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Absolutely, wildly, unapologetically... note 

"We were living out of a car once. Uncle Nick had kicked us out. We couldn't find anyone else who'd take us in. Lip and Ian and me were sleeping in the backseat when Frank pulled over. Middle of the night. Think it was Halsted. Told me to take the boys and sit on the curb and he'd be right back. I was six. Few hours later, we're still sitting on the sidewalk and Ian's head is burning up. He's hysterical. I don't know what to do. So I ran down the street, Lip under one arm, Ian under the other, trying to flag down help. It would have been easier scoring crack than a ride to the clinic. I finally made it on foot. They said Ian had a fever of 104. Another couple hours later, who knows. I didn't find Frank until a couple days later. First thing he asked me, was how much money I had on me. Wish I could say that was the only time, but it was just the first. My mother is bipolar and my father is an alcoholic and an addict. He takes what he pleases and he offers nothing. No money, no support. I've done what I could to help raise my siblings. I wish I could've done more. I'm not asking for your pity or your admiration. I just want to be able to give these kids everything that they deserve because they're great kids. And they deserve better."

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Or, more succinctly...

Based on the British series of the same name, Shameless revolves around the Chicago-based Gallagher family: a clan of poverty-struck misfits constantly finding themselves engaged in rowdy, shameless behavior, usually against their better efforts — or because of them.

Much like their Manchester counterparts, the Chicago-based Gallagher family depicted here consists of:

Among the Loads and Loads of Characters seen on this show, other notable ones include:

Debuting on Showtime in 2011, this version of the show is largely a successful Cultural Translation of the original, maintaining its sense of Gallows Humor dramedy while still changing enough of the concept for American audiences to resonate with. The ninth season premiered in Fall 2018. Also boasts a handful of Emmy nominations on its mantel (ironically, none for Emmy Rossum), as well as three Screen Actors Guild wins for William H. Macy's performance as Frank.

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Shameless provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: All over the place.
    • Frank's mother.
    • Frank - his general neglect, including headbutting Ian. He's getting worse as the series progresses.
    • Both of them pale in comparison to Mickey and Mandy Milkovich's father Terry, who raped and impregnated Mandy in season 2. In season 3, after walking in on Mickey and Ian having sex, he gives both boys a severe beating and he forces Mickey to have sex with a prostitute in front of Ian at gunpoint.
    • Debbie's temporary foster guardian when the kids are split up by Child Protective Services in Season 3. She runs a sweatshop where she forces the foster children in her care to make jewelry to sell, and "sees all". No wonder Debbie superglues her eyes shut for all the horrible things she and the other kids there went through.
  • Accidental Murder: Mickey and Debbie's plan to get revenge on Sammi for ratting on Ian by spiking her drink and torturing her ends in this. Or so they think...
  • Advertised Extra: Liam Gallagher is always present in advertisements because he is a member of the Gallagher family, but he does not have a role outside being a toddler.
  • Adult Fear: As the show is Harmful to Minors, this tends to crop up often. Debbie kidnapping a toddler, Liam accidentally ingesting cocaine, Ian abducting an infant during a manic episode...
    • Bianca finding out that she has stage III pancreatic cancer (with a 2% survival rate) at a young age, lamenting that she spent most of her life studying and working hard only for it all to go to waste.
  • The Alcoholic: Frank Gallagher. Lip also seems to be following this route during season 2. Like father, like son.
  • Alliterative Name: Mandy and Mickey Milkovich, Casey Casden, Holly Herkimer. Sammi Slott. Oddly averted with all of the Gallaghers.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Fiona gives one to Gus in "Uncle Carl" to beg him to stay instead of going on tour without her. It doesn't work, and their marriage doesn't last much longer.
  • Anything That Moves: Lloyd, the father of Jimmy/Steve.
    • Frank also, to some extent. Though mostly out of necessity.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Happens to Lip from Karen in Season 2 Episode 6 "Can I Have A Mother".
    • Happens to Lip from Amanda in Season 5.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Mickey Milkovich. As of the end of Season 4, he's out of the closet.
  • Artistic License: Generally, if you show up with a bag of money and buy back your foreclosed house from the bank, there will be questions.
  • Artistic Title: The opening (which chronicles a day in the Gallagher's bathroom) really does nail the tone of the show.
  • Ass Shove: Frank's nickname down in Mexico was El Gran Canon because he was a drug mule who smuggled a lot of drugs into the US.
  • Ax-Crazy: Carl.
    • Mandy. Her response to Lip having sex with a female pedophile is to get two of her brothers to start digging a grave in the woman's yard and tell the woman to leave before they finish, or else she's going in it. (Lip was pretending to be younger as part of a self-directed "sting operation"). And her response to Lip having sex with Karen (and Karen's blatant manipulation of Lip) is to run Karen over with a car.
  • The Baby Trap: Svetlana becomes pregnant after Terry forced Mickey to have sex with her (although more than one person has questioned whether Mickey actually is the father or not), and thus they have to get married. Later on, near the end of Season 5, Debbie tries to invoke this with her boyfriend to make a new family for herself and it completely blows up in her face.
