A Shameless Ending

Several years ago, we binge-watched Shameless, were introduced to the appalling and yet somehow fascinating Frank Gallagher, and saw the young members of the Gallagher clan grow up–and make countless ill-advised decisions–before our eyes. We’ve followed the series since then, and watched memorable characters (like Svetlana, or Lip’s alcoholic professor) and a never-ending series of plot lines come and go through eleven entertaining seasons. And on Sunday night, Shameless came to an end with a commendable final episode.

One of the best things about Shameless is that the show’s creators and writers haven’t shied away from the characters doing incredibly stupid, often self-destructive, and occasionally venal things. It’s not surprising that they would, because all of the Gallaghers were raised in a prototypical dysfunctional household, with alcoholic, drug-addicted parents who were always ready to break the law, forsake their parenting duties, and disappear for months at a time to leave the kids to fend for themselves. If you believe that nurture is at least as determinative of a person’s outcome as nature, it’s no surprise that the Gallagher siblings are dealing with lots of issues and continuing to make bad decisions. It’s going to be their lot in life.

I therefore was glad to see that the finale didn’t try to wrap things up with a neat bow, or force some kind of implausible happy ending into the story arc. Instead, it just resolved the fate of Frank (William H. Macy’s defining role of a lifetime) and left the rest of the characters continuing on their journeys, with good and bad developments and lots of open questions. Will Ian and Mickey (our favorite characters by the end of the show) decide to adopt a child and be able to adapt to life on the west side? Will Lip finally find a job that lets him use that awesome brainpower, and will he and Tami add another member to their family? Will Carl and his police buddies buy The Alibi from Kev and V and at least preserve some small piece of the old South Side from the encroaching, suffocating, phony latte-quaffing crowd? Will Deb continue to spiral downward and make absurdly reckless decisions about her personal life? And will Liam–the only one of the kids to really care at all about Frank at the end–be able to move forward and take advantage of his obvious talents and smarts?

As much as I would have liked to see one last glimpse of Fiona, I respected the decision not to bring her back–although I note that Frank still thought of her, along with the other kids, at the end. And the final show managed to deftly combine the ever-present challenges in the Gallagher kids’ lives with an affirming message. (Spoiler alert!) As Frank rose to the heavens, perched on a bar stool and with beer in hand, the Gallagher kids gathered outside The Alibi to laugh at some rich geek whose high-priced car had caught fire and sing a song that drew upon their shared South Side roots. Whatever might happen to them, they’ve still got that strong connection. And for the Gallaghers, that’s as good as it is going to get.

Into The Coronavirus Binge-Watching Zone

You’re worried about the coronavirus, and even more worried about the fact that people seem to be weirdly panicky about it.  You’ve washed your hands to the point where they are almost raw.  You know you’re supposed to avoid large crowds and try to minimize your interaction with other people.  So, what else can you do?

shameless-cast-2017Binge-watching.  In fact, you could almost argue that the Great Coronavirus Scare of 2020 was custom-made for binge-watching.  In fact, if viewing options like Netflix and Roku didn’t exist already, we’d probably have had to invent them to deal with this latest soul-twisting crisis.

Kish and I therefore have been spending our evenings being good citizens and binge-watching shows we haven’t seen before.  As a public service, I offer the following recommendations to those of you who want to be compliant with the latest instructions from the CDC:

Shameless — if you haven’t watched any of the exploits of the Gallagher clan, you should give it a shot.  It’s well designed for Coronavirus binge-watching for two reasons.  First, there are more than a hundred episodes, so it will keep you occupied even if you’re going on a 14-day self-quarantine.  Second, the characters in that show have the most miserable fortunes and do the most appalling things imaginable.  It almost seems like the writers must lay awake, thinking of bad things that can happen to the youthful members of the Gallagher family — most of which happen because of their awful, amoral, deadbeat father Frank.  No matter how sorry you might be feeling about things, the Gallaghers have it worse.  Also, Kev and V are the best comedy couple since Burns and Allen or Lucy and Desi.

Better Call Saul — We’re watching this now.  It’s extremely well done, and Jimmy McGill, like the Gallagher kids, is a hard-luck type who can’t catcht a break.  An added bonus is that, if you’ve watched Breaking Bad, you know what ultimately is going to happen to some of the characters, which makes the show an interesting extended flashback.  And if you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, what the hell?  Put that on your Coronavirus binge-watching list, for sure.

The Borgias — This is perfect coronavirus binge-watching fodder because (1) it happens in Italy, where the entire country has now been put into a coronavirus quarantine, and (2) it involves characters dealing with mass deaths due to the Black Plague, which makes coronavirus look like child’s play.  The central character is the most immoral, lecherous Pope in history and we also get to know his equally immoral, incestuous kids.  Terrific production values, too.  The downside — it’s only three seasons long, having ended mid-storyline with an all-too-early cancellation.

Ozark — Another nailbiter with characters who have it a lot worse than we do and lots of excellent performances and storylines.  Not as many seasons as Shameless, but if you time it right you can watch the last episode and then roll right into the new season, which starts at the end of this month.

It’s binge-watching time, folks!  Pass it on and help your neighbors with a few recommendations of your own.