Skip to content

Too Soon? Showtime Offers Up ‘Shameless’ and Bets On Poverty Porn as Entertainment

January 7, 2011

William H. Macy, Alison Janney and Emmy Rossum star in the new Showtime series 'Shameless'

You have to admire the cheek of a network who introduced audiences to Dexter. Showtime hasn’t always had the best original programing, but contrary to what HBO and A&E would have you believe, they’ve certainly had some of the “edgiest”. While HBO and others have tried to keep it “classy” providing audiences a glimpse into worlds and characters that most wouldn’t have occasion to know otherwise, Showtime has long been trying to embrace programming that attempts to reflect “real life” experiences. Well with the exception of that whole serial killer thing.

Shameless is the newest series from Showtime, which believes its found a way to make both the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder and terminal cancer television dramedy fare. But in my opinion has only had mild success on those fronts. Shameless is about Gallagher family and its struggle to keep the home fires burning without burning down the home. In that regard, the show is transgressive. Too many shows – even in these stressful economic times – are only concerned about the wealthy and the wealthier. Granted, lots of folks watch television for escapist fun, but there is something to be said for a show that strives to “keep it real”. In this case, real dysfunction. While it’s certainly true there can be much dysfunction within families who deal with constant poverty and joblessness, there is something about casting premiere character actor William H. Macy and the sweeter alternative to Anne Hathaway, Emmy Rossum in leading role that feels very exploitive to me.

Now I haven’t watched much of the series beyond the previews, so hopefully this is just a presumption on my part and not an actuality. That said, there isn’t much television, particularly within the last twenty years (minus Rosanne and possibly My Name is Earl) that’s been especially sympathetic to the plight of folks who are never going to see upward mobility as defined by the folks who actually have it, so I still remain skeptical. What about you? Are you interested in seeing the show? Is there any irony in a show seeking to tackle poverty in this manner on premium cable, which arguably requires some economic privilege?

Advertisements
4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 4:10 am

    Based on talent alone I will certainly try to watch it at sometime or another(if netflix comes through). However you make a great point. If I wanted to see the inner workings of Broke-ass, white trash life I would turn the tv off and spend some quality time with Jr. Or fix my truck so it doesn’t just sit and rust in my yard.

  2. Jeanette permalink
    January 10, 2011 1:21 pm

    OK, I didn’t know this was an American show, but it sounds suspiciously like a remake of a British show that has been running over here for a gazillion years and really started out pretty good before it got far too zany for it’s own good. It was based on the writer’s own upbringing on a scummy council estate and it treated the characters with respect and good humour, and understood that poverty did not equal stupidity or cruelty. Also an early career starter for James McAvoy, Maxine Peak and Anne-Marie Duff, the latter two probably not featuring much on American radar, but they’re jolly good. And David Threlfall has always been excellent and made the role of Frank Gallagher absolutely his own. And of course, it was created well before the current financial horror made it particularly relevant, possibly highlighting the fact that life is pretty much always crappy when you’re at the bottom of the financial ladder, banking crisis or no. So yeah, I have no actual idea about the show you’re referencing, but the original really wasn’t exploitative, it was honest (and on a free-to-air terrestrial channel).

  3. January 10, 2011 5:26 pm

    Based on talent alone I will certainly try to watch it at sometime or another(if netflix comes through). However you make a great point. If I wanted to see the inner workings of Broke-ass, white trash life I would turn the tv off and spend some quality time with Jr. Or fix my truck so it doesn’t just sit and rust in my yard.

    @Offender – that’s the feedback I’m getting from a couple of my friends. They aren’t sure – even if the show is well done – why they would feel so inclined to watch, particularly if they can see similar stuff at home for free and possibly more honestly portrayed.

    OK, I didn’t know this was an American show, but it sounds suspiciously like a remake of a British show that has been running over here for a gazillion years and really started out pretty good before it got far too zany for it’s own good. It was based on the writer’s own upbringing on a scummy council estate and it treated the characters with respect and good humour, and understood that poverty did not equal stupidity or cruelty

    It does sound like a British show. I think American TV ought to stay out of the business of remaking British comedies, particularly when they tackle thorny issues. There is something about the way those themes are reinterpreted by American producers that leaves a lot to be desired. I think it’s usually a matter of how the shows are cast and lack of nuance involved in translating those themes for American “sensibilities”. For that reason I am thankful that neither “Keeping Up Appearances” or “Prime Suspect” ever made the rounds here as American retreads.

  4. Julie permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:50 am

    Love this show!! It has all of the makings of something you just can’t wait to watch. At first, seems a little over the top. Then out of nowhere, you are identifying with the cast in the smallest of ways and hoping they’ll just get a break. In my opinion, the producers did a great job in casting the show. Fiona and Steve have that edgy chemistry and fire that keeps us watching week after week. We are sad that the season is over so soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: