TV review: “Shameless” keeps growing

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From the January 16, 2014 edition

“Shameless” had its fourth-season premiere last Sunday, and even though I couldn’t fit a review last week, there are enough new things that I wanted to discuss this season. The finale of Season 3 had so many massive changes for the Gallagher family — Frank (William H. Macy) seemingly choosing death over sobriety, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) heading off to college, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) sneaking into the army and Jimmy/Steve (Justin Chatwin) seemingly out of Fiona’s (the excellent Emmy Rossum) life forever — that I wasn’t sure what would happen.

Well, as it turns out the writers decided to continue these storylines, and it’s quite wonderful. It feels like a natural extension of the Gallaghers’ ongoing tale (and their various exploits). I’m excited to see where it all goes, while also feeling right back at home.

By keeping all these plotlines moving forward, instead of trying to kneejerk everything back to the status quo, “Shameless” feels like it could go on for three or four more seasons — as Showtime is wont to do — without becoming completely stale.

While I enjoy the episodic hijinks (save some of Frank’s more awful doings) these characters get up to, I much more enjoy watching them grow and constantly struggle against all odds. The constant battle the family must endure to get by gives the characters depth, while also a developing narrative.

I’m especially intrigued by seeing wunderkind Lip actually having to make an effort in college. It’s not so easy to be the bad boy who doesn’t give a s--- anymore. I’m also enjoying seeing the (mostly) positive changes in Fiona’s life, even if I know it can’t last.

Surprisingly, I’m most impressed with how the series hasn’t shied away from Frank’s impending alcoholic doom. It’s utterly tragic and realistic. I could see this being Frank’s last season given his health. And that would be a bold move — killing off the biggest name — but also one that could improve the series by giving it a fresh start.

Photo courtesy Showtime