Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s time for Shameless to step it up

William H. Macy
William H. Macy
Photo: Showtime

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Sunday, December 20. All times are Eastern. 


Top pick

Shameless (Showtime, 9 p.m.): So far, the final season of this Showtime stalwart has been a bit of a rough ride, but there may be signs of life. Here’s Myles McNutt on last week’s frustrating outing, in a review that bears the headline “Shameless continues to test the viability of a no-stakes final season”:

On a macro level, the absence of stakes is one of the (many) problems plaguing Shameless entering its final season. Whether due to the absolute disinterest in continuity between seasons or the siloing of storylines from one another, the show’s writers have used the idea of the show as a “sitcom” to abandon the type of storyline that felt like it could fully disrupt these characters’ lives. Even in a season with a deadly pandemic, the show remains defined by this sense that no matter what is going on around them, the Gallaghers are always going to be Gallaghers, and that’s the comic/dramatic constant the show wants to focus on.

But if we go story-by-story, I’m willing to admit that there are contexts where the choice isn’t entirely debilitating. Yes, as we’ve talked to death, I believe Shameless is a dramatic television series that is at its best explore the costs and consequences of the Gallagher family’s choices, and this disconnect with John Wells’ insistence it’s a zany comedy is a lot of where my frustration with the show comes from. But I also see how removing some of the stakes from Ian and Mickey’s storylines works well in this episode. Sure, I think the show would be more interesting if they let these two work out their emotional issues in a dramatic context, but letting Mickey get guilted into trying to go legit by an ad for community college and then quickly spiral into a criminal enterprise is fun to watch, something that I wouldn’t have said for anything in the premiere.

The time we have left with the Gallaghers is dwindling (by approximately one hour every Sunday) so let’s hope we get more of the good kind of low-stakes storytelling and less of its opposite. Keep an eye our for Myles’ recap.

Can you binge it? If you’ve got Showtime, yes, 10 seasons and change await you. Otherwise, the 10 previous seasons, less these most recent episodes, can be watched via Netflix.

Regular coverage

Wild card

Gay Chorus Deep South (Logo and Pop TV, 9 p.m.): This documentary follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir as they tour much of the Southern United States, a journey through which they aimed to promote unity and acceptance, but which is also deeply personal for conductor Tim Seelig and other members of the ensemble, for whom memories of childhoods spent in the south offer both nostalgia and pain.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!