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American remakes of British television shows are often derided, and more than a few have failed to catch on, so you have to wonder why they keep getting made. And it’s simple: There’s are few creative challenges more fun than to reinterpret one of your favorite television shows, using the raw materials that you fell in love with, but constituted however you like and tweaked to your specifications. When I watch Shameless U.S., I can see what John Wells saw in the original, without having seen Shameless U.K. myself. Everyone can appreciate pluck and moxie, and these characters have developed a ton of both, due to their unusual circumstances. The scenes I love most in this show are the ones when the Extended Gallaghers are capering, even when I find the caper kind of repugnant.


That’s why I was surprised at my relative indifference to “Three Boys.” There was a distasteful caper this week, just as in weeks before. This time, it involved the fake wedding of Veronica and Kev. Fiona convinces Veronica that marriage could ruin her relationship, and they call it off. But in addition, Veronica’s mother casually mentions an undisclosed amount of money left to her by her late father, which is only to be disbursed on her wedding day. On its face, it was the same basic set up. There were ill-gotten gains to be had, so the Gallaghers just have to set about getting them. Fiona proposes the idea that they hold a fake marriage ceremony to dupe Veronica’s mother but tear up the certificate instead of filing it. But the problem with this story is that compared to the schemes we’ve seen before, there’s not a whole lot of urgency to it. Veronica thinks it would be cool to get a new place, but beyond that, they aren’t in desperate need of money. If they were, they couldn’t serve the function they serve for the Gallaghers, who are perpetually teetering on total insolvency. Plus, the Shameless world is pretty moralistic; when someone does something shady to get something in return, often they don’t benefit from their guile. It was clear that would be the case here, since Veronica’s mother wouldn’t divulge the amount of money involved. The stakes were simply too low here, especially considering the rub of the whole thing—Kevin’s existing marriage—was dealt with and put to bed with such little fanfare.

But it says some interesting things that the Gallaghers are so gung-ho about the scheme, even though it wouldn’t result in any real benefit for them. Sure, Kev and Veronica are their dear friends and co-conspirators when it’s time for a hustle to keep the Gallaghers afloat. But in those Gallagher all-hands-on-deck moments, there were serious consequences fueling the event. This was a ruse to separate a dead guy from his money, and it wasn’t Kev or Veronica who hatched the totally obvious plan; it was Fiona. There is a difference between a poor family making questionable choices in order to survive, and a family of grifters who live for the thrill of the con. The former is a show that, executed this way, I haven’t seen before. The latter is an inelegant show, like The Riches. That’s a show I don’t have much interest in, so I hope the writers will do a better job of finessing these delicate points. The Gallaghers should be eccentric urban hillbillies, more desperate and oblivious than shameless, not people who are treacherous and opportunistic in a way that’s not at all class-specific.

I was also finally able to see what many of the commenters find so draining about Sheila. She was never my favorite character or anything, but I thought watching Joan Cusack play off William H. Macy in this bizarre character pairing was a hoot at first. But Sheila doesn’t serve much of a function to the story. She’d be fun in small doses on a show about a more vanilla breed of people. But in a show full of extreme and unusual characters, Sheila doesn’t add anything, and as her agoraphobia limits her ability to affect the story, she just sort of takes up space. As did Anthony Anderson, for that matter, who slipped into Kangaroo Jack/Transformers mode to play Marty, Veronica’s fugitive brother, who also happens to be a bipolar, alcoholic firebug with Tourette’s syndrome. It wasn’t funny, and it didn’t help me understand Veronica; it was just silly in a bad way.


All the plotting issues were a shame because I found the dialogue in “Three Boys” particularly snappy. (The episode was penned by Alex Borstein of Family Guy fame.) There were hilarious bits of dialogue generously scattered throughout, some of which I’m including in the stray observations, but feel free to contribute your favorites. And true, not all of the plot irritated me. Frank’s story was adequately funny, and while the Ian and Kash plot still makes me a little uncomfortable, it’s a shrewd way to explore Ian’s process of figuring out that his sexuality is okay, but Kash’s manipulation of him is not. It’s also shrewd to have Fiona use Steve and Tony as a case study to figure out why she tends to drift towards the “wrong” guys, and though that story was pushed out the fringes by all the other elements, it’s a step in the right direction for that relationship.

Stray observations:

  • I should have mentioned this long before now, but the opening credit sequence is pretty fantastic. I get a kick out of it week after week.
  • “And the moral of this story is?” “My sister’s a bitch.”
  • “But what about the gay people?” “They got their parades; they can wait.” Between this and the cold open on The Office the other day, that makes twice in a week the “I won’t get married until everyone can marry” line was tried unsuccessfully.
  • Garrett Morris! Mac’s Mom!
  • “A cleft palate is merely the mark God leaves when he kisses a person before they are born!”
  • After the tense tete-a-tete between Frank and Lip, I have to assume that Frank will, in fact, seal the deal with Karen, it’s just going to be dragged out longer here than it was in the original.
  • “Where are you pretending to go?”
  • “That’s what I call little mixed race babies. Tomorrow people. Little people. Of tomorrow.” No punk cover of Ziggy Marley’s “Tomorrow People” over the credits? C’mon music supervisor, get your head in the game.