  • The Beard: Mandy for Ian during the early seasons. Svetlana for Mickey, although Svetlana was a Honey Trap and partly enforced by Terry to cure his son of being gay.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: In the Gallagher family, it's a pretty straight example with the virtuous Fiona being contrasted with the scumbag Frank and in the Milkovich family, with Mickey and Mandy being terrorized by Terry, a balding, fat, tatted up gangster. On the other hand, every character is attractive, even monsters like Karen.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Fiona had to choose between bad boy car thief Steve and nice guy police officer Tony. For some time, she chose neither but chose Jimmy/Steve at the end of Season 2.
    • Lip also had Karen and Mandy in the later half of Season 3, who play with this in their own ways. In "Frank The Plumber", he tells Karen he chooses Mandy because Mandy is good for him and Karen is not, officially breaking up with Karen. In the next scene of the same episode, Mandy hits Karen with her car and leaves her for dead. He abandons both in Season 4.
    • Amanda from Season 5-6 replaces Karen. Amanda comes from money, is haughty, shows Lip how to dress in dapper clothes, and puts fine accessories on him. Mandy grew up in the same messed up neighborhood as Lip and shares his hobbies, including committing petty crimes.
    • In Season 4, Fiona has her Nice Guy boss Mike and his exciting bad boy brother Robbie.
      • As of Season 5, she has her husband Gus and the now-returning Jimmy/Steve. Until Jimmy/Steve left and Gus went on tour with his band, leaving her to think about her life while being attracted to her new boss, Sean.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When two older girls at the pool are mean to Debbie, she fills two bags of sand to weigh herself down, then jumps on one of the girls when she's in the pool and holds her under, nearly drowning her. You do not fuck with the Gallaghers, even the sweet little ones.
  • Big "NO!": Frank has one of these in Episode 11 of the first season.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Almost all of Estefania's lines are in unsubtitled Portuguese.
  • Bi the Way: Svetlana.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The penultimate episode of Season 2, "Just as the Pilgrims Intended". A suicidal Monica is institutionalized, leaving a numb Frank to sit down and keel over on a curb in the middle of the night. At the birth of Karen's baby, Lip is heartbroken when he realizes that the baby isn't his, and the adoptive parents leave when they find out that the child was born with Down Syndrome. Karen wants nothing more to do with "it," but Sheila loves the baby from the moment she sees him, and the episode ends with her and Jody stealing the baby and riding off, whooping and victorious, into the night.
  • Black Best Friend: Veronica.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Sheila raping Frank with a dildo in the second episode. It is the show's general treatment of their sex life.
  • Blatant Lies: Everything Debbie tells the police after she returns the little boy she kidnapped. However, the Gallagher family seems to run on this a lot, especially Lip.
  • Blood Knight: The Gallaghers are often accused of "being addicted to chaos". Fiona has a tendency to make a mess of her life as soon as things seem to go well for her. Lip is often on the verge of throwing his future away because of the criminal stunts he pulls. Ian is confirmed to have bipolar disorder and his manic episodes are more and more destructive. Carl is a little psycho who likes to fight and start fires. When disaster strikes, the family pulls together and everybody seem to be at the top of their game. When things become calm and routine, the Gallaghers get bored and start looking for a new conflict to jump in headfirst.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Ethel, due to being raised in a cult. She's sort of a fundamentalist Christian and is very prim and proper, but is totally okay with adults having sex with underage girls (she is 13 years old and has a child), growing pot, and taking money from a purse left on the L train. The last two are probably because she lives with Kevin and Veronica and near the Gallaghers.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: V and Kev briefly separate in the middle of Season 5. V starts regretting the separation when her mother and friends remind her of how good a partner Kev is and that it's rare to get a present and supportive father in the hood. Kev regrets the separation when a bunch of male college students remind him of how hot and sexually capable V is.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Karen Jackson after her fall-out with her father.
    • Mandy Milkovich, thanks to her all around cruddy life and a father that would make Frank look like the Dad of the Year by comparison.
  • Brutal Honesty: Neil, though it's justified cause of brain damage.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Happens frequently throughout. The first notable example is when Fiona yelled at their mother Monica for trying to take Liam away from them. Lip and Fiona are prone to doing this frequently to Frank, being the complete Abusive Parent he is. Frank does this to his own mother in Season 2's "Can I Have A Mother", when he yelled at her because he was sick of the way she was treating him. She did not care.
  • Canada, Eh?: In Season 1, after his usual drinking session, Frank wakes up the next morning in Toronto. The scene features a gratuitous use of a Mounty on a horse wearing full ceremonial uniform in downtown Toronto. Later, in Season 8, Frank goes through a brief arc where he opens a business buying cheap medicine from Canadian pharmacies for Southside customers along with a little human smuggling.
  • Cerebus Call Back: In the first episode, Fiona and Steve start to have sex in the kitchen, but have to stop when an inebriated Frank is dragged in. During his return in "Crazy Love", they start to have sex again in the same location, but it's less sexy than it is sad, and Fiona herself ends it abruptly after she can't stop sobbing.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Earlier seasons of the show had some dramatic moments, but it was definitely still a comedy. Season 3 started a turn toward Darker and Edgier material, becoming more of a dramedy and sometimes just a full-blown drama with a few funny moments scattered in.
