Shameless was once a groundbreaking show but now seems to have lost its relevance

You could also argue that the riots of 2011 and the welfare cuts of 2012, make Shameless more necessary than ever. Creator Paul Abbott evidently disagrees

Share
Related Topics

When a successful television show passes on, there's always a tendency to take it as symptomatic of something. Perhaps Paul Abbott, the creator of Shameless, was hoping to forestall this rush to explanation when he offered temporal tidiness as a justification for finally calling time at The Jockey, the Chatsworth Estate's terrifying local. "Its 10th anniversary seems a fitting time to shut the book," he said – a remark that made perfect sense until you tried to match it up with the drama's real world chronology. The series first made it on screen in 2004 and it will leave it, in 2013, with its 11th series. How you get a 10th anniversary out of that I'm not entirely sure, though it presumably helps if you've skipped school as often as some of Chatsworth's under-11s.

Other rationales are available. You might hypothesise that increasing austerity had made Shameless an uncomfortable fit with the times. The drama began with a sympathy for the underclass that self-consciously went against the grain at the time, giving a boisterous, unapologetic showcase to the kind of characters you might expect to find only in hand-wringing documentaries. "I wanted to make invisible people vivid," said Abbott, who drew his inspiration from his own unconventional childhood on a Burnley estate. Over time, though, Shameless offered the less respectable pleasure of social superiority. However dog-eared your own life, it would be difficult not to feel relatively in shape looking at the rolling catastrophe of Frank Gallagher's. Perhaps that was more difficult to sustain in hard times – though you could equally argue that the case for seize-the-day hedonism would be relevant to more people than ever.

You could also argue that the riots of 2011 and the welfare cuts of 2012 offer clues to changing public attitudes to social recklessness. Dysfunction can be charm itself when safely contained by a witty script and the reassuring borders of an hour-long television drama. When it starts to spill out on to a street near you, the charm can fade. The open-air manifesto for upheaval and riot that used to open every programme suddenly looked too similar to the news bulletins – and though the title sequence had been updated recently, Frank's hoodied repudiation of civic responsibility was still a little uncomfortable. I suspect that for Abbott this is no time to back down – he might even wish his timing had been different, so Shameless could have directly confronted Coalition notions of the undeserving poor. But you don't get to realign history like that.

The truth is, though, that the people who don't want to see it any more are those who make it. Shameless was a series that was built for a long run – because it could be crewed by other writers under the watchful eye of its creator. But in itself that introduces a danger: that of artificial excitement – the need to feed an appetite you've created in the audience with ever sharper flavours. And when writers begin to feel that they're servicing a machine, with fixed needs and an essentially fixed output, it's time to call a halt. I can't have been alone among Shameless's early fans to have felt something sour creep into later series – as it strained itself to come up with new excesses and new outrages. It managed to do it for far longer than I would ever have predicted, to be honest, but it's now comprehensively undermined the best reason for its own existence. When it began there was nothing like it on television: now it's beginning to be a bit too much like itself to justify its presence. Look on the bright side though – Paul Abbott will have a bit more time to work on something that might make our jaw drop again.

A director with the ear of the fans

Rian Johnson has issued a downloadable Looper commentary so fans can watch the film with his notes in their earpiece. I'd like to take a Looper blunderbuss to people who fiddle with smartphones in the cinema – bright little screens stealing attention from the big one – but it's not hard to think of films that would be wonderful to watch in the company of the person who made them, or a really astute critic. What price David Thompson on La Règle du Jeu, for example? Cinemas have loop systems for the hard of hearing and scene description for people with sight problems. Why not some assistance for the hard of understanding?

Performance art is child's play

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a guide to contemporary art called Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That, and thought of it again at the Turner Prize Shortlist exhibition. It was the powerful flashback which occurred at one of Spartacus Chetwynd's performances. Guilelessly amateurish, under-rehearsed only intermittently coherent, it involved home-made costumes and audience participation. It was almost exactly like one of those purgatorial "shows" that small children occasionally insist you supply an audience for. All entirely knowing in this case, I'm sure, but sharing at least one quality with eager five-year-olds – a sense of serene, undoubting entitlement to the onlooker's attention.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star