Shameless: Series 3

Shameless: Series 3

****

Reviewed by: Leanne McGrath

Award-winning writer Paul Abbott's hilarious drama about the dysfunctional Gallagher clan returns for a third outing - and while some of the stellar cast have left, the quality has remained.

The series picks up where the previous left off. Older sister and substitute mum Fiona (Ann Marie Duff) and boyfriend Steve (James McAvoy) have gone to live in Amsterdam, leaving kids Lip, Ian, Carl, Debbie and Liam to fend for themselves -something they do remarkably well, albeit through less than legitimate means a lot of the time.

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Their mum is still living miles away with her lesbian lover, while alcoholic dad Frank (David Threlfall) is still living with his valium-fuelled, former agoraphobic lover Sheila (Maggie O'Neill) and their newborn twins. It's a roof over his head away from his kids, meals on his plate and a few extra quid from her benefits for a pint or 10, not love's young dream.

Also residing in chez Gallagher are the "lodgers from hell" - Carol, her Tourette's suffering, arsonist son Marty and his girlfriend, shopaholic bitch Sue. Life for all of them on Manchester's fictional Chatsworth estate is far from quiet, or what most of us would regard as normal.

Every day involves some sort of con or catastrophe - but every escapade will make you laugh till you wee yourself. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, Abbott's wonderful ability to inject offbeat comedy into even the most serious subjects makes Shameless shine brighter than Frank's smile on Giro day.

He manages to add laughs to a suicide, the murder of a wife-beating husband, grave-robbing, drug-dealing, benefit-fraud and even folk lying about a child having cancer.

Take when loveable, slightly simple barman Kev (Dean Lennox Kelly) discovers his mum has thrown herself off the veranda of her high-rise flat on his 30th birthday. We should be blubbing, not giggling that she landed on a traffic warden or that his wreath is made up of parking tickets.

If the misery is funny, the comedy is hilarious. I won't spoil it by going into detail, but the episode where 50-something Carol lands herself a new man with, er, adventurous sexual tastes is a real series highlight. If you don't want to see a 60-something codger running around in the nip, you're normal - but don't miss it anyway. If you do, well, help is available.

The cast are flawless, with Maxine Peake as stripper and wannabe mum Veronica really standing out. One minute cosy and maternal, the next angrier than a shed of pitbulls, she steals every scene she is in. The real emotional scenes are hers, such as when she suspects Kev has cheated and discovers her IVF has failed.

Crammed with more gratuitous sex than a red light district, tons of violence, scams and more laughs than a barrel full of Peter Kay DVDs, Shameless is unmissable. And you might learn how to fiddle the social at the same time. See, TV is edukashunal.

Reviewed on: 31 Dec 2006
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Shameless: Series 3 packshot
The UK's most dysfunctional and hilarious family return for another series of cons and calamities.
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