  • Characterization Marches On: Mandy was originally portrayed as a Perky Goth, but from the second season onward, she became more of a calm Broken Bird, yet still angry, who ends up being a Sugar-and-Ice Personality.
  • Citizenship Marriage:
    • Between Jimmy and Estefania, a Brazilian drug lord's daughter. Jimmy was forced into it.
    • Between V and Svetlana in Season 6, though Season 7 finds that it was invalid due to her already being married — to a man she knew before Mickey!
  • Cliffhanger: Every season except for Season 7 ends on one.
  • Coitus Ensues: Virtually every episode has at least one sex scene.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Implied by Jimmy/Steve, when talking about Estefania's father.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: A common occurrence for many of the Gallaghers, particularly Frank.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Frank quits drinking, he becomes a great dad to Debbie and Carl. Lip warns them he won't always be like this by relating their situation to a pet turtle the kids forgot about and accidentally killed. Carl believes Frank is buying them a new turtle.
    • In Season 5 when Carl gets arrested for drug trafficking, Fiona tells him to lie about feeling remorse in court. Carl protests lying in court is illegal... even though the ten pounds of heroin got him there in the first place.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A lot of the show's Dark Comedy is derived from highly unlikely events happening to the characters.
    • Shelia has almost conquered her agoraphobia when a wheel falls of a plane and lands right in front of her.
    • Carl wants an air-rifle and coincidentally a criminal tosses a machine pistol out of a car and it lands in front of Carl. Carl uses it to kill a bald eagle.
    • Ian spends the night with some random older guy he met at a nightclub. Who turns out to be Jimmy/Steve's father.
  • Couch Gag: Every episode opens with a character (usually Frank, occasionally Fiona or Lip), often in the middle of a Noodle Incident, Breaking the Fourth Wall to contemptuously tell the audience "This is what happened on Shameless last week," before shifting into the Previously On segment.
    • It has also doubled as foreshadowing once or twice: a Season 4 episode begins with Debbie and Lip on a staircase, with Debbie demanding to go home and this is the place where Ian has been hiding away all season. Another has Svetlana interrupting Mickey's bathroom time to give us the usual spiel and Mandy later does the same to Mickey, demanding that he finds Ian and send him back home.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 3 is darker than the previous seasons, including a sub-plot with Estefania's brutal Cartel Faux Affably Evil father coming to America, Frank becoming even worse, and Jimmy being forced to find a job by Estefania's father's right hand.
    • Season 4 is even darker than this, with Frank becoming terminally ill and needing a liver transplant, Liam almost dying after eating cocaine Fiona left out on the table, and Fiona becoming a convicted felon.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Occurs twice in the Season 4 premiere episode.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Carl gets his own day in the limelight when he goes to cancer camp, as part of another one of Frank's schemes. Carl's time there goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • Dead Man's Chest: When Aunt Ginger died (before the start of the series), Frank buried her in the backyard, and began collecting and cashing her Social Security checks years after. However, in Season 3 when the city has to dig up the yard to fix the water pipes, the kids have to dig up Ginger's body before the city does or they face charges.
  • Deer in the Headlights: The older siblings' reactions to seeing a CPS worker in the house. She comes in to find a dozen screaming kids and a man in scrubs pulling bullet fragments out of the ass of a screaming teenage boy. Then Fiona comes in looking visibly filthy. This is bad enough on its own, then Debbie seals the deal by bursting into the house crowing about how she nearly drowned that "slut" at the public pool.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Though he was never quite able to be the Knight in Shining Armor that he tried/wanted to be, Jimmy/Steve's reappearance in Season 5 as a full-blown Jerk Ass received some complaints that he was only written that way to force Fiona to end their relationship for good and push her to explore other love interests.
    • Considering that Mickey/Ian is one of the most popular ships of the show, a lot of fans weren't happy that Mickey was painted as the bad guy in the breakup when he was genuinely trying to be the good guy, whereas Ian's culpability was mostly ignored. This was rectified somewhat during his return near the end of Season 7.
  • Destination Defenestration: "The Defenestration of Frank" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Frank's homeless shelter finds his stash of money and promptly throw him out the window.
  • Deus ex Machina: Lip abruptly getting an offer from a stranger to pay his remaining tuition after he's unable to get his grant paperwork in on time. He even says as much to Amanda.
    • After spending most of Season 4 dying and seemingly having no hope, Frank abruptly gets a new liver in the penultimate episode.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The "Fuck You Fiona" song.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: The "wifely duties" are handwaved as a release of tension, not gay sex.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male:
    • The first time Sheila and Frank have sex, he tells her repeatedly to stop, then ends up limping for the rest of the day because she shoved a big dildo up his ass, which is supposed to be hilarious.
    • The show's treatment of Karen raping Frank. It even comes back in Season 2's "Father's Day", when Sheila had found out and consoled Frank after Karen told the "truth" to a detective who was looking into Eddie's death and found the video of Karen and Frank online, wanting to arrest him for having sex with a minor.
