Catching Up with “Shameless” (USA)

Episode 405

That’s right – like a bad penny, a cold sore, or one of the Gallagher boys, I am back to discuss the insanely good fourth season of Showtime’s Shameless. Sadly, I’ve been busy on Sunday nights covering the latest gay one-season-wonder – HBO’s Looking – so I haven’t been able to recap the cascading failures of our beloved Irish plague like I did in past years. But now that certain things have happened on the show, I simply couldn’t resist building a virtual sweat lodge in the backyard, covering it with blankets stolen from Skid Row hobos, and sweating it out with the rest of you Shameless addicts. Here are my favorite things about the season so far…

Speaking of Addicts…
This season is all about the legacy of Frank Gallagher (what is left of William H. Macy): namely, that he is an addict and that his children also exhibit addictive tendencies. While some of the kids are learning to live with their addictions – Lip (Jeremy Allen White), for one, seemed to finally put his old ways aside and adjust to college life – some of the others are seriously struggling, especially Fiona (Emmy Rossum), who has gone completely off the rails with her addiction to dangerous sex with bad boys. (Well, at least he was an insanely hot bad boy, right? More on that later.) And Ian (Cameron Monaghan) has returned from the Army high as a kite and slinging appletinis in a gay bar sporting eyeliner and a spangled tank-top. Has GI Ginger fallen prey to Frank’s DNA even though he’s not even his biodad? We’ll have to wait and see.

Episode 404

Ian is Back!
Speaking of Ian, that stint in the Army didn’t go as planned, though we still don’t know exactly what happened to cause such a 180 in his personality. All I can say is that seeing him coked up and talking past Lip and Debs (Emma Kenney) in the White Swallow hurt my heart in ways I never expected. Please please PLEASE get it together, kid. (Also, white isn’t your color – you looked like a twink snowman.) Only time will tell whether he will reconnect with his on-again, off-again dumpster Romeo, Mickey (Noel Fisher). I’m still on the fence as to whether I want him to or not…

Gays Gays Gays!
Aside from Ian, we of course have amateur pimp Mickey Milkovich, who played Norma Rae to a gaggle of Russian hookers (including his wife) only to become a boss who is just as bad as their old one (if not worse). Still, the show managed to humanize our gay li’l Pigpen when Lip came looking for Ian, and that scene where Mickey had the crazy chick dry-hump him in the Alibi bathroom was… interesting. Lloyd (Harry Hamlin) briefly returned (with a new boytoy that amusingly looked just like Ian), and then of course there’s the new gay on the block: deceased Alibi owner’s son Alan, played by the amazing Jonathan Shmock from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“You’re Abe Frohman. The Sausage King of Chicago.”). Alan’s a badass loan shark with a posse of tennis racket-wielding meatheads and a serious axe to grind with his old man, and I absolutely love him. I guess now he’s the Sausage King of Chicago?

Oh My God Debs
My favorite Gallagher – the amazing Debs – is becoming a woman, and it has been absolutely agonizing to watch her navigate adulthood with only a few vapid skanks as role models (and I’m not even including Fiona and Mandy in that group, Dowager Skanktresses though they may be). Am I the only one who spent most of the first few episodes terrified that she was going to get raped or something? I seriously wore the fabric off the arm of my couch with worry. Kenney is fabulous in the role, and thank God this weirdo 20-year-old boyfriend of Debs’ at least seems to be a halfway decent guy (so chances are he’ll wind up being a serial killer). Do not mess with my little Strawberry Shortcake!

Episode 402

The Hotness
Dear Lord, what are they feeding those Pratt boys?! Both Mike (Jake McDorman) and Robbie (Nick Gehlfuss) have the pelvic girdles of demigods and are not afraid to show them off. Yowza. This show has never skimped on the mancandy, but these guys have really delivered the goods this season. I’ve loved McDorman since Greek, and I really hope Mike sticks around – and not just so he can drop trou again. I think he’s a good guy, and he is extremely funny when he’s drunk. Gehlfuss is new for me, but I like the cut of his jib. He’s welcome to stick around as long as he leaves Fiona alone.

The Other Sister
I’ve said before that Frank has always, to me, been the show’s weakest link. I know he’s the lynchpin of the show, but his character by nature is not meant to garner any sympathy, so his storylines often fall flat for me. But this season they set him up with a doozy by introducing his long-lost daughter Sammi, played brilliantly by go-to dingbat Emily Bergl (Men in Trees, The Rage: Carrie 2). Her window-shattering scream when she learned that her “daddy issues” had just become manifest was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen on television so far this year. Please keep her around!

Episode 405

V and Kev 4EVA
Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kev (Steve Howey) remain the true heart of the show, and their unexpected fertility (four kids on the way!) has been hilarious and heartwarming in equal measure. I adored Kev’s outburst at the hospital about having “a magical dick” (though those of us watching from the beginning have known firsthand about it for a long time) and I can’t wait to see how things play out with Kev as the new owner of the Alibi and V as a mom to someone other than the Gallagher brood.

Emmy: What’s in a Name?
I cannot comprehend how Emmy Rossum continues to be overlooked by every television award for her incredible work as Fiona. Last season she nailed several extremely challenging episodes (her speech at the custody hearing was amazing), and last week’s episode – where she both broke up with Mike and had wee Liam overdose on cocaine during her birthday party – she was on f*cking fire. I mean, I love Joan Cusack – the only castmember to receive so much as a nomination so far – as much as the next guy, but let’s give credit where it’s due. If Rossum doesn’t get some long-overdue recognition for this season, I will take a baseball bat to someone’s windshield.

At the end of the day, Shameless continues to be one of the most consistently entertaining shows on the air. On the one hand, it’s shocking, edgy, and endlessly creative; and on the other hand, it’s that rare show that inspires genuine emotional engagement in its viewers. We care about these kids like they were our own family, and that’s extremely difficult for a show to pull off. I hope to be able to come back in the coming weeks to discuss whatever crazy-ass turns are next, and I hope you’ll join me.

What are your thoughts on Shameless Season 4? Share ’em in the comments!

Writer-filmmaker Brian Juergens launched, the world's first website devoted to horror films from a gay perspective, in 2003.