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Shameless (U.S. TV series)

This article is about the U.S. TV series. For the U.K. TV series, see Shameless (UK TV series).
Genre Dramedy
Black comedy
Created by Paul Abbott
Developed by John Wells
Directed by Multiple Directors
Starring William H. Macy
Emmy Rossum
Justin Chatwin
Ethan Cutkosky
Shanola Hampton
Steve Howey
Emma Kenney
Cameron Monaghan
Jeremy Allen White
Laura Slade Wiggins
Joan Cusack
Emma Greenwell
Zach McGowan
Noel Fisher
Jake McDorman
Emily Bergl
Opening theme "The Luck You Got" by The High Strung
Composer(s) iZLER
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 60 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) John Wells
Mark Mylod
Paul Abbott
Andrew Stearn
Christopher Chulack
Nancy M. Pimental
Davey Holmes
Sheila Callaghan
Producer(s) Michael Hissrich
Location(s) Chicago, Illinois
Los Angeles, California
Running time 45–55 minutes
Production company(s) Bonanza Productions
John Wells Productions
Warner Bros. Television
Showtime Networks
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original channel Showtime
Original release January 9, 2011 (2011-01-09) – present
Related shows Shameless (UK)
External links

Shameless is an American television comedy-drama which airs on Showtime. This remake of the award-winning British series is set in Chicago's Canaryville[1][2][3] neighborhood on the South Side, although filmed in Los Angeles, with the exterior scenes filmed in Chicago.[4]


The series depicts the dysfunctional family of Frank Gallagher, a single father of six children. While he spends his days drunk, his kids learn to take care of themselves.

The show's producers sought to distinguish it from previous American working-class shows by highlighting how Frank's alcoholism affects his family.[5] Paul Abbott, creator of the original, said, "It's not My Name Is Earl or Roseanne. It's got a much graver level of poverty attached to it. It's not blue collar; it's no collar."[5] When John Wells, the showrunner, began pitching the show, he had to fight efforts to place the show in the South or in a trailer park. He explained, "We have a comedic tradition of making fun of the people in those worlds. The reality is that these people aren't 'the other' – they're people who live four blocks down from you and two blocks over".[5]


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 12 January 9, 2011 (2011-01-09) March 27, 2011 (2011-03-27)
2 12 January 8, 2012 (2012-01-08) April 1, 2012 (2012-04-01)
3 12 January 13, 2013 (2013-01-13) April 7, 2013 (2013-04-07)
4 12 January 12, 2014 (2014-01-12) April 6, 2014 (2014-04-06)
5 12 January 11, 2015 (2015-01-11) April 5, 2015 (2015-04-05)
6 12[6] 2016 (2016)[7] TBD


Somehow all the resonances from the original series occur in the remake, but in a different vocabulary.

—Paul Abbott[5]

HBO began developing an American version of Shameless after striking a deal with John Wells in January 2009.[8] By October 2009 the development had moved to Showtime. John Wells Productions filmed a pilot episode for the cable network in December 2009.[9] William H. Macy stars in the lead role as Frank Gallagher.[10] Also joining the cast were former Dragonball Evolution co-stars Emmy Rossum as Fiona and Justin Chatwin as Steve.[11][12] Paul Abbott, whose semi-autobiographical telescript became the pilot episode for the original UK version, is credited as an executive producer on the U.S. version.[5]

In April 2010, Showtime green-lit the series with a twelve-episode order.[13] In late August Joan Cusack was cast as Sheila, a romantic interest for Frank, replacing Allison Janney, who portrayed the role in the pilot.[14] Production began in mid-September.[14]

A preview of the pilot aired on December 12, 2010, after the Season 5 finale of Dexter. The first season officially began airing on Showtime on Sunday, January 9, 2011.[15] It is filmed in the North Lawndale[16] community area of Chicago[17] and Burbank, California, at Warner Bros. Studios. A unique presenting trademark is a main characters' breaking the fourth wall at episode beginnings, inquiring as to why the viewer supposedly did not view the previous episode before recap flashbacks with unaired scenes.


