Monday, December 26, 2011


I've been meaning to watch this series for a couple of months now, but nothing ever enticed me to follow through. I heard it was about this white trash family, and that wasn't exactly a selling point. But it stars the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning William H. Macy and the Golden Globe-nominated, classically trained singer Emmy Rossum, so I thought it was at least worth a look.

But nothing could've prepared me for the awesomeness that is this series. It's like:
"Malcolm Middle" (rambunctious kids) x "The Middle" (middle class income) x "Weeds" (criminal family business) x "The United States of Tara" (unreliable parent and homoerotic exploration) = A dysfunctional, poverty-stricken family, who resort to unorthodox, and sometimes criminal, methods in order to survive. 
Those shows I just mentioned are a fraction of what this show is in both content and quality. This family makes their's look like amateurs. They con and manipulate their way through life so easily and at such young ages that you just can't believe what you're witnessing—and can't help but wish you were as clever.
*spoilers ahead
Each episode you get to know The Gallaghers a little better. And with every knew discovery, you love 'em even more. Macy plays the patriarch Frank, an alcoholic degenerate who relies on disability checks and the kindness of a sex-addicted agoraphobic housewife (Joan Cusack) who dotes on him. He's such scum that he tried to sell his black baby to his ex-wife and her lesbian lover so that he can get her to sign a fake disability claim. He's such scum that he screws one of his son's girlfriends while high on Oxycontin. He's such scum that next season he will actively try to scare his agoraphobic girlfriend back into the house so that she won't stop catering to him. But none of this should be a surprise. After all, he did dump the responsibility of supporting his five children on his 19-year-old daughter two years ago. That's Fiona (Rossum).
She's a saint with a sailor's mouth. She would do anything for her siblings, including forfeit the possibility of true love and any sort of freedom for at least 16 years. She'll take any job, even ones that degrade her self-esteem, and endure any sort of neighborhood criticism if it makes them happy. Life has hardened her a bit. Made her skeptical and untrusting of everyone, especially men. And she'll now probably distrust them even more after the possible love of her life, the secretly rich, car-stealing, medical-school dropout Steve (Justin Chatwin) was blackmailed into the leaving the city by the cop who has a crush on her. But in the hands of her siblings, she melts.
She's not alone though. For the most part, they pull their own weight. One thing you can't deny about the Gallagher's, it's that they're a resourceful bunch. The eldest boy, Phillip aka Lip (Jeremy Allen White), is the smartest—so smart he takes SATs for kids all over the city for a sizable profit. But he's no nerd. He's the resident bad boy, who'll take a beating for his brother from the baddest kid on the block, and even take the fall for him in a car theft charge. Of course, he's not all bravado. The abandonment and neglect instilled by his parents have lowered his self-esteem to the point that he believes someone as disturbed and slutty as his quasi girlfriend Karen (Laura Wiggins) could possibly be "The One." Not that he would ever call her that or admit to that.
Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is his secretly gay little brother, who sleeps with his married Muslim boss and his beard's thuggish brother who shoplifts from his store. He's a sweet redheaded kid with a healthy sexual appetite, and an inexplicable desire to join the Marines, to his big brother's dismay.
Debbie (Emma Kenney) is the youngest girl, who seems far more responsible than the rest. It's probably because she's like 11 or something and isn't at screwing or smoking age. But I like to think that her UNICEF-scamming, police-conning, coupon-clipping, background-checking schemes are a sign of her innate intellect. Which basically means that when she gets into her teen years, she's going to be a handful.
But no more of a handful than that little 9-year-old sociopath Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), who spends his days attacking his classmates and teachers, melting his toys together, microwaving live animals, and setting fires. He's like walking contraception with adorable eyes. Almost as adorable as his baby bro, the two-year-old Liam (played by twins Blake and Brennan Johnson). He doesn't do much besides crawl everywhere, even outdoors, and giggle, but his random blackness adds even more humor to their situation. Also contributing to the comedy are the other supporting characters, their helpful neighbors: the often-naked, medically-adept internet-porn star Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and the often intolerant goofball bartender Kevin (Steve Howey).
Their makeshift family dynamic, the creative ways they get out of jams and make money, and the heartbreaking hardships they endure make this series worth watching and worth rewarding. However, I understand that it's not original, considering it's a remake of a British series by the same name. But I like how seamless and normal it seems for these American children to drink, smoke, and have sex without any hesitation or—as the title would suggest—shame. This is how the reimagining of "Skins" should've been done. Unapologetic, not crass.

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