The Showtime series is poignant as well as funny.
Plenty of TV shows have focused on working-class families. My Name is Earl, Roseanne, and The Middle—to name a few—all shed light on the modern American struggle to make ends meet. And they all have one main goal: making people laugh.
Last year, a new series premiered that, on the surface, has a lot in common with these other working-class sitcoms. Shameless, which airs Sunday nights on Showtime, follows a family of seven in Chicago's South Side. While Frank, the alcoholic father, spends his days and money getting drunk, the other members of the family must fend for themselves physically, financially, and emotionally. Despite their father being a champion for the sloshed, the six kids somehow manage to remain a family—though a highly dysfunctional one.
But Shameless reinvents this type of show by relying on both humor and poignant sentimentality—it's aiming for the funny bone and the heart.
Yes, humor plays a critical role. Shameless entertains, it tickles. The opening credits show each Gallagher going about their routine, one at a time, in the communal bathroom. Fiona wriggles down a lacy thong before peeing, Ian jacks off to porn, and the toddler dunks his toothbrush in the toilet before brushing. Each family member's interaction with the same dirty commode spotlessly reveals each personality and the family as a whole—a concept most artistically and visually hysterical. I laughed just as hard before the season premiere as the season finale.