Best of 2014: Staff Picks Shameless

We’re almost at the end of 2014, and soon it will be time for you, our readers, to help select the year’s best in Movies, TV, Music, Books, Podcasts, and more. But before that happens, throughout December, our staff will be showcasing their own top picks in these categories.

Here’s our film and television critic Ryan Roach with his pick for the best Television series of 2014: Showtime’s Shameless.

I’m going to discuss this year’s best television show, Shameless, by committing just a little bit of blasphemy. Here goes: Shameless is like The Wire.

No, don’t stop reading. I get it, it’s not as good as The Wire. It’s certainly not as gritty or complex or unrelentingly cynical. It’s not Important Television. But it gets one thing exactly like The Wire: It doesn’t sugarcoat the truth, and it earns every small moment of grace. The show features a family, The Gallaghers, who live every day like their mere existence is an act of defiance to God.  And like Bubbles finally climbing those 12 steps, we’re allowed to cheer for any bit of victory they achieve. The Gallaghers—or at least the ones who matter—are all siblings: Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, and little Liam. The eldest two, Fiona and Lip, act as de facto co-parents, as mom is a mostly absent bipolar and dad is a drunken fool. A testament to the show’s Wire-ness: though patriarch Frank Gallagher is played by the great William H. Macy, in five seasonsthe character has absolutely refused to grow, change, learn or do anything, anything at all that would make us the audience feel anything for him other than amusement and contempt. Last season Frank nearly died due to his alcohol consumption, and yet, after his liver transplant, he immediately, angrily, and in defiance of God, began drinking again.

The kids, though. There’s hope for them yet. Though nothing is guaranteed. Fiona got a white-collar job in sales and then lost it after sleeping with the boss, cheating on him with his brother, and getting sent to jail after accidently letting her little brother Liam eat some of her cocaine. Lip, the genius, got into college, but is currently running a scam with his girlfriend on her rich parents. Ian got into West Point, but had to drop out when it was heartbreakingly revealed that he inherited his mother’s bipolar disease. His boyfriend Mickey is married to a Russian prostitute and a new father. Debbie, 13, is dating a 19 year old who is patiently waiting for her 16th birthday. Carl may be a sociopath. And Liam…well he did eat that cocaine. Did I mention there was hope for them yet? Well, it’s true, because the Gallaghers have each other and are fiercely loyal and the fact that we can root for them despite their … well, shamelessness, is a testament to just how fantastic and funny this show really is.

Top image © Warner Bros.