Showtime's "Shameless" isn't full of vampires or werewolves or witches. And you won't find any serial killers or big name guest stars. But the Gallaghers -- headed up by William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum -- may be the most fascinating and fabulously dysfunctional family on TV.
Macy stars as the drunken patriarch of the Gallagher family, and takes the series' name to heart to say the least. As Frank, he's maybe the most politically incorrect character on TV since Archie Bunker, with only David Duchovny being in the same league on his Showtime series "Californication." (Is it just me or does Showtime have a monopoly on the most edgy and funny shows on TV?)
While Macy's brilliance comes as no surprise, Rossum is the scene stealer of this show, and her lack of an Emmy nomination for its first season is downright criminal. Rossum plays Fiona, the eldest daughter who took over the role of mom to the five other kids and her father when their mother abandoned the family when she was 14. She's tough, she's dirty, she's funny, she's vulnerable and she's the glue that keeps this family together. This is a role most actresses only dream of, and Rossum runs the full gamut of emotions in each episode. Most of it, I might add, with little makeup and hair styling, yet she and her performances are mesmerizing.
Since Frank blows all of his fake disability checks at the bar, the kids struggle to make ends meet on their own by piecing together odd jobs and hustling a bit -- OK, more than a bit. Pretending to raise money for UNICEF, taking SAT tests for athletes, and stealing the coupons out of everyone's Sunday papers, between whatever odd jobs they can grab to get by. And sharing one cell phone between the six of them.
Throw in a new boyfriend from the right side of the tracks for Fiona, a crazy (but cool) couple that live next door and act as an extension of the family, and Joan Cusack as the agoraphobic sex freak of brother Lip's girlfriend, and you have a three-ring circus of dysfunctional fun.
The Gallaghers are poor, proud and incredibly real, struggling to just make it by with only each other to lean on. (Each other except the hopelessly useless Frank.) But you know what? I would love to be a part of this family. And I bet if you watch, you'll feel the same.
Season 2 of "Shameless" premieres Jan. 9 on Showtime.