‘Shameless’ Loses Focus

Ten seasons in, viewers are starting to wonder what’s going on

Netflix recently released Season 10 of Shameless on the service. I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time and was excited to hear this news. I watched the entire season in two days. In a lot of ways, it’s like the previous nine seasons. But there are some differences, both good and bad.

Shameless, based on the British show with the same name, features a dysfunctional family living on the South Side of Chicago. A crackhead father, played by William H. Macy, is the head of the family, and there’s no mother, so the kids inevitably have to end up fending for themselves. There’s rampant drug use, sex, and violence. Every second of the show is very raunchy and there’s no lack of dark humor. But some sincere moments hide beneath all the grit.

This season of Shameless in particular really went all out in political and social messages. It had numerous episodes involving ICE and illegal immigrants, Black Lives Matter, and controversial abortion laws, to name a few. Shameless confronts all these topics in extreme and ridiculous ways, yet it’s still able to convey the idea that they are real issues that need solving in society. Nothing is off-limits for Shameless. The show unremorsefully addresses themes of incest, extreme racism, and meth usage, practically anything outrageous you can name. Since nothing is off limits, Shameless is always able to one-up itself and continue to both surprise and entertain.

This was the first season of the show not to feature the oldest of the children, Fiona, who was played by Emmy Rossum, as she decided to leave the show in order to pursue other acting opportunities. She was a key character to the show’s development throughout the entirety of it’s running up to season 10, so I was curious as to how the show would handle her being gone. The overall narrative of the show didn’t change, but it does feel like something is missing. Shameless has such a large and diverse cast. They’re always introducing new characters and getting rid of old ones. The show did an okay job at transitioning after one of their main and most important actors left. At the same time though, it feels like something is missing in the show and they don’t do a very good job at covering it up.

‘Shameless’ Season 10, now streaming on Netflix.

This season had other, more serious problems. Shameless has always been an extremely chaotic show, with multiple plot lines mixing in various ways. This season in particular had some issues with bringing any one story line to the front, which led to poor character development and a general lack of focus. The whole of season 10 seems like a bunch of subplots that loosely end up connecting at the end of the season, but with no real satisfaction from any of them. Throughout the entire show I have hated the youngest sister in the family, Debbie. It’s unbearable to watch her in any situation and her character is so unlikeable, and yet it felt like the season focused around her and her love plot with an older woman.

It seems that the writers couldn’t find a single plot point to focus on, and instead decided that if they crammed as much as they possibly could into this season, it would end up being good. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy parts of the season. There’s a reason the show has gone on for so long. It’s able to deliver wildly offensive humor in a way that is entertaining and also somewhat sincere. It’s definitely still entertaining. But with no specific focus, the show ends up losing part of what made it so good in the past.


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Elijah Pollack

Elijah Pollack written for both Book and Film Globe and Rock and Roll Globe. He's also the cohost of the Extra Credit podcast on Audible, and has written for Observer.com.

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