Season premiere review: ‘Shameless’ – ‘El Gran Canon’

01.13.13 5 years ago 14 Comments

I’m very happy to have “Shameless” back on my TV, and I have a few thoughts on the season 3 premiere – and the series as a whole – coming up just as soon as I focus on the White Sox box scores…

“Shameless” is a show that’s always been a challenge for me to review, because it’s consistently inconsistent. By design, it’s as messy as the lives of the Gallaghers: a mish-mash of tones and styles and storylines. There isn’t generally an overarching story or theme to a given episode; each hour is a collection of incidents in the lives of Fiona and company, some of which (Lip winning the robot tournament with the stolen laser) are resolved within the hour, most of which (Jimmy getting into trouble with his Brazilian gangster father-in-law) will continue to be a problem for some time to come.

But my reactions to it tend to be consistent, in that I inevitably love whatever’s going on with Fiona and the other kids, and at best tolerate the presence of Frank. There are exceptions, for both good (last season’s Louise Fletcher arc) or bad (last season’s murder of Butterface), but I’ve had to largely view Frank as the cost of doing business: Bill Macy helped get the show on the air, and Frank’s shenanigans sometimes create interesting tensions among the kids. (And it seems like something of a commentary on Frank’s role within the show that the kids – other than poor daddy’s girl Deb – are all doing so much better during his six-month absence than they usually do when he’s around.)

So even though it’s one of the better shows on all of television, I tend not to write about “Shameless” as often as I do a number of series I don’t like as much. I want to make more of an effort this season, because I’ve really enjoyed the four episodes I’ve watched so far – as Todd VanDerWerff said on Twitter yesterday, the strengths and weaknesses are the same, but the strengths feel a little stronger – but we’ll have to play it by ear as always.

In terms of “El Gran Canon” specifically, it was in many ways sicker than ever, with the disposal of “Steve” or Fiona’s industrial clean-up job, but also disarmingly sweet, like the moment where we see Debbie’s shrine to Frank. And it was often funny, particularly as we tracked Lip’s whole caper to steal the laser and win the competition.

Between the corpse disposal sequence and Frank getting mixed up with coyotes, this in a way felt like a mash-up of stories from several other Showtime shows, past and present. But mostly, it felt like an episode of “Shameless” – which is a very welcome thing.

What did everybody else think? Are you glad to have the Gallaghers back? Was “El Gran Canon” too extreme even by “Shameless” standards?

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