In a nutshell: Manc scum just wanna get along.
The 411: Never has the underclass been so topical. The derision of chav culture started out as a cry of liberation from the respectable working-class. Rather like Chris Rock's "niggaz versus black people" routine, people were saying "that ain't us motherfucker". 'Chav' looks like being to this decade what 'yuppie' was to the Eighties.
If the Chavscum website is the chronicle of the underclass then Shameless is its proud beating heart - unrepentant and unforgiven.
Season two has seen the lovely Fiona (Anne-Marie Duff) part company with Steve, who entered a witness protection programme having got on the wrong side of his drug-dealer associates, Veronica and Kev fostering a child and the Gallaghers extending their home into the house next door bankrolled by their dodgy insurance claim. Business as usual on the Chatsworth estate, then.
Bizarre storylines are par for the course in Shameless but they excelled themselves in the season finale with Carl accidentally shooting Lilian's husband leading to his decapitation by a passing police van. It was the best TV decapitation since Jack Bauer, stuck for a welcome gift for his international criminal chums, went for the nonce head in a holdall motif which melts every crime capo's heart.
Not one to get sentimental over death, Frank stole Lilian's winning raffle ticket prize as she bolted outside to be with her still twitching husband.
"All night party for two?" Frank reasoned "What's she gonna do - take his head?". You have to admit - he's got a point.
"All night party for two?" Frank reasoned "What's she gonna do - take his head?"
Meanwhile, young Debbie made it her mission to bring Steve and Fiona back together, condemning her sister to a life in hiding with a slick talking car thief. Craig, the father of Fiona's unborn baby, looked on gormlessly as the car scrote mercilessly macked his dame. "We all know Craig's second best!" exclaimed Debbie. Just what Craig needed to hear - he comes up short next to a drug-dealing, car thieving turd like Steve.
Way to fuck up the rest of your life, Craig. He still found time to knock himself unconscious while attempting to lamp Steve, giving Steve the crucial hours he needed to get the girl and get the fuck out of Dodge.
"Craig's masterplan to keep his girl was to say "I rilly, rilly like you Feeownuh" while hiking his drawers out of his arse..."
Craig's masterplan to keep his girl was to say "I rilly, rilly like you Feeowwwwwnuh" while hiking his drawers out of his arse and it fell tragically short. You felt sorry for the chump but the bottom line is Steve is part of the gang and he and Fiona belong together. Turds of a feather flock together and they really are a rather sweet couple.
Events always veer towards the absurd on Shameless but the characters always ring true. Improbable plot contrivances come thick and fast but they never sell out the characters. Which is why it's so good.
That's the bottom line. They show an unflinching betrayal of the Northern, white, lower working-class that still feels authentic in the midst of all the lunacy. The Gallaghers are the chav Waltons - venal, corrupt, selfish and stupid, they're also generous, caring, smart and funny. That Shameless carries this off without sentimentality or prolier-than-thou posturing is a credit to Paul Abbott and the writing team around him - it's another impressive addition to his increasingly stellar CV. .
The best thing about it: They hold nothing back.
The worst thing about it: Ugly people having sex. Stop it
The verdict on Shameless: Blameless
Marks out of 10: 8
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© James Donaghy 2003-2013