Initial shooting of the second season began on July 5, 2011[18] and premiered January 8, 2012.[19] Third season renewal was on February 1, 2012,[20] and initial shooting began June 27, 2012[21] and premiering on January 13, 2013.[6] Fourth season renewal was on January 29, 2013,[22] and premiering January 12, 2014. Fifth season renewal was on February 18, 2014.[23] Production on the first episode began on July 3, 2014 with the first episode table read,[24] with initial shooting for the season beginning on July 8, 2014.[25][26] The series was renewed for a sixth season on January 12, 2015.[7]


The theme song for Shameless is "The Luck You Got" by indie rock group The High Strung. Majority of the music featured throughout the series are generally from indie rock bands. The pilot episode made use of music from artists such as Say Hi, 3OH!3 featuring Ke$ha, The Vines, The Moog and LMFAO.[27] The show has also featured music from Let's Wrestle, The Eels, The Blue Van, Cake, Alien Crime Syndicate, and Freeplay Music. Music from The High Strung, Soho3, Say Hi and The High Planes Drifters can be heard multiple times throughout the show. A few songs being "We Are The Men You'll Grown To Love Soon", "Silly Boy" and Beginners Luck. Capital Cities has been heard on the show with their song "Who's That Dude Pt. 1", as well as Johnny Foreigner with "Absolute Balance" and Bosshouse Music with "Chicago Blues". The last episode of season one featured two songs by The Diner with the first being "Indie Dreams" and with "Sun and Soil" being the second. In promotion for the second season premiere the entire cast of shameless sang their own version of a Christmas Carol "except this one dings grandma’s holiday turkey and suggests the best route home in case you partake in too much holiday cheer" entitled Shameless: Christmas Carol.[28][29][30] It can also be found on the special features of the season 2 DVD featurette.[31] The singer Marina and the Diamonds has also been referenced on the show, in a text by Debbie Gallagher.

Main characters

Main cast of Shameless
Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5
William H. Macy Frank Gallagher Main
Emmy Rossum Fiona Gallagher Main
Justin Chatwin Steve Wilton/Jimmy Lishman Main Cameo Guest Star
Ethan Cutkosky Carl Gallagher Main
Shanola Hampton Veronica Fisher Main
Steve Howey Kevin Ball Main
Emma Kenney Debbie Gallagher Main
Cameron Monaghan Ian Gallagher Main
Jeremy Allen White Philip "Lip" Gallagher Main
Laura Slade Wiggins Karen Jackson Main Recurring
Joan Cusack Sheila Jackson Special Guest Star
Jane Levy (season 1)
Emma Greenwell (season 2–)
Mandy Milkovich Recurring Main Recurring
Zach McGowan Jody Silverman Recurring Main
Noel Fisher Mickey Milkovich Recurring Main
Jake McDorman Mike Pratt Recurring Main
Emily Bergl Sammi Slott Recurring Main