    • Jimmy and his wife Estefania. She puts his hand under her dress, despite his repeated objections. When her father's dragon scolds him for cheating on Fiona, he insists he never moved his hand while it was underneath. The dragon doesn't care and continues to act as if Jimmy's a cheating jerk rather than a person who was just sexually assaulted.
    • When Mickey's father comes in and sees Mickey and Ian having sex, he beats them up and forces Mickey to have sex with a Russian hooker under threat he will literally shoot him and Ian. The next day, both Ian and Mickey are shell-shocked. Played straight because nobody subsequently treats it as rape, even though Mickey is forced to marry the prostitute, Svetlana, when she becomes pregnant. In a bit of surprising hypocrisy, Mandy is even angry with Mickey when he doesn't want to go be with Svetlana when she gives birth, and he points out he doesn't even really know if the child is his.
    • Happens again with Lip and Mandy, after he had learned she had run Karen down and crippled her. He objects and Mandy doesn't listen because they hadn't done it in a week.
    • When Lip, Ian, and Mickey discover a female pedophile has moved into the neighborhood, Lip wants to drive her out of town. Ian defends her because he thinks Carl would be "lucky" to be targeted for sex by an adult woman, whereas a man of the same age going after Debbie would be "different." It's ultimately averted here when Mandy helps Lip get rid of the woman.
    • In Season 5, Debbie loses her virginity this way. An older male friend of hers, who she has a crush on, gets drunk and passes out. She notices he has an erection and has sex with him. The next morning he is disturbed by what happened and cuts off contact with her, which baffles and upsets her, and Lip even says that a guy would be lucky to be raped by her.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: In "I'm The Liver", Mandy, Ian, and Mickey plan to drug and rape the leader of a Westboro Baptist Church-esque cult, taking and posting compromising pictures of men giving him oral sex in order to discredit him. They end up getting compromising pictures of him while he's conscious, and although the guy was a sleazy scumbag, it's portrayed as perfectly okay because they're the good guys.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Season 3's "Frank The Plumber" hits a downer note. Mickey and Ian break up, and Karen is run over by Mandy (who was intending to kill her).
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Eddie killing himself in the Season 1 finale.
    • Monica trying to do the same at the end of Season 2. Her attempt is unsuccessful.
  • Dumb Blonde: Monica, Jasmine, Holly Hickemer. Averted with Bianca, who is book smart, but as a result of the knowledge of her impending death displays some bizarre behavior regardless.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Peggy Gallagher genuinely cared about her children and grandchildren. Except for Frank.
    • Even when Sammi goes off the deep end in Season 5, she still loves Chuckie, even if her means of showing it can be... unique at times.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: So much so that Debbie feels like she's a late bloomer for not having lost her virginity by thirteen; Mandy even asks her what took her so long. Deconstructed, as teen pregnancies (and unplanned pregnancies in general) are a real concern, and promiscuity doesn't make every character happy.
  • Evolving Credits: In the third season after Karen leaves, the portion in the intro sequence featuring her and Lip is cut in favor of Lip and Ian rough housing.
  • Expy: Amy Smart is basically playing the same character she plays in Crank Up to Eleven.
  • Faking the Dead: Frank.
  • False Rape Accusation: After cousin Patrick outwits the Gallaghers to get the house, Debbie claims that he molested her to force him to give them the house back.
  • Fanservice: Fiona, big time. And there has to be some reason Ian is shirtless all the time. Lip, Steve, Kevin, Veronica, Mandy, and Estefania are major sources of this too. And Jody, who appears fully nude on some occasions.
  • Fille Fatale: Karen is stated to have first started experimenting around sexually when she was just 11 years old and Mandy is implied to have started around the same time, as is evidenced when she asks why Debbie (who was 13 at the time) why she waited so long to lose her virginity. Holly Hickemer thinks she's this but she's still too young to actually be sexual.
  • Foreshadowing: In one episode, a grocery checkout clerk goes berserk because Debbie was insisting on using multiple coupons, all while the manager keeps telling her to go on her break. The next episode reveals these "breaks" are when the manager is expecting to get blowjobs.
    • In the first episode of the show, Ian says that Frank hates him, and Fiona says that Ian probably scares him because he looks more like Monica than the rest of the children; Ian replies that "he ain't seen nothing yet." Ian later develops bipolar disease, which Monica has, and his behavior has clear parallels with Monica's.
    • In Season 4, Lip stating that alcoholism is the nature part of nature vs. nurture (which is somewhat Truth in Television). He himself goes off the deep end in a massive alcoholic downward spiral later on.
  • Funny Background Event: In Season 5's "Carl's First Sentencing", Frank takes Doctor Bianca Samson to her first drug buy. Everything goes smooth until she decides to yell, "Hands up! I'm a cop! You're under arrest!" The drug dealer isn't amused and Frank smooths things over quickly, but as the camera pans between them, you can see all the other dealers in the alley running out of there.
