Tag Archives: Fiona

Cultural Interview: Shameless executive producer Nancy M. Pimental

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Shameless (Season 7) – Photo: SHOWTIME

When Showtime’s Shameless returned last week (which I continue to cover for The A.V. Club), it was months earlier than normal, the second season to air this calendar year. It meant a lot of Shameless in a short period, which reinforced that Shameless has quickly become one of Showtime’s longest-running hour-long series, now entering its seventh season

I had the chance to speak with Shameless executive producer Nancy M. Pimental, who’s been with the show since its first season, earlier this summer, and was mostly interested in how the show is looking to age into its final seasons, however many they may be. The conversation starts with a moment from last season that, for me, could have easily been a part of a theoretical series finale, and moves from there to cover topics related to upcoming character arcs, keeping storylines fresh after seven seasons, and how much they’ve thought about where they want each character to end up when the parties involved decide there’s been enough shamelessness for one lifetime.

Cultural Learnings: In the middle of last season, Fiona walked into the empty Gallagher house after it was auctioned out from under them, and my first thought was that this could have been the very last scene of the series.

Nancy M. Pimental: Really?

Yeah, the house has seemed so crucial to the show, and so the idea of it being a symbol of the end made a lot of sense to me—of course, then they ended up getting the house back, and the storytelling reverted to the status quo, but did you ever think of it as carrying the weight of finality at all?

Wow, no, but that’s interesting. I like seeing things through other people’s eyes, how it landed on them. We did not think it was final—what we wanted to show was just the kind of reality of living where they live, and how everything is a juggling act. So, you’re getting one ball in the air and paying one bill, and then something else ends up creeping up on you. Living in that socioeconomic environment you’re not planning for the future or anything—if anything we were just trying to show reality, as opposed to closure.

Was there any point where you considered abandoning the house, or is the standing set element of it too substantial?

Yeah, I think it’s too substantial. As writers we explore every option—“Oh, would it be interesting if everybody moves into the Milkovich house,” or “What if everybody splits up and goes to live with their respective partners?” I think we definitely explore every idea.

The season did end up playing with that latter idea, dividing up the characters while the house was in jeopardy. It actually made me wonder if you might go through with it, but eventually you did bring everyone back to the house.

You know, the truth is it’s such a fine line, as just practically and realistically as people get older they move away from their houses. I have friends who have kids that are that 16 and 17, and they’re never around anymore, and I think it’s natural and normal. And so we want to tell the truth, but sometimes it’s not great for storytelling, because you do want to see a family unit conquering or overcoming some obstacle.

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Season Finale: Shameless – “Father Frank, Full of Grace”

“Father Frank, Full of Grace”

March 27th, 2011

By the conclusion of its first season, I would argue that Showtime’s Shameless found something of an identity independent of its British predecessor. This is not to say that the show is better or worse, something I can’t judge given that I’ve seen only brief glimpses of the British series, but I felt as though the first season seemed driven by characters more than versions of characters. Between the work of Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White, Cameron Monaghan and Emma Kenney, the Gallagher siblings feel as though they (if not necessarily the world they inhabit) are real people who I want to see face the challenges that result from their position. Their story never felt like we were seeing someone else’s story transposed onto these characters, as each performer seemed to be driving the characterization as much as any sort of influence from across the pond.

That is a testament to the strength of the cast, and the writers for working with them, but it is only one component of the series’ future. The other side, the part where we consider the world that John Wells and Paul Abbott have created in Shameless’ Chicago, seems problematic as the show heads into an extended hiatus before a second season. “Father Frank, Full of Grace” has some strong moments, but it has already put into motion an enormously problematic return to the status quo which threatens to undermine whatever strong character work might be done.

Or, to put it in other words, it’s already threatening to be just like every other problematic Showtime series.

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Burn Notice – “Friendly Fire”

“Friendly Fire”

January 28th, 2010

Noel Kirkpatrick put together a post on “formula TV” over at Monsters of TV yesterday, and in highlighting Burn Notice he points out the following:

…each episode will also find Michael trying to get back into the CIA (originally to find out who burned him and why), often near the end of the episode or throughout the episode while trying to help the Client of the Week.

And while this is ostensibly true, it’s important to note that not all such efforts are built to the same standards: Carla was a distraction which forced Michael to multi-task, while the police detective at the start of the season was a nuisance that forced Michael to be more cautious. And while I thought Carla felt as if she created character-driven drama, in that Michael was distracted and perhaps too focused on returning to his position within the CIA (the same goes for Strickler, to some extent), Moon Bloodgood’s detective was just a barrier who made the show less interesting, a muzzle that kept Michael Westen from being Michael Westen.