  • William H. Macy plays Frank Gallagher, the father of six children. He is a deadbeat alcoholic, drug addict, and morally-deficient freeloader who relies on schemes and stealing to barely get by. He is the biological father of Fiona, Lip, Debbie, Carl, and Liam — but not Ian. He pays little attention to his children but can display care and concern for them in drastic circumstances. He often self-righteously pontificates about political and social issues, yet spends most of his time developing schemes to cheat the system and take advantage of others in order to get money.
  • Emmy Rossum plays Fiona Gallagher, the eldest of the Gallagher children (23), and the main protagonist of the series. Most of the responsibility for child-rearing falls on her shoulders and forced her to drop out of high school in her junior year. She works a few dead-end minimum-wage jobs to support her five siblings. Though often stressed and exhausted by her responsibilities, she takes care of the family. Prone to selflessness, she sometimes needs to be reminded to look out for her own happiness as well.
  • Justin Chatwin plays Jimmy Lishman, also known as Steve Wilton and Jack, a young man who relentlessly pursues Fiona, going to great lengths to win her over, beginning with chasing the man who grabbed her purse in a nightclub on the night they met. He owns expensive things and throws money around liberally, which Fiona finds off-putting until she discovers that he really steals cars for a living. It is later discovered that his real name is Jimmy and he comes from a wealthy family.
  • Jeremy Allen White plays Philip "Lip" Gallagher, the second Gallagher child (20) and the most academically-minded. He was a straight-A student throughout high school and uses his intelligence in various money-making schemes. Despite his above-average intelligence, his personal life behavior is the opposite; he smokes cigarettes and marijuana, drinks alcohol, pursues casual sexual encounters with any girl, and even steals vehicles. Lip has had few love affairs through the series, including Karen Jackson and later Mandy Milkovich who applied for colleges for Lip to attend with a full scholarship. After Lip found out that Mandy hit Karen with her car, causing Karen to become emotionally and mentally challenged, Lip dumped her.
  • Cameron Monaghan plays Ian Gallagher, the third of the Gallagher siblings (18). He is not Frank's biological child but remains an integral part of the Gallagher household and participates in Army JROTC at school. He is gay but only a handful of people in the family know for sure. Still under age, he enlists in the Army under his brother Lip's identity. At the end of season 4, Ian is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, a mental illness his mother Monica has been diagnosed with. He has had few love affairs through the series and is dating Mickey Milkovich.
  • Emma Kenney plays Debbie Gallagher, one of the middle Gallagher children (14). She is reserved and wise beyond her years, intent on positive impressing and willing to cover for others albeit influenced by the deleterious family culture, in contrast to her brash and reckless brothers. She is very mature in some ways and therefore has trouble making friends with people her own age. Debbie is also physically unimpressive and self-conscious. In her teen years, Debbie becomes more rebellious, disrespectful, and secretive, eager to finally have a boyfriend and lose her virginity.
  • Ethan Cutkosky plays Carl Gallagher, the second-youngest Gallagher child (13) who shares a room with older brothers Lip and Ian, who try to keep their more adult interests from him. Carl is often in trouble at school for attacking other students and not obeying the rules. He displays several psychopathic tendencies such as mutilating his toys and killing stray animals. His bond with Frank is strengthened after Frank convinces him he has cancer (for one of his schemes — later Carl was "cured"), and Carl helps him stay in the van parked in the Gallagher backyard after being kicked out.
  • Brennan Kane Johnson and Blake Alexander Johnson, then later Brenden Sims and Brandon Sims, play Liam Gallagher, the youngest of the Gallagher children (4). He is black, despite having two white parents, due to a recessive black gene the Gallaghers acquired from Frank's grandmother. Although stunted in verbal and emotional growth, the whole family is sentimental to Liam. In season 4, Liam unwittingly ingests cocaine and is hospitalized. Consequently, there is a potential he has acquired brain damage.
  • Shanola Hampton plays Veronica Fisher, the Gallaghers' neighbor and Fiona's best friend and confidante. She and Kevin have a successful relationship. Always willing and able to lend a hand, Veronica had pursued a medical career until she was fired from the hospital for stealing medical supplies. She currently works as a webcam girl and caregiver at a nursing home. At the end of season 4, Veronica gave birth to twin girls. Her mother, Carol, and Kevin had sex (consented to and arranged by Veronica) to give Kevin a child as Veronica initially believed she was unable to conceive. When her mother gave birth to a baby boy and realized she was emotionally attached to the baby, Veronica realized she would not be able to give her and Kevin the baby they so desperately wanted to raise as their own.
  • Steve Howey plays Kevin Ball. Kevin is the bartender and owner of the Alibi Room and the Gallaghers' neighbor and friend. He and Veronica have a successful relationship, though he is technically married to another woman who previously left him. He is dyslexic and grew up in foster care, living with several families. To keep his bar from going bankrupt, Kev becomes business partners with Mickey.
  • Joan Cusack plays Sheila Jackson. Shelia is an agoraphobic germophobe, Karen's mother, and Eddie's widow. Sheila developed her conditions when Karen was young and has tried to overcome them for years. Sheila is a kind and caring person, if a bit empty-headed.


