Shamelessly Eccentric and Dirty, But Isn’t That Why We Love British TV?

Here it is, kids.  Shameless Season 1 Episode 2 in its entirety on youtube for your enjoyment.

And isn’t it wonderful that you can just type it into the search bar, and it’s there?  You wouldn’t find that with most, if not all, US shows, but UK television seems to be a little more inclusive to its audience.  UK shows want to be watched, want to include us, want to draw us in to their weird worlds and say, “Hey, this is weird and slightly depraved, but we like it.”

And isn’t that the idea of Shameless? This “lower-class” family whose house is always a mess, they fight, they argue, they have sex on the kitchen floor.  But in the end, the kids all band together as a loving family that takes care of each other.  The ending scene of the first episode is of all of them around the table eating together, and it’s lovely.

The kids in Shameless deal with things with wit and humor, much like many of Britain’s television shows.  They take a terrible situation and make jokes in the wonderful, self-deprecating way that British comedy is able to make fun of itself and the problems of its country.  Shameless should be a depressing drama, what with the children’s abandonment and the massive issues of the father.  But it isn’t – it’s light and fun and dirty.  And in episode 2 when Frank disappears after a huge drunken fight with the family, they don’t write him off – they go searching for him.  Because no matter what he’s done, he’s still part of the family.  They welcome him home with flags and cheers, (much to his dismay and embarrassment).

There’s a scene in Episode 2 in which Fiona and Steve think that the police are fishing Frank’s dead body out of the river, but it turns out to be a police PR stunt.  Fiona’s emotion at thinking her abusive father is dead is heartbreaking, but the show throws it aside and makes a joke.  And that, I think, is what British TV does best – gives us genuine emotion for a split second, and then cuts in with a witty, slightly inappropriate joke.  And that makes for simply great TV.

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3 Responses to Shamelessly Eccentric and Dirty, But Isn’t That Why We Love British TV?

  1. Erin says:

    How oddly true that the British continue making shows with “likable depravity” as you discussed, much like other class discussions about UK shows focusing on the “fool” or “loser”, someone struggling to win in a world of losses. Their family could be in a constant state of desperation, struggling to make ends meet, but their love actually holds them together in circumstance others might view as an advantage (like Steve when Frank’s missing). From what I’ve seen of the series, they truly do enjoy giving us poignant moments followed by heartbreak followed by darker humor then warm your heart once again. Perhaps that’s why we get drawn to it…it’s certainly fun the experience!

  2. Michael says:

    I think you’re point about genuine emotion being displayed momentarily before fading into a joke is incredibly indicative of the comedies we have watched this year. Although only visible briefly throughout most UK comedies, there is an incredible heart to these shows which make them more than just laugh generators. And, I think this is what I appreciate the most about UK comedies over US comedies. Although I absolutely love US comedies, my affection is usually relegated to the comedic segments and I tend to find the “dramatic” or “emotional” moments a little overdrawn/cliche/poorly done. For example, US comedies like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Community” both try to incorporate little “serious” segments into their shows (usually towards the ends of episodes) that I oftentimes find unwelcome and take me out of the show. UK comedies, on the other hand, rarely overdo the dramatic and oftentimes mix it with the comedy so effectively that I find these moments as the best part of the shows.

  3. Robert says:

    I think in many ways that Shameless can almost be described as the ultimate example of a British TV show. I think everything you hit on reinforces this, especially the unique way that they are able to mix comedy and drama to the point that it makes you slightly uncomfortable–a recurring theme among many of these British programs that we have watched throughout the semester. Combine this with the fact that it discusses class issues and Shameless really encompasses the most dominant aspects of British TV.

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