REASON TO WATCH
Joan Cusack, William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum.
Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime
Frank Gallagher ( Macy) is a fall-down drunk who manages to scratch out just enough of a living to keep his six kids housed and fed - thanks in no small measure to oldest daughter Fiona (Rossum, "Phantom of the Opera"). She's beautiful, scrappy and tough - oh, and sober.
In spite of Frank, the kids are survivors: Lip (Jeremy Allen White), who's very bright; Ian (Cameron Monaghan), who's struggling to come out of the closet; and all the others (some adopted). Joan Cusack is here as the mother of Karen Jackson (Laura Slade Wiggins), who employs Lip as a tutor.
MY SAY In the bibulous spirit of Frank Gallagher, "Shameless" occasionally feels like the work of a seasoned commercial TV producer who grabbed the fifth of Maker's Mark, downed it in three gulps, then rejoiced, "I'm freeeee! Free at last." (In other words, surely Showtime will cherish the kind of edgy material heard here since the stiffs at NBC surely didn't.) In fact, John Wells ("ER") is but one of the chief cooks. The other is Paul Abbott, a superstar TV writer in Britain who worked on "Coronation Street," "Cracker" and the British version of "Shameless." Something got badly lost in this translation.
BOTTOM LINE Some brief memorable performances, particularly Cusack as a tippling housewife. Otherwise, an inexplicable misfire.