Shameless premiered on January 9, 2011 in the United States, becoming Showtime's highest-rated series debut on record across the network's target demographics. The first episode of the series was number four for total viewers, which generated 982,000 unique viewers, and was Showtime's biggest turnout for a series premiere since Dead Like Me in 2003.

The fourth episode airing January 30, "Casey Casden", retained 100% of its premiere audience with 1.45 million total viewers, making Shameless the best performing first-year drama on Showtime. Despite the usual downward trend following a premiere of a show, and built on its premiere audience. It was the dominant number one of its time slot in Adults 18–49. Subsequent episodes fluctuated between 1.00 and 1.14 million viewers. The March 27, 2011 season finale, "Father Frank, Full Of Grace" episode drew in 1.157 million viewers.

By the beginning of the show's third season, its premiere episode "El Gran Cañon" (airing January 13, 2013) drew in 2 million viewers becoming the show's highest rated episode ever to date. It has since maintained average ratings of just below 2 million viewers throughout the rest of its broadcast.

Critical reception

Critical reaction to the series has been mostly positive. Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter said that "Shameless is excellent, compelling television from the first moment. As long as it stays true to the roots of the original, it's going to be essential viewing". The show's first season score on Metacritic is a 66 of 100, which is a generally favorable review. The second season score on Metacritic is a 76 of 100, indicating increasingly favorable reviews.[32] Tom O'Neill of the Los Angeles Times acknowledged the Emmy buzz around Shameless, especially the performance of Emmy Rossum, stating "she didn't have much Emmy buzz after Shameless debuted in January, but that changed after she gave powerhouse turns in such episodes as 'But at Last Came a Knock'".[33] BuddyTV ranked Shameless #8 on its list of 2011's best new TV shows.[34] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the first season a 'fresh' rating of 74% based on 31 reviews, with the critical consensus "Shameless is a dark, urban dramedy that overcomes its leaps of logic thanks to fantastic casting, intriguing ambiance, and shock value." Seasons 2-5 each have a 100% rating as of January 27, 2015.[35]


The first episode of the series, "Pilot", was watched by 982,000 viewers, making it the network's biggest turnout for a series premiere since Dead Like Me in 2003.[36] The episode airing January 30, "Casey Casden", received 1.45 million total viewers, making Shameless the best performing first-year drama on Showtime.[37]

Season Episodes Time slot (ET/PT) Network Premiered Ended Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Season 1 12
Sunday 10:00 PM
January 9, 2011
March 27, 2011
1.16[39] N/A
Season 2 12
Sunday 9:00 PM
January 8, 2012
April 1, 2012
1.45[41] 1.36[42]
Season 3 12
January 13, 2013
April 7, 2013
1.82[44] 1.65[45]
Season 4 12
January 12, 2014
April 6, 2014
1.93[47] 1.71[48]
Season 5 12
January 11, 2015
1.77[49] N/A N/A N/A

