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.