I was reading on the Manchester Evening News website last week that one of my favourite shows, Channel 4's consistently awesome working-class comedy-drama 'Shameless', is to have its seventh season - due 2010 - cut from sixteen to eight episodes because the world's financial institutions have spent too much money irresponsibly and everything is fucking fucked.
Photo: Channel 4
David Threlfall - who plays Frank Gallagher- told the newspaper: "There will be a series seven, but we only know there'll be eight episodes instead of sixteen because of the credit crunch - but hopefully that might change. There are discussions at the highest level about it." Wow. All this, before the first episode of series six aired on Channel 4 last night!
And you know what? It was a great episode.
Shameless purists will tell you the show's been half what it was since the departure of Anne-Marie Duff (Fiona Gallagher) and James McAvoy (Steve McBride) at the end of series two. Yet while those first two seasons were undoubtedly the golden years - which in truth has more to do with creator Paul Abbott writing the majority of the episodes than McAvoy going to Hollywood to ruin Mark Millar's superb 'Wanted' comic – to say the series has offered nothing of worth since is nonsense.
All of the shows central characters – Ian, Debbie, Carl, Monica, even Frank – have added far more to their roles than the silhouettes they were at the very beginning. Then there was series five, which was so on its game towards the end of the run you kinda hoped the makers (Company Television, who also make 'Skins') would tag another six episodes onto the end to capture its roll.
Then there's the emergence of the Maguire family – both as the root of the show's funniest moments post series two, and increasingly, as the ensemble of people that inspire the biggest emotional investment from the viewer. Most of this comes down to youngest son Mickey (played by Ciaran Griffiths), who's on course to usurp Frank as the show's best character. Are you listening Channel 4? You shouldn't be cutting shows! You should be giving Mickey his own show!
The main story arc last night saw Ian (played by Gerard Kearns) attacked and hospitalised before waking up with amnesia – unsure of his own name, who his family is, even forgetting that he's gay. The end of the episode sees him leave to go travelling, and you imagine
his part will be much like that of his older, university bound brother Lip (Jody Latham), dipping in and out of future episodes.
But the highlight of the episode came right at the end, when Debbie (played by Rebecca Ryan) broke up with PC Tom O'Leary (Michael Legge) and things went nuts on the Gallagher's porch.
Now, there have been those who've accused David Threlfall of cruising with the Frank character the last few seasons, and it was almost a shock to see the character doing something other than falling off a barstool in The Jockey. But in talking the besotted policeman out of suicide in his backyard, Threlfall's performance was perhaps his best across the length and breath of the entire franchise. It confirmed beyond doubt that there's life in 'Shameless' yet, and that series six looks set to be a great one.
I'd strongly advise tuning in next week – who knows? It might convince Channel 4 that series seven is worth more than an eight week run...