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2011 Artios Award Outstanding Achievement in Casting
Television Pilot — Drama
John Frank Levey Nominated [50]
2011 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actor in a Drama Series William H. Macy Nominated [51]
2011 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Joan Cusack Nominated [52]
2011 Satellite Award Best Actor - Television Series Drama William H. Macy Nominated [53]
2012 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy Rossum Nominated [54]
Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series Chloe Webb Nominated
2012 GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Drama Series Showtime Nominated [55]
2012 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Joan Cusack Nominated [56]
2012 Prism Award Comedy Series — Substance Use Prism Award Shameless Won [57]
Best Performance in a Comedy Series William H. Macy Won
Best Performance in a Comedy Series Emmy Rossum Nominated [58]
2013 BMI Film & TV Award BMI Cable Television Music Award Fil Eisler (as iZler) Won [59]
2013 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Joan Cusack Nominated [60]
2013 Young Artist Award Best Performance in a TV Series
Recurring Young Actor
Nicky Korba Nominated [61]
2014 GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Drama Series Showtime Nominated [62]
2014 Young Artist Award Best Performance in a TV Series
Guest Starring Young Actor 14-16
C.J. Berdahl Nominated [63]
2014 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy Rossum Nominated [64]
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Jeremy Allen White Nominated
2014 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series William H. Macy Nominated [65]
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Joan Cusack Nominated
Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a
Comedy Series or Variety Program
Julie Michaels Nominated
2015 Satellite Awards Best Actor - Television Musical or Comedy William H. Macy Nominated [66]
Best Actress - Television Musical or Comedy Emmy Rossum Nominated
2015 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical William H. Macy Nominated [67]
2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series William H. Macy Won [68]
2015 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Cameron Monaghan Pending [69]

DVD releases

DVD release dates for Shameless
Name Release dates Ep # Additional information
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season December 27, 2011[70] June 25, 2012 (2012-06-25)[71] April 4, 2012[72] 12
  • Bringing Shameless to America — A look at the process of reworking and repurposing a successful UK television series for an American premium cable audience.
  • Bringing the Fun to Dysfunctional — Go behind-the-scenes of the show with key members of the cast and crew in this much-too-brief making-the-series featurette.
  • A Shameless Discussion About Sex — Rossum and co-stars Steve Howey, Justin Chatwin and Shanola Hampton have a candid chat about the sex in Shameless.
  • Audio Commentaries — Two commentaries are available:
    • "Pilot," & "Frank Gallagher: Loving Husband, Devoted Father,"
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Season 2 Sneak Peek — A look into season 2 of Shameless
The Complete Second Season December 18, 2012[73] N/A February 13, 2013[74] 12
  • The Complicated Life of Fiona Gallagher - (featurette) Fiona returns with a whole new host of problems, and Rossum talks about her character and the future of the Gallagher clan.
  • The Art of Acting Drunk - (featurette) William H. Macy takes a hard look at Frank and his furture.
  • Behind the Scenes: Writing the Shameless Version - (featurette) A second-season roundtable chat.
  • A Shameless Actor Discussion - 5 Interviews between various cast members.
  • A Shameless Look at Season 3 - A behind the scenes sneak peek of the third season of Shameless
  • The Shameless Christmas Carol — Music Video
  • Deleted Scenes
The Complete Third Season December 17, 2013[75] N/A December 18, 2013[76] 12
  • Where the Streets Have No Shame - (featurette) Go behind the scenes with the Shameless cast and crew as they prep a number of sets and streets for the third season shoot.
  • The Many Sides of Sheila - (featurette) Joan Cusack's character Sheila steps center stage as the actress, writer Mike O'Malley and other key members of the team discuss her development and evolution.
  • An Officer and a Gallagher - (featurette) The same treatment is given to Cameron Monaghan's Ian.
  • A Lip Off the Old Block - (featurette) Followed by Jeremy Allen White's Phillip.
  • Being Milkovich - (featurette) More character dissections with Noel Fisher and Emma Greenwell.
  • A Messy Triangle - (featurette) Lip, Karen and Mandy's... relationship.
  • Deleted Scenes
The Complete Fourth Season December 30, 2014 (2014-12-30)[77] TBA December 17, 2014 (2014-12-17)[78] 12
  • Being Gallagher - (featurette)
  • Shameless Neighbors - (featurette)
  • Deleted Scenes


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