Apr 07, 2021
By Kelby Clark
As the Emmy Award-winning Showtime series ends its 11-year run, the executives who brought it to the small screen reflect on its legacy.
It’s not often that a television show runs for 11 seasons—especially now, when there is so much TV to choose from. But from the start, Shameless had what Gary Levine, president of entertainment for Showtime Networks Inc., refers to as the ideal ingredients for success.
“It comes down to great characters, great actors, great writing, and great filmmaking,” says Levine. The series follows the dysfunctional lives of the Gallagher family, led by their alcoholic father, Frank, played by William H. Macy. Not shying away from controversial themes, like class and addiction, Shameless was hard to sell at first. Before it landed at Showtime, the show went without a home for nearly seven years. Now, it claims the title of the premium network’s most-watched and youngest-skewing comedy.
“It gives such a raw look at the human id and ego,” explains Levine. “It’s refreshing, it’s honest, and it’s compelling. And people have come to expect that audacity at Showtime. It's become our signature.”
At a network known for pushing boundaries, the Shameless team had the creative freedom to produce hard-hitting satire that wasn’t prevalent on television when the show debuted in 2011.
“The only condition from Showtime was: ‘You can’t steal library books,’” says John Wells, showrunner and executive producer. “I don't think there's been a single storyline that we've done where Showtime has said, ‘Don't do that.’ We've gotten: ‘Are you sure?’ But never: ‘Don't do it.’”
This Sunday, the series will end with a final episode followed by a live virtual event with the cast at GallagherHouse.com. To honor the show’s run, ViacomCBS spoke to Levine and Wells about the comedy’s undeniable impact on television, the challenges of a global pandemic, and why the Gallaghers will remain part of the cultural zeitgeist.
"It struck one hell of a chord."
President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks, Inc.
"This family loves each other. That’s how they survive."
"Shameless" Showrunner and Executive Producer