  • Generation Xerox: Fiona and Lip have more than a few similarities to their dear old dad, particularly in the selfishness department. Fiona slept with a married man even though she knew she would regret it. Lip especially showed signs when he tried to break Karen and Jody up by sending Mandy to their house so Mandy would sleep with Jody. This trope is even lampshaded in "A Beautiful Mess."
    Frank: Why do you have to be such an asshole?
    Lip: The apple fell where you left it.
    • In Season 4, Ian begins to show signs of bipolar disorder, just like Monica, which is confirmed in the next season.
  • Genki Girl: Though she may be a a bit older than most examples, Sheila Jackson when she's not in a rough patch.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Kevin usually grows a few marijuana plants in the basement, mostly for his own consumption. In Season 2, he has a great growing season and ends up with a basement full of high quality weed worth thousands of dollars. However, if caught, he would face some serious prison time for trafficking. Veronica makes him destroy most of it
    • At the midpoint of the season, Kevin reveals he didn't destroy all of the weed but buried it; Ethel and Malik later dig up the buried weed and sell it to leave town together.
    • Since Shelia is a dominatrix with a pegging fetish and Jody is a recovering sex addict who can only have sex for romantic purposes in missionary style without losing control, Shelia grows bored with her and Jody's sex life. Shelia enlists Frank's help in convincing Jody to be more adventurous in bed. Jody warns them both if he starts, he won't be able to stop, and they won't like what happens. Eventually they wear him down, and it takes all of a week for his fetishes to blow past Shelia's comfort zone.
  • Harmful to Minors: Everything and everyone on the show. Even the somewhat conscientious Fiona accidentally leaves cocaine where Liam can get to it! These kids see more harmful stuff than many small town cops would! Extends all the way down to Mickey's newborn son, who was being raised by prostitutes.
  • Has a Type: Ned, as lampshaded by Lip in Season 4's "There's the Rub".
  • Hollywood Law: After Fiona gets slapped with a 6 million dollar lawsuit from a roofer who broke his leg falling from the roof of her building, her lawyer advises her that this basically means financial ruin and her only chance to escape is to sell the building, spend the money and declare bankruptcy. Suffice to say, this is terrible legal advice and realistically the roofer could never have hoped to sue her for even a fraction of that amount.
  • Hope Spot: Sammi and Sheila apparently secure Frank a badly-needed new liver (illegally) near the end of Season 4 at the steep cost of $20,000, but later find out that not only did he not get a new liver, they actually stole one of his kidneys. Though the last seconds of the episode have him getting fast-tracked into receiving a new liver.
  • Insurance Fraud: Frank is supposed to have a car torched for the insurance money but stops for a drink first and it is stolen instead. Since the car was not insured against theft, he owed some gangsters a lot of money... until he faked his death.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing : Karen's attitude towards her Down Syndrome afflicted son.
    "I don't want that fucking thing anywhere near me, okay?"
  • It's All About Me: Frank and his mother. Also Karen got into this territory.
  • Jerkass: Frank. As of Season 2, Lip starts taking a few levels up in this, but he does get better by Season 4.
    • Karen increasingly becomes this after her fallout with her father.
    • Monica's girlfriend Bob is rude, psychopathic (she tries to run down Frank and Kev with her 18-wheeler), and basically announces she's going to take Liam because he needs to be raised by a black person.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Absolutely awful as Frank is to ruin Fiona's wedding to Sean, the single bright spot is that it allowed her to learn of his relapse, and though Sean leaves Fiona, his weak and remorseless attempts to minimize his continued doping prove that Fiona's trust in his promise of going sober were unfounded, and regardless, his priority was always his son over Fiona. Not to mention that, as crude and horrible as his calling out of his own children's flaws is, he's completely correct.
  • Karma Houdini: Frank. One moment he's in deep trouble, then the next he's off the hook somehow. Actually getting a liver transplant near the end of Season 4 was widely criticized for being an unbelievable Deus ex Machina.
    • The event in the spoiler is an especially egregious case of this trope considering it wasn't too long ago that he cheated someone else out of getting the organ transplant they needed, and then literally shagged them to death.
  • Kuudere: Mandy. The only people who ever see her soft side are Lip and Ian.
  • Last-Name Basis: Mickey always referred to Ian as "Gallagher" for much of the first three seasons. Eventually he starts using his first name as their relationship develops.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Karen and Mandy both end up pregnant as teens when they have no interest in being parents, but Veronica wants to have a baby and can't get pregnant. Reality Ensues: In Season 3, Veronica tells Kevin the STD she got from a rapper when she was a teenager is likely the culprit behind her infertility (most likely chlamydia, which doesn't present symptoms in women until several weeks later. By that time, significant damage to the reproductive system has been done).
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: Liam turns out to be Frank's son even though everyone assumed he was not. Similarly, Lip hoped he was not Frank's son but turned out to be his. However, Ian is not actually Frank's son, but his nephew. Likewise, Lip wanted badly to be the father of Karen's baby, despite Karen explicitly stating at least twice it may not be his. He continues being involved with Karen's pregnancy, even going so far to help her look for potential parents to adopt her baby after it is born, and making a videotape for the parents to give it when it's older. However, when Karen gives birth, he realizes it is not his when the baby turns out to be part-Asian. In Season 3, Mickey winds up getting the hooker his father forced him to have sex with pregnant. This leads to a forced marriage organized by his abusive father and destroys his relationship with Ian.
