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).