I've tried to give a fair shake to some of the programming Showtime airs this time of year, but each succeeding season, it gets more difficult to defend it, or even tolerate. This is true especially of Shameless, a show which somehow is in its third season, despite getting less and less enjoyable with each succeeding episode.
At this point, it's hard to find anybody who would find any virtue in a show that has taken William H. Macy, one of the greatest actors of our time, and forced him to play Frank Gallagher, one of the most despicable characters on a network that has already given us Hank Moody, Nancy Botwin, and Henry VIII. A character who seems to care nothing for the six children he has, and then seems surprised when they're enraged when he reports their living situation to social services. A man who uses AA to find roommates, and then exploits them by trying to use them to get domestic compensation (without actually having to work, of course.)
But as unpalatable as Frank was, the characters around him were engaging--- until this season, when they seemed to go to extremes to poison just about every relationship in it. First, there was Fiona's relationship with Jimmy, one that the show has spent two seasons building towards was cracked in the third season premiere, by having him immediately go back to living a double life as the husband of a drug dealer's daughter. Then they revealed that his father was gay (which we knew last season) and it seemed to paralyze him for an episode. Then they had him deal with it, and have Fiona get on his ass for being upset, making it clear that this relationship wasn't equal no matter how they tried to. Never mind how the last episode seems to demonstrate that he's heading back towards med school, a path he spent all of Season 1 dodging.
Lip has been dealing with the first really healthy relationships he's had, with Monica, a woman from an even trashier family than his, one who seemed to genuinely care about his future, something Lip has demonstrated over and over again that he doesn't give a damn about. As he finally seemed to be heading in the right direction, they brought back Karen, a character who, at 17, seemed even more reprehensible than Frank, and who very quickly revealed that she was just as poisonous as she was before. I'm not saying that she didn't deserve getting hit by a car, but by doing so, they completely poisoned this relationship.
Then there's Ian, who seems to be determine to destroy himself before he even gets a future. He started the season by being the person who (inadvertently) destroyed Jimmy's parents marriage. then he continued his relationship with Monica's brother (as he had the previous season) and when that family's incredibly homophobic father learned about it, his reaction was to force his son to get married, which somehow led to Ian getting the crap beaten out of him.
All of this, and I'm not even going to go into detail about how the Gallagher's best friends are trying their version of artificial insemination --- that's too repugnant even for someone who watched Oz for seven years.
Why does Showtime keep shows like this around? This is the network that has constantly over the last five years, surpassed HBO in the caliber of its original programming. Dexter may be heading into its final season, but they still have Episodes, Nurse Jackie, and Homeland. They don't need to keep to filling the winter hours with detritus like this, shows that even on their best days, don't have the same audience. If they're going to introduce new series, now would be the time to do it. We don't need more seasons of shows like this and Californication, which seems to persist despite an even greater waste of talent in front of the camera.. Shows like Shameless are probably the reason that, even a decade later, some people still can't take Showtime seriously. Seriously, you gave up United States of Tara and Brotherhood for this?