mon 08/08/2022

Shameless US, More4 | reviews, news & interviews

Shameless US, More4

Shameless US, More4

Can Paul Abbott's classic survive this transatlantic remake?

The Americans have form when it comes to creating superior remakes of British TV shows. Life on Mars with Michael Imperioli? You gotta love it. The Office without Ricky Gervais? We are eternally in their debt.

Now they've taken Paul Abbott's Shameless in for a full engine re-bore and respray, with Abbott himself on board as writer and executive producer. The formaggio grandissimo of the Stateside version, though, is John Wells, of ER and The West Wing fame, and it's the rather imperial-looking John Wells Productions logo that you see at the conclusion of each programme.

It's bound to take a few episodes before we really know whether this set-up can create the right chemistry for another triumphant makeover, but what was surprising from the first moments of this pilot was how closely they've tried to stick to the original. It opened with a replica of the time-honoured Frank Gallagher introductory sequence, where he introduces his shambolic brood (pictured below) and then the cops arrive as they're having an outdoor party.
family_Gall_trimYet, despite the instant déja vu, it also established an immediate culture gap. The south side of Chicago, where the American Gallaghers live, just feels completely different from a Stretford council estate, from the look of the streets and buildings to the Chicago police uniforms. While the Illinois Gallaghers may have the same names and approximately similar dramatic functions as their Mancunian originals, they're just... American.
Apart from anything else, the Americans don't feel comfortable with sleaze. They've gamely had a go at packing this Shameless with drugs, alcohol, blow jobs and petty crime, but it looks more like an oddball but fairly mainstream sitcom rather than a raw slice of blocked-gutter verité with rats, knives and rising damp. It's like meeting the lesser-known relatives from the various families in Friends.
Fiona_Steve_trimOf course, American viewers (who the show is designed to please, obviously) won't be lugging around all these preconceptions, and they've been finding much to enjoy. Judging by American write-ups, Emmy Rossum's Fiona Gallagher, though ridiculously pretty and personally trainered by the standards of the Manc version, is turning a few heads and may be bound for Emmy-night glory. Her fast-moving relationship with Steve, which kicks off after he tries to catch the low-life who steals her handbag in a nightclub, was the centrepiece of this opener, and since he (as portrayed by Justin Chatwin) looks like Rob Lowe's younger brother, you can see which side the producers think their bread is buttered (Steve and Fiona, pictured above).
William H Macy as Frank is the biggest marquee name, and he hurls himself into bouts of drunken roaring and bragging with gusto, but where David Threlfall effortlessly oozes fecklessness, dodginess and low cunning, Macy comes on a bit like a theatrical grandee throwing on the motley and slumming it with the groundlings. Meanwhile, though we keep being told about the chaotic lawlessness of his children, the fact is that this Gallagher brood seems comparatively savvy and well adjusted. Maybe playing up the work-shy, underclass, welfare-scrounging angle to an American audience would have amounted to riding a rocket to ratings oblivion.

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