Shameless Comparison

After being impressed with the UK’s output of Shameless, I felt the need to watch the US remake in order to compare and contrast the two. Thankfully, our version is made to be aired on Showtime. Racy subject matter such as this could only be properly showcased on a premium cable channel. The pilot episode follows the same structure and formula of the original British product. A few changes are made here and there in order to transfer the story from Manchester to Chicago.

I was surprised to find that both families are able to come across as lovable. You can’t help but root for the children as they struggle to support themselves without the help of their drunk father. Although their actions are mostly immoral, mischievious,¬†and vulgar I found myself wanting them to succeed in all they do. They smoke, drink, and commit crimes but both shows succeed in displaying them as unlikely heroes. The positives of both outputs lie in their fast-paced aesthetics and ensemble casts. If you don’t like one character, there are several others to keep you coming back for more. I noticed the US version tried to make their characters more likeable. For example, in one scene the youngest daughter comes downstairs to put a pillow under her passed out father’s head. One critique I have of the American version is its casting of Steve, who is played extremely well by James McAvoy in the British version. The US Steve is fairly flat in the first episode and seems to be forcing chemistry, which gives him room to grow as the season progresses.

My favorite scenes in both shows are when the adults are all drinking, smoking, and dancing in the living room together and the final breakfast scene. They manage to illustrate how the families are able to have fun regardless of their unfortunate circumstances, which is what this show does best. So which production is better? I preferred the grittiness and originality of the British version, however, I will continue to watch the US remake. We have come to realize that British TV is not afraid to confuse or disgust the viewer in order to get across their story. American TV prefers to put a glossy finish on everything, and make the story as accessible and easy to understand as possible. Showtime’s version of Shameless does just that, and as a result I choose to watch the American version for its more polished presentation (which is not necessarily better).

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2 Responses to Shameless Comparison

  1. Ronnie says:

    I love many of the comparisons that you draw here. I haven’t seen the American version, but I feel like I already know the show just based on your description. I took a look at who plays Steve for the American version and it’s Justin Chatwin, whose biggest role was Tom Cruise’s son in War of the Worlds. I see how you could have perceived him as being flat, I don’t know if that’s a reflection of him as an actor or if it were merely how the director wanted his character played. Nevertheless, I can see where James McAvoy is far more engaging. As a side note, I found it funny that the British version used a Scottish actor in James McAvoy, while the American version used a Canadian actor in Justin Chatwin. I wonder if it were purposeful or completely coincidental that the castings both picked an actor from the country bordering to the north (although I understand Scotland is part of the UK, but you get my point). I think that Shameless has some really engaging characters and I particularly like your point about how the ensemble cast allows for flexibility in choosing a character to like. The diversity of the show is what I think makes it so compelling to audiences, and I’d like to see more despite saying in my post that I thought it was only “ok.”

  2. Alex says:

    I too have not seen the American version of Shameless, but I found myself just comparing the show to all the other British shows that had sex and crude language. I was talking with Brenna, and just about every show we’ve watched has had sexual connotations (except Dowton Abbey). I think that at the beginning of the semester before we started being exposed to shows like Skins, I would have found Shameless to be crude and overly sexual, but by this time in the semester, it just didn’t even phase me. Perhaps I have just become comfortable with this aspect of British television but I was able to ignore most of the sexual material and really enjoy the content of the show. I think that means we’ve been watching the right shows in this class.

    Also, Ronnie, how dare you not mention that Justin Chatwin played Goku in Dragonball: Evolution (one of the most entertaining movies of all time)! It’s okay, I don’t think anybody but me and my friends have seen that movie…

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