It’s too early to judge Gilroy yet, but “Friendly Fire” is the ideal demonstration of how fun Burn Notice’s formula can be: a compelling story is made more explosive and more enjoyable by the presence of an external figure who is looking for a good show. And while it might not be as psychologically complex, it presents no barrier to the show being its fun, high-energy self, which makes it a story with quite a bit of potential.

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Burn Notice – “A Dark Road”

“A Dark Road”

January 21st, 2010

Did you remember what happened last year on Burn Notice? Because I didn’t. Luckily, the show offered a nice bit of catchup to remind us about the end of the Strickler arc, and even more importantly the show jumps onto its next story point with vigor so that what happened before is a nice bit of shading as opposed to something we have to remember.

“A Dark Road” is a really compelling hour of television in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot of fun: the show is at its best when we’re just sort of hanging out in this universe, and I thought that this was a really enjoyable re-entry into that world with both a strong episodic story and some nice hints at the newest initially unseen antagonist to enter Michael Westen’s life, plus the best material that Sharon Gless has been given all season.

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Summer Finale: Burn Notice – “Long Way Back”

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“Long Way Back”

August 6th, 2009

One of the downsides of USA Network’s season structure is that show operate in the form of shortened half-seasons, and that their quintissential summer series Burn Notice only airs half of its season during the summer. As a result, last night’s summer finale of Burn Notice feels slightly bittersweet, like saying goodbye just as the season was really picking up steam (which isn’t to say it really struggled early, but just the nature of momentum).

“Long Way Back” is an episode that is very blatant in its thematic content, picking up where we left off last week as Fiona prepares to head back to Ireland and in the process unlocks a firestorm of pent-up aggression in a certain collection of bloodthirsty hooligans, a new emotion or two for Michael, and a nice collection of events for us as viewers. In the end, the episode goes about where you’d expect it to, but in the vein of previous finales there are more than enough complications present for us to question the stability of the entire series by episode’s end.

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Burn Notice – “Fearless Leader”

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“Fearless Leader”

June 25th, 2009

While a strong second season and great episodes like “End Run” last week have created raised expectations for Burn Notice, the show remains a formulaic procedural at some level. The show is not formulaic in a negative way, necessarily, but it has its patterns and uses them to varying degrees of effectiveness. As it happens, the past season or so has been particularly strong, but the show is by no means blowing our collective mind week in and week out. So, when I say that “Fearless Leader” was a pretty typical episode of Burn Notice, this is to say both that it was enjoyable but also that it did nothing to really make me stand up and take notice.

The problem, however, is that to some degree it should have been one of those episodes, at least the way it was situated within the season-opening storyline with Moon Bloodgood’s Detective Paxson. Presented as a new obstacle for Michael now that law enforcement is no longer being kept off his back by the people who burned him, the police interest in him has seemed a legitimate threat even if there have been times where Bloodgood popping up at the beginning and end of each episode has felt shallow. It left me waiting for the episode where Michael’s mission would intersect directly with our newly arrived detective, thinking that would justify her presence as more than just a symbolic sign of Michael’s newly precarious position.

It’s ultimately this expectation, not some notion of every episode being like “End Run,” that makes me disappointed in this one, as Paxson remained a pretty uninteresting character and, more importantly, the story that ends up closing this chapter in the show’s run was not particularly connected to her or elevated in any way by her presence. The result is that it makes the show seem lazier and simpler than it really is, and it makes an otherwise solid episode into a bit of a letdown: as Michael says, you always need to have a plan, and it seems like the show’s plan was a little shortsighted.

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Burn Notice – “End Run”

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“End Run”

June 18th, 2009

It seems like every time I’m writing about Burn Notice, like in a quick catchup piece I put together ahead of the season premiere for Geeks of Doom, I’m talking about the progression of the show from its first season to where it stands today. Watching “End Run,” it’s clear that the writers are a fan of evoking this particular discourse, for this episode presents itself as a high stakes, no holds barred, greatest hits of what the first season used to do on a small scale, and what now feels more suspenseful, more entertaining, and simply more effective.

By bringing absent Nate (Michael’s brother) back into the picture, the show reminds us that there was a time when “annoyingly ignorant family members” was actually a trope that the show was relying on for some of its drama. Now, meanwhile, the show finds drama from a no hold barred arms dealer holding Michael hostage in order to utilize his skillset for an upcoming job, and from a police threat that shows no signs of going away anytime soon. There was a time when Michael was fighting against the people around him, whether it was Sam reporting to the FBI or his mother knowing nothing about his job and annoying him, but now everyone is banding together in an effort to assist Michael in keeping his friends and family safe, and staying out of jail in the process.

For now, the result is an episode that simultaneously contributes to ongoing storylines, connects with numerous satellites within the show’s universe, and gives us perhaps the best showcase yet for Michael’s unique skillset, all without feeling the least bit contrived or put together.

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