“Shameless: The Helpful Gallaghers” Review

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Frank Gallagher doesn’t seem like much of an alcoholic this week as he balances moments of wisdom against his typical disgraceful actions. One of his shameless decisions during this episode is not entirely selfish because his son, Carl, is able to go to summer camp for the first time. The only problem is that Carl thinks he has cancer because Frank told him so. He finds out that he will spend a week at a camp for dying children and is utterly disappointed, especially since none of the promised camp activities are actually available.

In past storylines, Ethan Cutkosky has done well playing Carl during the few moments when he actually had a significant role. This week, however, Carl seems bland because Cutkosky underplays the part. Plus, the storyline never really goes anywhere or serves a purpose of any kind. This was definitely a disappointment this week and could have been improved if there were at least a few more witty one-liners, such as when Carl asks a child with leukemia, “What’s up?” and he responds, “Not my white blood cell count.” I guess I’ll have to look forward to next week for some more laughs.

Frank does not spend much time with his son before heading back home to take care of his ex’s daughter’s baby. His ex-girlfriend, Sheila (Joan Cusack), is now in a relationship with her daughter’s ex-fiancée. I know–things have become absurdly complicated. Aside from the confusion, Frank has been sleeping on their couch in exchange for babysitting and some free grub.

But his couch-crashing days are not so laid back once Sheila asks Frank for relationship advice. Why she asks the divorced-degenerate-alcoholic father for advice is beyond me. Her reasoning for wanting relationship guidance with her new man, Jody (Zach McGowan) is also a bit disturbing, but I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with Jody’s unwillingness to subdue himself to one of Sheila’s kinky turn-ons.

The show has dabbled with this subject before and it only barely worked with the tarnished Frank Gallagher. It certainly does not work now. The situation is supposed to provide some sort of comedic shock value, but it falls flat and leaves me cringing rather than laughing. Cusack tries her best to match the usually applaudable role, but her character’s kinks are unnecessary. Plus, I tend to sympathize with Jody since he is obviously haunted by his past actions as a sex addict, even though this is also supposed to be darkly funny.

While Frank is taking charge of other people’s lives, the Gallagher household crams more visitors into their hardly vacant bedrooms. With Carl gone and Lip’s girlfriend upset about her half-sister’s recent move into foster care, Lip decides that it is a good idea to kidnap Mandy’s sister and take her home to live with the rest of the Gallagher clan. Fiona doesn’t put up much of a fight and the sister, who turns out to be a brother, begins living like one of their own while Mandy and Lip continue their sexual relationship.

Episode 304

“Shameless” had a good opportunity to take Lip’s relationship with Mandy to a more profound level, in which they debate over how Lip should put his intellectual gift to use rather than wasting it in the ghetto of Chicago. The show took the opposite route and thought it would be better to flash some tits during primetime. I really hope that the writers can take a more mature step and give Lip and Mandy’s relationship some depth before I go insane thinking about the plot potential behind the smartest Gallagher child.

The other visitor during this week’s installment of “Shameless” is Jimmy’s father. Viewers who have kept up with the show or these reviews will know that Jimmy’s father, Lloyd (Harry Hamlin), has been fooling around with Ian Gallagher. Lloyd has officially been kicked out of his own house and will get divorced from his wife. Jimmy is not thrilled to find this out because, in his own words, he will “have to hang out with both of them more often.” Eventually, the relationship between Ian and Lloyd is revealed––and not in the most practical way, either. I liked the premise to begin with, especially since Ian is such a compelling character and Cameron Monaghan does fine work with his portrayal. Unfortunately, this episode missed another note and fell flat. The big reveal was just not big enough and sloppily done. This fault falls on writer Mike O’Malley, director Randall Einhorn, and creator Paul Abbott.

The only other plot point worth mentioning would be Fiona’s events this week, but even the reliable and talented Emmy Rossum could not carry the story. I can sum it up in one sentence: Fiona tries to boycott her perverted manager’s actions at work and fails. The issue is not that Fiona failed, but it is how she failed. There was no climax at any point, or really any conclusion to what Fiona tried to accomplish. The whole circumstance lacked strong dialogue, realistic development of supporting characters and any sort of relatable content because the situation comes off as a cheap ploy for time filler rather than worthwhile substance.

“The Helpful Gallaghers” was a huge disappointment for “Shameless” fans everywhere. If you watch the show purely for the sexual content, then you were watching the right episode. However, if you’re someone who invested their time to experience the show’s habitual creative and wry humor that usually mixes well with its bleak, but meaningful storyline, then I would not be surprised if you were also let down by the not-so-helpful Gallaghers.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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