Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Shameless Plug

Like anyone wanting stimulating material to engage with, turning on the television would be the last thing you'd try - and that would be only after you'd given up. Sure, the ABC and SBS may have some interesting documentaries or news and current affairs programs but failing that there must be some 'quality television' on one of these damn channels, surely! As oxymoronic as the phrase 'quality television' can sometimes seem it does occasionally bob it's head up for air amongst the ocean of drivel trying to drown it. You usually need to send out a search party - helicopters, boats, divers and all - to scour the depths and perilous conditions of late-night programming in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of a show wearing a life jacket. For that reason, I certainly won't be making a habit of delving into the world of television on this blog but for this show I must make an exception. Consider this my report on a successful search and rescue mission.

Shameless has to be up there with my all time favourite shows. Created by Paul Abbott (State of Play), Shameless focuses on the lives and antics of the Gallagher family who live on a Manchester public housing estate. Alcohol, drugs, sex, scams and crime are all unapologetically on display in this world of the British urban underclass. They're the sort of characters old ladies would tut at under their breath on public transport while clutching their bags a little tighter. You'd be 'disgusted from Camberwell (or wherever)' at the moral reprehensibility of it all if only it wasn't all so funny. It also helps that the characters are well rendered, very human and likable - although patriarch Frank (head of the family in name only) does his best at having very few redeeming qualities.

What I love about the show is that it doesn't treat it's audience like idiots. It doesn't moralise or pass judgement on the characters either. Things are funny because you know that they've perhaps been taken too far. The kids smoke, drink and swear because that's what kids do. And when one realises that he doesn't have a bike he is advised by his brother to, "just nick one." This isn't a blinkered view of reality. Nor does it shy away from showing the ugly side of these housing estates. When a mob get together, vigilante style, to try and find a non-existent paedophile the results are both hilarious and disturbing as any old bit of hearsay is violently acted upon.

"Frank Gallagher: We've just kicked a confession out of ice cream Alec, he's admitted to dipping his nob in the tubs.
Sheila Jackson: What, he took little Jody?
Frank Gallagher: We don't know till he comes out of theatre!"

Chatsworth Estate isn't half a world away from Cronulla it appears.

Shameless's frenetic, hyper-real style swings from comedy to high drama effortlessly; often with one heightening the impact of the other. It can seem exaggerated at times but you're quickly reminded that this is actually real life. It's messy, painful and fucking hilarious. If we can't laugh at the absurdity of our existence what's the point of living. If you watch thinking that the Gallaghers are more fucked up than your family, you're only kidding yourself.

In the pre-Christmas lull, I've been catching up on old episodes in anticipation of the third series which starts here Christmas day (10pm, SBS). It's been a lot of fun revisiting the Gallaghers' world. I can barely contain my excitement for the new series. Happily, I can report that the show is just as fresh on another viewing. It still makes me laugh out loud and I still care deeply for the characters. Bring on series three!

The first series is selling for a dirt cheap price on DVD at the moment. So what are you waiting for? Let the Gallaghers keep you company until the theatre starts up again. (Although my rant may suggest otherwise, I am in no way on the payroll of anyone associated with the production or broadcast of Shameless).


rhyspeaking said...

I am from Camberwell, though far from disgusted. With Arrested Development gone, Shameless is the undisputed best show on TV. And I disagree with you Vlad, there are quite a few good/great TV shows out there - you just have to look hard and often stay up late: Weeds, West Wing, Sopranos, Huff, Rome, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, The Daily Show, Entourage, Deadwood, Six Feet Under - TV can serve as a valid medium for thoughtful work. That said, it's a bit like looking for 'healthy alternatives' in McDonalds sometimes.

vlad said...

In my defence, I never said there was a complete absence of good shows on television just that it can be difficult to seek them out. I agree with you on Weeds. What I've seen of it so far has been very good. It reminds me of Shameless in many ways, actually.

Lauren said...

Have you seen 'State of Play'?
I love it. PS - Come over and pick up all the DVD's I put aside for you..(and the prac lights) before I go! (4daysandcounting. . tick.tock.)

Currently booking my tickets for stuff OS. Will be in berlin (briefly, possible krakow, rague, cesky krumlov - any good easrtern theatre i should be going too??)

I am going to miss out on Katie Mitchell's 'The Waves' which is a pain!! (I have to be on a plane by 5pm - it starts at 2:30pm - - - I was thining I could make the first half???) In fact - the way I have organised my flights (hastily) has meant I will miss The waves, in London and then Arturo Ui, in Berlin all on the same day!
... sigh... will get better at this whole planning caper one day!

vlad said...

I missed State of Play the first time round but am now catching up with the repeats on ABC wednesdays. Great stuff. Will pick up the dvds/lights, don't worry. Probably tomorrow. I've come across some interesting looking Polish companies in my internet travels but can't remember their names. Will find out for you. Also, can probably point you in the right direction if you visit any of the former Yugoslav states. If you get to Hungary, Krétakör is an interesting looking company in Budapest.

Lauren said...

Terrific! I am thinking 'former Yugoslavia' may be a job for my next holidays. Maybe when it is a little warmer.

Horrified of Hawthorn said...

Vlad, I couldn't agree more with you about 'Shameless'. It's in a class of its own.

I look forward to future postings.