  • Little Brother Is Watching: Ian and Lip make their little brother Carl wear earmuffs at night so they can talk about various illegal activities openly. However, Carl is naturally more sociopathic than either of his older brothers.
    • Ian has trouble during one of his "anytime blowjobs" from Mickey. Not the least reason is Liam watching from the corner.
  • Mafia Princess: Estefania, as her father is a high ranking Cartel leader.
  • Man on Fire: In Season 6, Kevin's neighbor Yanis burns himself to death with Molotov cocktails by accident after learning it was Kevin who's responsible for him being paralyzed.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Veronica thinks Kevin is cheating on her with another woman and follows him to her apartment. After Kevin leaves, she confronts the woman but realizes the woman is just teaching Kevin to read.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: When Eddie is found dead, people assume Frank did it.
  • Mood Whiplash: Heavily used. One moment the show is dramatic, then the next moment something funny happens.
  • Morality Pet: Sheila could be seen as one to Frank and Karen.
    • Debbie used to be one for Frank.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jimmy/Steve, Lip, Jody, Kev, Ian, and Mickey.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Fiona, Karen, Veronica, Mandy, Estefania, Sierra, and Svetlana.
  • Never Learned to Read: Kevin has severe dyslexia and since he spent his childhood being shuffled from foster home to foster home, it was never treated. He can read enough to get by in his job as a bartender but has problems with more complicated writing. He's been attending special tutoring sessions so he can finally learn to read and write properly.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Frank's mother Peggy Gallagher.
  • Nice Guy: Jody does not seem to have a selfish bone in his body. He puts up with Karen's tantrums and her rampant cheating. He takes care of a sick Peggy Gallagher even though she threatened him with a gun during his wedding. He wants to take care of Karen's baby even after Karen dumps him and it is clear the baby is not his. However, by the end of Season 2, even he cannot be nice to Karen anymore.
  • Official Couple: Subverted with Fiona and Steve/Jimmy. Though the very first episode points to them being a sure thing, and their UK counterparts are married, the US versions end up breaking it off for good in Season 5.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Subverted. Ian returns in Season 4 abnormally full of energy, talkative, and bubbly, which surprises his family, but due to a slew of other pressing matters, they don't think much of it until his mood turns the other way and confirms his bipolar disorder.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Ian in Season 2, especially in comparison to the rest of the Gallaghers.
    • Carl, in general, compared to the other Gallaghers until Season 4 or 5. He would usually show up to cause antics for a "CARL!" and rarely get a storyline.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • Shelia and Jody, after Karen ends her relationship with Jody and Frank goes back to Monica.
    • Lip and Mandy, at the end of Season 2.
  • Parental Abandonment: Monica Gallagher left her husband and six children almost two years prior to the start of the series. Frank stuck around but has been completely useless most of the time. When he actually moves out, it makes things easier for the kids.
  • Parental Incest : Played with, when Frank tracks down his oldest daughter and tries to get her to give him her liver in Season 4.
    Sammi: You dry-humped my leg for half an hour yesterday.
    • Played straight with Terry Milkovich, who drunkenly molested his daughter, Mandy, and impregnated her.
  • Parental Neglect: Frank, obviously. In one episode, he even gives a speech with a Family-Unfriendly Aesop claiming that being negligent is the best way to raise independent kids.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Frank gets his money by abusing the worker compensation system but he spends it all on alcohol and paying for the damage he causes while drunk. As Lip points out they could easily pay their bills with that money. Instead Fiona, Lip, and Ian have to work and steal enough to cover the bills and pay for food. Whenever the kids manage to save up money for the future, Frank finds it, steals it, and spends it on alcohol or drugs.
  • Primal Scene: When Frank and Monica briefly get back together, they had sex with little regard for who would see. Including their kids, who are appropriately disgusted.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Seen most starkly in "When There's a Will", when cousin Patrick takes the house and outwits the Gallaghers at nearly every turn. To try to get it back, they order a hit on him, Carl poisons him to try and kill him, and then they only manage to get it back after Debbie claims Patrick molested her. Though they were desperate to not be homeless, this is still some pretty dark behavior that is mostly Played for Laughs, in contrast to Frank's comparable manipulations that are usually designed to show how horrible he is.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Ethel, Malik, and their children. They literally did leave on a bus.
    • Karen leaves the Jackson household at the end of Season 2, and comes back mid-way Season 3, apparently reformed. Then, at the end of Season 3, she once again leaves, though this time with Hymie and Jody, as Jody is taking her to Arizona where he knows people who he believes can try and heal her brain damage. Sheila herself leaves during Season 5.
    • At the end of Season 3, Ian leaves on a bus after stealing Lip's identity and joins the army. The Bus Came Back shortly in season 4.
