the ribs and yells at him. It's obvious that instead of trying to wake him up, she's expressing her dissatisfaction with her life and how unfair his actions towards his family are.

"I don't buy and sell cars: I sell them. But the cars I sell are mainly not mine. Still lookin' for fun, Fiona?" - Steve

After their tryst on the kitchen floor, Fiona tells Steve she isn't interested in "anything." Steve continues to pursue her, and shows his affection by buying her family a new washing machine to replace the one that needed to have a chair in front of it to stay closed. Fiona is compelled by the display and when she's out on a date with him, she gives him shit for having money, driving nice cars, and for being privileged. In Fiona's mind, Steve is too perfect for her taste, his life is too comfortable to be exciting, and he's not worth her time. But after dinner's over, Fiona is shocked when Steve comes out of the restaurant dressed like a valet guy, offers to park some guy's silver convertible, and drives off with it. Steve then calls Fiona on her cell, tells her he steals cars and then resells them, and asks if he's now, officially, exciting enough for her. He is.

"It's not a case of whether or not I agree, it's a fact. If I were a single parent and i had tits, they would double the money. If you're a guy, they don't want to fucking hear it." - Frank

When Frank drinks with his kids, he spends his time defending the reasons why he's become an alcoholic. One of the main excuses he keeps coming back to is that his wife died and left him with six children to take care of, which is extremely stressful and too much responsibility for him. He makes his beliefs clear by just shunning his duties altogether and by rolling joints with his kids. He also frequently pontificates about how unfair it is that he doesn't receive more benefits (even though he spends all $700 of his disability checks on booze) so he can better support his family, and believes his checks aren't for more money is because he isn't a woman.

So, we'll see. I expected a lot more from Macy and for the first episode to have a lot more concrete direction. My instinct says the show could be very compelling, but judging by what we all saw last night, it might take a little bit more time to get there.

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