Theres an old, schlocky TV writers term called the Hey, Myrna. It means theyve concocted a scene specifically to make some boob tube aficionado in his stained undershirt stand up from his Lay-Z-Boy, kick over his TV dinner tray and scream to his wife, Hey, Myrna get in here the hot redhead just took off her necklace.
Shameless is the champion of the Hey, Myrnas.
The first time I Hey, Myrnaed about Shameless to my husband (whose name is Alex, for what its worth, but Myrna is a much more fun name) was while watching the Showtime dramedys first season.
It was because of what the show did with what could otherwise have been a rather benign scene about a child protection service worker who pays a visit to Kevin (Steve Howey) and Veronica (Shanola Hampton), the best friends and neighbors of main character Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) and her plethora of siblings. The setup of the scene seems familiar, and clearly destined to play out familiar narrative beats until the social worker opens her mouth.
Ive lost count of how many times Ive Hey, Myrnaed over the course of the series, which, on Dec. 18, wraps its seventh and thanks to the bosses being reasonable humans and agreeing to the fair equal pay terms that Rossum requested not final season.
Yes, Ive most likely called attention to the show’s surprisingly funny moments, such as this season when Kev tried to explain his current love triangle to a therapist, or last season when the perennially Emmy-nominated (but bafflingly never triumphant) William H. Macy proved hed do just about anything in his role as swindling deadbeat dad Frank Gallagher and simulated sex on a grave.
But these stunts arent the only scenes meant to wake you up from your Sunday night premium cable binge coma.
The brilliance of Shameless has always been its ability to filter important political and social commentary through the eyes of characters whom some liberal-minded media types might write off as unable to understand or appreciate these intricacies: working-class Americans.
The series, which is based on the British format that provided James McAvoy with a breakout role, has tackled everything from bipolar disorder, gay bashing, sex addiction, gentrification and even agoraphobia. When a teenager gets pregnant or ends up selling drugs on a street corner, it isnt simply done as a shrugged, well, thats whats happens to people from that neighborhood. Its a deeply humane examination of why someone might choose these paths often with a little dark humor thrown in.
Performance-wise, the fact that Rossum never got an Emmy (or any other major award) recognition for depicting the raw and painful reality of a prison strip-search during the shows fourth season should get a whole chapter in the eventual book that someone must be writing about major Peak TV oversights.
And Ian Gallaghers (Cameron Monaghan) recent, heartbreaking decision to let go of his ex, Mickey (Noel Fisher) proves that you never get over your first love even if its a relationship punctuated by being held at gunpoint by your partner’s homophobic dad.
The idea of mixing complicated stories in with humor isnt exactly new; Norman Lear has made a career out of it. But for all the adulation critics heap on other shows with negatively connotative titles like FXXs Youre the Worst or CWs Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (myself included), we should always remember one of the first series in this brave new wave to show no shame.