I've just finished watching series 1 of Paul Abbott's Shameless, his critically acclaimed drama-comedy about the working class in Salford, centring on Frank Gallagher, an alcoholic and general waste of space father of six kids. And all I can say is wow. I shall give you 7 reasons why you need to be watching it, but really, there are a lot, lot more.
1. James McAvoy at his most bungtastic. Think he was smokin' in Atonement with his tuxedo, clipped accent and close-up of his blue eyes? Thought he was shaggable in Wanted when he paraded around topless? Thought he looked like a good lay in The Last King of Scotland? (I'll stop now.) In Shameless, he trumps the hotness of any of his other performances. From the first episode and that steamy kiss he shares with Anne-Marie Duff's Fiona to his various car-nicking exploits throughout, he is the epitome of suave, slightly cocky, but never less than completely sincere young geezer, and that is completely and utterly fit.
2. Gerard Kearns' character, 15-year-old Ian Gallagher, is a closet homosexual. In Chatsworth Estate, coming out is not an option. So in series 1, he's secretly having it off with Kash Karib, the Muslim shopkeeper he works for. And although not much is shown in terms of them bunging, the wistful looks exchanged and the rare glimpse of the two kissing is really adorable. Despite their relationship being, you know, adulterous and illegal.
3. Rebecca Ryan is amazing as Debbie Gallagher, the enigmatic and slightly kooky second daughter of the family. Ryan is a really talented young actress (I had the good fortune of seeing her and Skins' Jack O'Connell in last year's Scarborough, a clever piece of theatre that puts a spin on the student-teacher relationship), and she truly makes the character of Debbie a spellbinding one.
4. The humour. Abbott has found comedy in every aspect of life on the Chatsworth Estate and the wry, dry humour means you can't help being drawn in with it and its residents, ugliness and all.
5. The characters. OK, so Frank Gallagher's a complete and utter knob, but everyone else has something about them; Anne-Marie Duff's Fiona is the breadwinner and the one that has bought her five siblings up for the past three years, Philip is "a bit of a gobshite", but a funny one at that, and as mentioned, Debbie and Ian Gallagher and James McAvoy's Steve McBride are awesome.
6. The acting. Class all round, whether it be from the children, Anne-Marie Duff (her large eyes speak volumes and she does this neat little eyebrow raise thing as well), James McAvoy, Maggie O'Neil's slightly-camp turn as agorophibic Sheila or David Threlfall's constantly drunk rambling fool Frank. Duff and McAvoy, who make one of the most stunning real-life couples as well, share a truly tender scene in episode 7 of the series that moved me to tears.
7. HBO are in talks to create an American version. Watch the original so you can complain about how the Americans have bastardized it.
So that is that. Off I go to watch series 2!