Many of us television aficionados banter back and forth on what is/was the best TV show of all time. Years ago, this would be a debate between HBO’s ‘The Wire’ and any other show, and ‘The Wire’ would always win. What made it the best show?
- Baltimore was the backdrop of every season, but the focus changed each time (drug trade, Baltimore ports, politics/police, school system, and publishing.) It was a show that made a powerful social commentary in all of these aspects.
- The characters would come and go as their storylines crossed paths.
- The best characters were the most complex—none were good/bad by typical definitions. The characters were real, gritty, and authentic.
- The storylines were harsh, realistic, and thought provoking, often culminating in tragedy.
My favorite character was Omar Little…the homosexual drug dealer. “Omar is a renowned stickup man who lives by a strict moral code and never deviates from his rules, foremost of which is that he never robs or menaces people who are not involved in “the game” (Wikipedia). During an interview, President Obama was asked about his favorite show and character—he answered “The Wire, and Omar Little” for which I will always respect him. This show was on HBO for five seasons, and if you didn’t watch it I highly recommend it. Warning: It’s gritty, violent, and blunt.
As I noted earlier, I ‘would” have said it’s the best show ever a few years ago… until I watched “Shameless” (UK version). It was created by Paul Abbott who grew up in a similar environment and managed to overcome many obstacles. The show initially centers around the Gallagher family headed by Frank, a job-challenged, alcoholic father. The series is based in Chatsworth Estate (low income housing), with many residents dealing drugs, running scams, and doing whatever they can do to survive. Some of the characters have been on for 10 seasons, but some come and go as storylines change. This show airs in the UK, but is not limited by censorship of language or content. It’s definitely for adults. What makes this show so great? For me, the main points are:
- Complicated, messy storylines that have a common thread running through them.
- You think you know a character, but with each season you learn a little more about their circumstances and why they developed as they did. Frank Gallagher is a prime example.
- It deals with subjects in a realistic manner: mental illness, drug use, prostitution, child abuse, homosexuality, familial responsibilities, and survival instincts.
- One of the main characters suffers a mental breakdown, and it is the most realistic portrayal I have ever seen and I still remember every facet of it years later. Paddy McGuire, a man who’s brutality is always on full display, is the only one that can reach through and try to help her.
- The characters are all realistically portrayed—there’s no one on this show that you would describe as “drop dead gorgeous.” They all show the telltale signs of living a rough life and making do with what they have. You end up rooting for characters that have made bad decisions, and now have to live with them. But you understand why they had to make those bad decisions.
- Based in Manchester, England, only makes the show even more interesting to see the differences with the U.S. and the ‘community’ aspect of it.
What really makes me appreciate this show is the sense of humor that shines through the haze of poverty and dreary day-to-day life. I am now a fan of Manchester City Football Club—it’s what Frank would want. This show is available via Hulu and some seasons are on Amazon Prime. I will say some seasons are better than others, but it beats any show in the U.S. by a long shot. Season 11 (final) aired in February 2013. Shameless/US airs on Showtime, but I don’t think it compares to the original UK version.
It was as if I wrote it myself….we share our top two shows, and probably 80 % of the top 10 or 20. I felt/feel as if watching both were almost a challenge to complete. Mostly due to the exceedingly complex storylines and in the case of Shameless, the thick baroque of the fast and familiar speech from so many different actors. Just when I decoded one dialect…the Irish showed up! I love the authenticity it brings to Tv dramas and opened my eyes to the UK and how far behind we are in so many aspects of quality television (hate reality shows ). Great TV captures you and takes you places. I have caught myself over the past two years peppering bullocks, wanker, and other Brit slang into my speech, and have dreampt of being in the Jockey several times. Shameless works. Its real, hilarious, schocking, heartfelt and fun. I will tell anyone who listens about Frank and the gang….\”We cope better than average with irony here at Chatsworth. Well for God sakes, we live in Manchester, and they charge us for WATER! PARTY!
Agree – comprehending the accents and the slang is half the fun. Wait till you see the pub scene at the end of season 10, classic Shameless. I was surprised that I grew to appreciate and like Frank, especially when you realize how smart he is. All aboard the Chatsworth Express! Look for a Chatsworth Buccaneer!
Great job in summing up Shameless. To me also the best show of all time.
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