    • At the end of Season 5, Mickey is arrested for trying to kill Sammi. In the first episode of Season 6, he is serving a lengthy jail sentence for said crime. The Bus Came Back near the end of Season 7.
    • Mandy and abusive boyfriend Kenyatta leave for Indiana during season 5, and Mandy returns on her own in season 6.
    • Carl leaves for military school about halfway through the season and only returns for the finale, whilst Mickey returns towards the end but leaves again in the penultimate episode.
  • Promotion to Parent: Fiona, without a doubt. It gets heavier when she is legally promoted legal guardian to her siblings in Season 3's "A Long Way From Home".
  • Rage Against the Heavens : Frank, in the Season 4 finale.
    "Is that all you got? I'm still alive, motherfucker!"
  • Rape by Proxy: In Season 3, Terry catches Mickey and Ian having sex. He then forces Mickey at gunpoint to have sex with a Russian prostitute while Ian watches.
  • Really Gets Around: Karen, Lip, and Fiona.
  • Reality Ensues: When child protective services obtain the kids after a drunken Frank called them. Fiona basically does her damnedest in getting her siblings back.
    • Lip breaks things off with Amanda while sleeping with Professor Helene. Amanda gets her revenge by exposing the affair, which derails the professor's whole career and Lip's academic prospects are in jeopardy.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • When Karen calls the cops because Sheila and Jody took the baby from the hospital, the officers who arrive listen to the story, realize what a jerkass Karen is and then decide the baby is going to be much better off with his loving grandmother than being left in the hospital and ultimately ending up in the foster care system. They refuse to arrest Sheila, ignore Karen's protests, and decide to go get some Thai food.
    • The judge presiding over the legal guardianship hearing quickly recognized Frank's lies and concluded the children would be much better off with Fiona as their legal guardian. His main concern is the strain of assuming guardianship might be too much for Fiona, who would be committed to spending the next 15 years of her life taking care of the kids.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Season 7 has Lip go before the board in college to see if his expulsion can be revoked. Even though he's sobered up and brought Ian as a character witness, the expulsion stands. That starts him on an alcoholic binge.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Might as well be the show's subtitle.
    Debbie: (to Frank) What's that?
    Frank: Valium. (pops a pill into Hymie's mouth)
    Debbie: Are you supposed to give babies Valium?
    Frank: I don't know. It worked for you.
  • Retcon: Fiona is brought into a diner by her PO at the end of season 4 ("Lazarus") to get a waitressing gig. She's welcomed with open arms by the manager Charlie (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and they both go to an NA meeting. Season 5 starts with Fiona still waitressing and going to NA meetings with her manager, but the restaurant is now Patsy's Pies and the manager is now Sean (Dermot Mulroney). Dialogue between him and Fiona confirms that she's been working at Patsy's since she got out of jail, and her fellow waitress Jackie appears in both seasons.
  • Revenge by Proxy: After Carl (and Frank) get Chuckie arrested, Sammi gets Ian arrested as revenge.
  • Running Gag: Someone shouting "CARL!!!" at one of his antics.
  • Russian Roulette: The Gallaghers feel cursed that because they're Monica's children, they'll never know if they or their children will get bipolar disorder, which Ian is confirmed to have in season 5.
    • In the Season 5 finale, Frank's girlfriend Bianca plays this with herself for the rush.
  • Sadist Teacher: Lip has a sadist professor at the start of Season 4, complete with him locking Lip out of a midterm because Lip was just a few minutes late.note 
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Season 7 introduces Etta, the manager of Wendell's Laundromat. Fiona has to put her in assisted living due to Alzheimer's.
  • Scenery Porn: The final scene of Season 4 shows Frank and Carl overlooking the frozen Lake Michigan, one of the most gorgeous examples of cinematography from the show.
  • Sexless Marriage: Mickey and Svetlana, since he's gay and the one time they did actually have sex was a case of "corrective rape" orchestrated by Terry. Svetlana seems genuinely frustrated that Mickey just isn't into her, eventually reaching the point where she attempts to increase her allure to him by dyeing her hair red like Ian's and presenting herself to Mickey wearing a strap-on. They finally divorce by Season 5.
    • When Frank meets the parents of the young man who he got his new liver from, he finds out that they haven't had sex since the couple's son died, leading the wife to come on to Frank.
  • Sibling Rivalry: One begins between Lip and Ian in season 2; Lip has an inside for Ian to get into West Point, but his plan backfires, and Lip is the one who is offered recruitment instead. Ian becomes so furious he even refuses to speak to him. Not until a second No-Holds-Barred Beatdown won by Ian did get the two back on speaking terms.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: In Season 3, Fiona gets a low-paying job at a supermarket, and soon learns that most of her co-workers have been pressured into doing sexual acts for the boss, Bobby. When she gets them all together to talk about it and find a way to get rid of him, some of them actually defend it on the grounds of Better the Devil You Know.
