There was a LOT going on in the first episode of Showtime's new drama, Shameless. With a staggeringly large cast, including the huge Gallagher family at the center, my biggest worry going forward is how everyone will get a fair shake. And yet, so much was packed into the first hour, and so many characters got to shine, that the worry is minor, at best. It was a delightful romp, full of all the delicious sin you want in a pay cable show, plus some real, gripping story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and know already that this will quickly become one of my favorite shows. It is based on a long-running British series, and after last night, I know I'd like to see that, too.
At the center of the Gallagher family is patriarch Frank (the incredible William H. Macy), although I use the term 'patriarch' pretty loosely, because it's not like Frank does anything to care for his boisterous brood. Frank got some funny bits, but no real plot of his own in the pilot, though next week's episode is called "Frank the Plank", so I assume that will change soon. The series would not dare waste a great like Macy, and it has already been said that Sheila (Joan Cusack) is in the cast as a love interest for him, not just some girl's mom. Which makes sense, because I was curious on why someone with the gravitas of Cusack took such a small part in the pilot. However, for now I am content to watch Frank fall over, and the scene where he found the new washing machine probably defines the character best.
The real center of the Gallaghers is eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum, The Phantom of the Opera), who raises Frank's other kids as if they were her own. While it is unclear how old exactly Fiona is, she is certainly far too young to be taking on the responsibilities she does. Following her example, all of the kids make money however they can, and kick together a pot when bills are due. Frank does not contribute. To get him to even pay for a field trip, Fiona shook his pants leg while he was passed out and picked up the coins that rolled out. Luckily, Fiona seems to have a life outside of her hell beckoning to her in the form of Steve (Justin Chatwin), a car thief who likes her and wants to shower her with gifts, so far in the form of the aforementioned washing machine and a big breakfast for the family. These two are a real joy, with authentic chemistry.