No Apologies: Final season of 'Shameless' premieres on Showtime

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Breanna Henry / TV Media
The cast of "Shameless"

The cast of "Shameless"

The 10th and final season of Showtime's longest-running original series premieres Sunday, Nov. 10. In simplest terms, "Shameless" is a chronicling of the Gallagher family. They're poor yet shockingly well adjusted, considering the circumstances -- this South Chicago family has seen more than its fair share of grief and strife.

The series has been nominated for dozens of television awards since it premiered in January 2011, and with a large, outstanding ensemble cast, an indie rock soundtrack and a wry, colorful script, it isn't hard to see why. English screenwriter Paul Abbot created the original British version of "Shameless," and his semi-autobiographical script became a massive hit in the U.K. before American producer John Wells developed the pilot of Showtime's American take. If you are a new viewer, know that "Shameless" is gritty, vulgar and violent. "Shameless" has it all, and is unapologetic -- shameless even -- about every scene.

The Gallaghers are far from being the easily digestible, blue-collar version of America's poor that series such as "Malcolm in the Middle," "Roseanne" or even "Married with Children" showcased -- this is not living paycheck to paycheck, it's living penny to penny. Despite heavy themes of alcoholism, abuse, poverty and mental illness, "Shameless" manages more laughs than many comedies, and the Gallaghers seem more real than the cast of any reality show.

William H. Macy ("Fargo," 1996) plays Frank, the Gallagher family patriarch and the root of 99.99% of the family's problems. On top of being an impenitent alcoholic and drug addict, he is also quite absent, often leaving his six children to fend for themselves. Up to this point, the family had Frank's eldest, Fiona (Emmy Rossum, "Before I Disappear," 2014), who ran the house and took care of everyone, despite her own struggles and youth.

Rossum is not returning for the final season, though, and as difficult as it is for fans to see her go, it will certainly be much harder for the Gallagher family. Lip Gallagher is played by Jeremy Allen White ("After Everything," 2018), and he epitomizes the "brilliant, but lazy" character trope while remaining one of the most endearingly tragic, lovable members of the family. Ian is the third oldest, wonderfully portrayed by Cameron Monaghan ("Gotham"), whose struggles in earlier episodes revolved around his sexuality, and later his mental health.

The only other daughter in the family is Debbie (Emma Kenney, "The Conners"). She is the only one of Frank's kids who openly cares for him, and watching her go from being an adorable young girl to a teen mom and prostitute over the course of the series is both heartbreakingly tragic and excruciatingly real. The other side of that coin is Ethan Cutkosky's ("The Unborn," 2009) character, Carl, the second-youngest Gallagher child who goes from being a suspected psychopath to a reasonably responsible young adult in military school. Frank's youngest son, toddler Liam, is played by Christian Isaiah ("Married"), and revealing much about him would be far too much of a spoiler. The Gallagher's neighbors, Veronica (Shanola Hampton, "#Truth," 2019) and Kevin (Steve Howey, "Stuber," 2019), and Ian's on-again off-again partner, Mickey (Noel Fisher, "The Red Line"), round out the highly dysfunctional cast that you can't help but fall in love with.

William H. Macy stars in "Shameless"

William H. Macy stars in "Shameless"

The 10th season of "Shameless" promises more of Frank's misadventures, Ian's relationship troubles, Lip's seemingly doomed attempts at being a better father than his own, and more of Debbie getting into trouble -- what it doesn't promise is a happy ending for the Gallagher family. Viewers might want everything to work out, a happy ending for these long-suffering characters, but in the wise words of Ian Gallagher, "Sometimes we get so wrapped up in getting what we want that we forget to ask ourselves why we wanted it in the first place."

I think it's best to face the facts now: the damage Frank's alcoholism has done to his family is permanent, and a happy ending where the family suddenly finds itself wealthy and happy would undermine everything the show has been thus far: the most realistic depiction of poverty in America ever broadcast, as well as a real look at addiction and illness. I'm extremely interested to find out how the series differs from the British version's finale, and even more excited for when I can finally binge the entire series in one go without needing to wait for a whole week or more for the next episode.

Through everything, and despite each other's many faults, the Gallaghers love each other; as damaged as they all are, emotionally and mentally, they are one of the most beautiful depictions of what it means to be a family in television history. The end of the series will be bittersweet. The stories of Frank, Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl and Liam have been many years in the making, and their outrageous antics and emotional roller-coaster of a story will be sorely missed.

Tune in to the final season of "Shameless," which premieres Sunday, Nov. 10, on Showtime.