I recently started watching Shameless because I'm a big fan of William H. Macy, who plays the drunken, narcissistic single dad of six kids. The star who really ends up shining in this show, however, is Emmy Rossum as Fiona. Fiona, the put-upon eldest daughter, steps up where her dad can't, making ends meet with minimum-wage jobs and a motherly sense of duty to her siblings.
I think that the large appeal of this show is the fact that so many of us can relate to growing up with an alcoholic in the home. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics says that 43% of the US population have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Children left without supervision learn to grow up quickly, but often find themselves in precarious situations in the process. In one episode of Shameless, the middle child steals a toddler from a birthday party to fill a void in her life. Yeah. She steals a toddler.
The trouble with children needing to act like adults so early is that they don't always see where lines are drawn between being grown-up enough to care for themselves, and being grown up enough to literally take on all adult responsibilities. I can remember once trying to start my mom's car with a paperclip because I thought I should be able to drive myself to school. Erratic behavior like this gets kids in trouble and too often even lands children in juvenile detention, when therapy or increased guidance could easily point their lives in a different direction.
If you're interested in a creative look at the lives of children with alcoholism in the home, check out Shameless on DVD: http://bit.ly/unesOb or on Blu-ray: http://bit.ly/sp5VxA.
I have been hired by Warner Bros. WBWord division to promote Shameless Season One on DVD.