28 February, 2006

Shameless

Well, I'm afraid I have to side with the 'jumped the shark' contingent of Shameless watchers.

In the first series of Shameless you had the writer credit at the beginning but subsequently they have been at the end. I'm not sure if this was deliberate but I found myself watching a very weak episode in series 2 and assuming it was Abbott gone very bad due to the pressure of so many projects to write. At the end I found it wasn't by him after all. All the series 3 episodes were turfed out to other writers. Fair enough, Abbott is very busy (including making a US version of the show) but Shameless is based on his family and his authorial voice is a brand and appointment to view - something we all should aspire to. Now, obviously, there aren't enough writers as good as Abbott to maintain the show's quality but while most people won't notice or won't be bothered by the huge dip in quality it is frustrating considering how classic the first series was.

Am I being too harsh? Well, the series finale by Emma Frost (who has an enviable C.V.) featured the body of a violent husband killed by his wife and buried under the patio. Sound familiar? Yes, the most famous storyline from Brookside ever - which even most non-watchers of the show would be aware of. There was an attempt at some ironic nod when one of the characters said something like "this isn't Brookside" but not only didn't the line make sense but it takes a lot more than one line to turn a tired re-hash into a clever and amusing homage.

In one of the sub-plots a little shy boy is in love with an older girl. Although he offered to find a dress for her in exchange for a kiss, he turns round at the end and, suddenly very articulate and assertive, tells her he doesn't want the kiss any longer because he now sees that she is a user for accepting his offer and now no longer loves her. This is a child remember; a child that did an emotional and character volte-face at such a pace, time started going backward.

I used to say that you can learn a lot from poor drama. Certainly learnng to avoid in your writing the things that bugged you, like the inconsistent characterisation, weak plotting and cliche dialogue found in that episode, would help as script readers are annoyingly less forgiving to new writers than script editors working to a tight deadline on a major primetime drama. But, seriously, you learn a whole lot more from the good stuff. Like Life on Mars. More anon.

On the other hand, I could be wrong:

"So to Shameless and the end of the third series. Can it possibly have sustained that rare, almost exclusively Paul Abbottish, ability to mix award-winning critical acclaim with crowd-pleasing popularity, of the sort to which your Stephen Poliakoffs can only aspire?

Well, yes, it can and it has. The last episode of this series had pretty much everything you'd look for in a classic Shameless - big laughs, warmth and vulgarity in equal measures, not to mention lots of icky stuff from Frank (obviously if he'd been christened Jack, the omnipresent stubble would be infinitely sexier and Baueresque) - even though Abbott has long since delegated the bulk of the writing." Kathryn Flett, The Observer

Shameless writer Danny Brocklehurst on the right to offend.
Gives a good insight into how stories are generated and considered.

Shameless writer Bob Mills interview
I wished I'd seen his episode as I've admired his work although they've been under-rated and under-rating in the past.

Down the Welly with the real Gallaghers
Hack goes to Manc pub with hilarious consequences.

Paul Abbott Independent interview
Although I'm curious why if he has so many series worth of stories to use for the show, why they're relying on old famous soap storylines.


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