    • Fiona in Season 4 with Mike and Seasons 5-6 with Sean.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: The end of Season 4 has Frank yelling at God that he failed to kill him this time, celebrating by having a drink at the waterfront.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Subverted. They definitely exist and pop up regularly. However, the sheer dysfunction of the Gallagher household should result in everyone being shipped out to foster care. Rationalized by the system being overextended, which is to some extent Truth in Television.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Frank's mother definitely. She didn't care at all about those two college kids who died in the meth lab explosion that got her jail time.
    • Karen increasingly became this as she Took a Level in Jerkass. Confirmed as of the penultimate episode of season 3. A brain-damaged Karen admits to Lip she can't "feel things inside".
    • Frank, of course.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Deadness: Jimmy/Steve had his fair share of runs through it at the end of season 3 and all of season 4.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ian insists Mickey loves and wants to be with him and Mickey doesn't deny this. However the obstacles outside their relationship: Mickey's homophobic father, a forced marriage, and Mickey's total inability to be out in the environment he was raised in is what drives them apart and nearly ends their relationship on several occasions.
  • Start My Own: Season 7 has Frank start up a new family from people he recruits from the homeless shelter he stays in after getting kicked out once again by his family.
  • Surprise Car Crash: It plays with this in season 3 (episode 9). Karen, Lip's on-again, off-again girlfriend, pisses off Mandy Milkovich, Lip's other interest. After a heated conversation, Karen walks home alone, and as she crosses the street a car veers very close to her and she has to leap out of the way. As it speeds off, she flips it the finger — only to be hit by another car coming from the other direction, driven by Mandy.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: After Ian points out Mickey is too afraid to kiss him.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The Gallaghers, especially with the reveal Ian is one of Frank's brother's sons.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Lip and Karen in season 2.
    • Debbie suffers from this when going through puberty in season 4, and again in season 6 and 7 as her teen pregnancy (and motherhood) has a tendency to bring out the worst in her.
  • The Unfair Sex: Veronica intentionally dry humping a stranger to orgasm is made to be Kevin's fault for his failure to fulfill her sexual needs while he's busy taking care of their children. Had the roles been reversed, a husband cheating on his homemaking wife because she's focusing on raising the children instead of having sex with him probably wouldn't go over as well.
    • Averted with Fiona, whose cheating (on Mike with Robbie and on Gus with Jimmy/Steve) almost always has negative consequences that she has to face and own up to.
  • The Un-Favourite: Frank Gallagher to his father Neville and his mother Peggy.
    • Though Frank treats all of his children with varying degrees of apathy, Ian seems to be his least favorite child, since he apparently resembles Monica the most (and later on, is revealed to actually be the son of Frank's brother).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Frank is not a nice person, but when horrible things happen to him, he starts to lose it.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Averted. When Sheila gives a Mercy Kill to Peggy, she finds herself struggling to actually kill her (especially when the latter's survival instincts kick in and she starts thrashing), and she has to sit on the pillow to get the job done.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: When Frank signs up for a medical study and has to stay sober for two weeks in order to get paid, he becomes much nicer. However, he also becomes hyperactive and his attention span starts getting shorter. This starts out as endearing, then becomes disruptive, and ends up as destructive. When he starts to break down walls with a sledgehammer and wants to cut a hole in the roof for a skylight, the kids have enough and knock him out with a stun gun and pour liquor into him. They don't actually want their abusive father back but know the money he'll make from staying sober will only lead to more blackouts, and they prefer to end this before he causes a disaster.
  • Wham Line: Season 5's episode "Rite of Passage" ends with a huge one;
    Fiona:note  Hey, you came back after all!
    Jimmy:note  I did.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kash abandons a pregnant and bedridden Linda during Season 2. Though this could have been usable plot material, after Ian quits working at the store, she's never mentioned again.
    • Season 6 also has Chuckie and Queenie Slott both at the hippie commune the last time we see them. They don't get an appearance or mention in season 7.
    • Season 9 has Ax-Crazy Kassidi disappearing in the season premiere. A cadet implies that he killed her, but she never appears again, dead or alive.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Emmy Rossum has a hard enough time concealing her native New York accent that her attempt at a Chicago accent can be... dicey at best. Though a few other characters (who are ostensibly Chicago natives) are Not Even Bothering with the Accent. Cameron Monaghan also uses a bizarre accent in later seasons.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: "White Swallow" and "Fairy Tail", the gay bars where Ian works, are a step up for people used to the Alibi.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Molly was raised as a girl with a "girl penis", and clearly thinks of herself as a girl. However, everyone else tends to think of her more as this trope.
  • Who's Your Daddy?:
    • Monica Gallagher did a lot of drugs while married to Frank and does not really remember what she did during those times. There is a fair chance some of her kids might not be Frank's. Turns out Lip and Liam are Frank's sons but Ian is actually the son of one of Frank's brothers.
    • Then played with for Karen's child, as it could be Lip's or someone else's. Though in her own words, it's Jody's because real dads are overrated.
      • It turns out neither Lip nor Jody is the father of her baby, but rather an Asian guy Karen was having sex with on the side.
    • Svetlana's son Yevgeny. Given she is a prostitute, it is as yet unclear whether or not Mickey is actually his father.
  • Yandere: Kassidi, Carl's love interest in Season 8. Hoo boy...
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