There have been some memorable characters to come out of Chicago's South Side Irish community. Published in the 1930s, James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan—a trilogy on the life and death of the archetypal blue-collar South Sider—remains a timeless testament to an area as colorful and storied as any big-city ethnic enclave. And in 1971, Mike Royko put out Boss, an incendiary character study on another South Sider of mythic proportions—
So who are the South Side Irish? They're a proud, tough-as-nails bunch. Generally speaking, they're also rowdy and know how to knock back more than just "a couple two-tree beers," as the vernacular goes in the Windy City. And they're notorious chiselers.
Adding to the area's lore are the Gallaghers—the foul-mouthed, hard-drinking clan on Showtime's "
It all starts with William H. Macy as Frank, the Gallaghers’ single-parent anti-father figure. When Frank's not at the only bar in the neighborhood he isn't banned from, he's probably sleeping off his hangover under the "L" tracks. Macy is pitch-perfect as the unshaven, puppy-dog-faced Frank, and he's the show's driving comedic force. He's just as much the silver-tongued barroom bard as he is a hapless, pathetic wastoid. He's right at the heart of the show’s irreverent, boozy chaos.
“Shameless" might as well be called "It's Always Sunny in Chicago." But then there are the tender moments, the scenes that explore the emotional complexity of a wild but resilient family, living in a bruised but not broken home.
On the other hand, Frank's eldest of the six Gallagher kids, Fiona, is the family's glue. Emmy Rossum brings gravity to the storyline as the motherly big sister who packs the lunches and pays the bills, but still manages to contribute her own fair share of vice.
The balance between the two leads is what makes the show somewhat of a categorical anomaly. If Fiona wasn't around, "
The supporting cast is also strong. Joan Cusack uses her duck-
While the Chicago flair is mostly spot-on, the show's origins are foreign. Like "The Office," "
Still, the show's pitches at poignancy are hit-or-miss. Star-crossed lovers staring at each from different sides of the "L" with indie rock blaring comes off as cliché. Bonding moments over weedsmoke between the brothers Gallagher are much more endearing. Like its characters, "