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Too Soon? Showtime Offers Up ‘Shameless’ and Bets On Poverty Porn as Entertainment

January 7, 2011

William H. Macy, Alison Janney and Emmy Rossum star in the new Showtime series 'Shameless'

You have to admire the cheek of a network who introduced audiences to Dexter. Showtime hasn’t always had the best original programing, but contrary to what HBO and A&E would have you believe, they’ve certainly had some of the “edgiest”. While HBO and others have tried to keep it “classy” providing audiences a glimpse into worlds and characters that most wouldn’t have occasion to know otherwise, Showtime has long been trying to embrace programming that attempts to reflect “real life” experiences. Well with the exception of that whole serial killer thing.

Shameless is the newest series from Showtime, which believes its found a way to make both the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder and terminal cancer television dramedy fare. But in my opinion has only had mild success on those fronts. Shameless is about Gallagher family and its struggle to keep the home fires burning without burning down the home. In that regard, the show is transgressive. Too many shows – even in these stressful economic times – are only concerned about the wealthy and the wealthier. Granted, lots of folks watch television for escapist fun, but there is something to be said for a show that strives to “keep it real”. In this case, real dysfunction. While it’s certainly true there can be much dysfunction within families who deal with constant poverty and joblessness, there is something about casting premiere character actor William H. Macy and the sweeter alternative to Anne Hathaway, Emmy Rossum in leading role that feels very exploitive to me.

Now I haven’t watched much of the series beyond the previews, so hopefully this is just a presumption on my part and not an actuality. That said, there isn’t much television, particularly within the last twenty years (minus Rosanne and possibly My Name is Earl) that’s been especially sympathetic to the plight of folks who are never going to see upward mobility as defined by the folks who actually have it, so I still remain skeptical. What about you? Are you interested in seeing the show? Is there any irony in a show seeking to tackle poverty in this manner on premium cable, which arguably requires some economic privilege?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2011 8:10 am

    I love love love Allison Janney, and Macy could make me watch anything, even a show about clipping coupons for Xena’s sake. With network fare getting more and more watered down, I give Showtime props for taking chances and putting such good seasoned talent on the screen.

    • January 8, 2011 11:36 am

      I love the casting too, but I also loved the casting of The Big C, and that show didn’t reel me in, so now I’m suspicious of Showtime.
      Redlami, I’ll let you be the test audience who goes first.

  2. January 8, 2011 9:19 am

    I have such mixed feelings about this! On the one hand, yeah, actual depictions of poverty are pretty rare, or poverty is presented unilaterally negatively to reinforce every possible stereotype about poor folks. On the other…how well will it be handled here? Is this gonna be genteel poverty with pretty white people?

    I have to say, I *love* this cast and I’d probably watch at least a few episodes just for that…if I could afford Showtime.

  3. Shelby permalink
    February 6, 2011 4:39 pm

    This show is not good.

  4. Monica permalink
    February 23, 2011 2:13 pm

    Shameless is definitely edgy but I think it couldn’t fit the times any better. I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed if you get a chance to watch. I work for DISH Network so I get it in HD which surprisingly makes a big difference on my screen but not my wallet. I can definitely relate and think this will continue to be a big hit.

  5. February 24, 2011 9:37 am

    @Monica – I’m glad to hear someone’s enjoying the show. I found the episodes to be too uneven, but that might just be first season jitters. Hopefully the show will even out over the latter part of the season. But I haven’t been too jazzed on Showtimes’ most recent new offerings either.

  6. May 18, 2011 3:43 pm

    I think it’s great.

Trackbacks

  1. ‘Shameless’ Garners Showtime’s Biggest Drama Debut in 7 Years! |

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