Shameless is returning for Season 9 this weekend and it's safe to say that the Gallagher family has been through a lot. In the wake of the news that Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is departing and the fact that the show will reach its 100th episode this season, TV Guide decided to take a deeper look at the Gallagher family adventures... and judge them.
The show broke through the noise of other family dramas by being unapologetically truthful to its title. The Gallaghers are a scrappy family living below the poverty line on the South Side of Chicago, pulling any trick or scheme they can in order to get by. William H. Macy leads the pack as the usually drunk (minus his sober Season 8) Frank Gallagher, who is constantly leaving his six kids bereft and in some sort of financial crisis.
The family has grown up over the course of nine seasons, and we've gone to hell and back with every single character. Even little Liam (Christian Isaiah) suffered an accidental cocaine overdose thanks to Fiona's neglect. Which arc for the family showcased the best the show has to offer, though? Let's take a look at all eight seasons so far, ranked from worst to best.
8. Season 6
Quick Summary: The Season of Sean and Lip's Downward Spiral
Judgement: After Fiona went through a disastrous marriage and divorce in Season 5, she really needed some alone time. Instead, she got very hot and heavy with her boss Sean (Dermot Mulroney), who put a ring on it literally the second Fiona broke up with Gus (Steve Kazee). That relationship also ends in expected disaster, topped off with Lip (Jeremy Allen White) drinking himself out of school and ending up in jail. There have been some dark seasons of Shameless, but this was just a downer all around.
7. Season 7
Quick Summary: The Season of Fiona's Independence
Judgement: The thing that makes Shameless magic is when the family comes together to get out of scrapes, no matter how insane the means to do so are. Season 7 saw Fiona trying to reclaim her life after two bombed relationships, but in doing so she pushed the rest of the family away. It didn't feel like the Gallaghers were a unit. Season 7 was great for the growth of the characters, but the lack of cohabitation between all of the siblings put it lower on the list.
6. Season 8
Quick Summary: The Season of Sober Lip and Gay Jesus
Judgement: Fiona maintained her independence but learned to bring the kids back into the fold a bit more, and the show was better for it. Even though she and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) spent most of Season 8 sparring over the rights to an abandoned church next to the building Fiona owns, they ended up being closer than they have in several seasons as Ian became the mythic figure to the local LGBTQ teens. Meanwhile, Lip realized he didn't want to waste his life at the bottom of a bottle like Frank and put serious effort into keeping himself clean and stopping the people around him from throwing their own lives away. This is the Savior Lip that we can get behind.
5. Season 2
Quick Summary: The Season of Jimmy's Wife and Monica's Return
Judgement: Guys, remember Jimmy Steve (Justin Chatwin)?? After fleeing from the cops at the end of Season 1 to Costa Rica, the love of Fiona's life returned with a green-card wife. While it took no time for the sparks between Jimmy and Fiona to fan back into flames, Jimmy was still a two-timer prone to breaking Fiona's heart. Season 2 also brought us Monica (Chloe Webb), and her suicide attempt at the end of the arc showed that Shameless can easily be as blatantly dramatic as it is darkly funny.
4. Season 3
Quick Summary: The Season of Mandy and Lip and Jimmy's "Death"
Judgement: Listen, in hindsight Mandy (Emma Greenwell) did the right thing by running Lip's ex-girlfriend Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins) over with a car. She was doing what was best for Lip! And she got him into college! Ugh, Season 3 makes me miss Mandy the most. This season proved a lot about the Gallaghers' (and their significant others') ability to love, with Jimmy trying to become a good domestic partner for Fiona and Ian emotionally torturing himself watching Mickey (Noel Fisher) be forced to marry a woman by his homophobic father. It's a heartbreaking one, but it makes you love this ragtag group more than you knew you could.
3. Season 5
Quick Summary: The Season of Ian's Bi-Polar Disorder and Jimmy's Comeback
Judgement: The fact that Cameron Monaghan didn't get an Emmy or even a nomination for his performance in this season where Ian realizes he's bi-polar just like Monica will go down as one of the greatest TV crimes in history. It was so compelling and beautifully done that I originally had this at No. 1, but then I remembered it was also the season where Fiona impulsively married a musician and abandoned her duties as legal guardian to her sibling. It's also when the writers brought Jimmy Steve back just to prove he wasn't dead, but he's a sociopath liar that doesn't match with anything we knew of him before. That brought it down a few notches, but it is still one of the most memorable seasons the show has ever done, and the season's end is the most Shameless ending to have ever happened.
2. Season 4
Quick Summary: The Season of Gallavich and Fiona's Prison Time
Judgement: You could argue that Season 5 with Mickey caring for Ian in the middle of his first manic meltdown was the Season of Gallavich, but really the true coming together for this power couple was Season 4. It's the season where Mickey told his father he's gay, in one of the most nuanced and well-executed coming out storylines ever aired on TV. Season 4 was also the darkest of the show's tenure, with Fiona going to jail after a wild party leading to Liam accidentally snorting cocaine and overdosing. It was her rock bottom moment and forced Fiona to grow up in a lot of ways, but it showed how the Gallagher siblings never give up on each other. Don't go to this season if you need an uplift, but it is damn good, emotional TV.
1. Season 1
Quick Summary: The Season Where It All Began
Judgement: Maybe it's nostalgic bias, but the first season of Shameless holds the top spot because there was just nothing like it on American television (the show was adapted from a British drama of the same name) when it came out. At first, it was shocking to see how low this family would go to make a buck but it took little to no time to fall in love with their charm and to root for them against the incredible odds stacked against them. It was heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes within the span of one scene. It showed how special this show could be right off the bat, and so it will always be the hardest season to top.
Shameless Season 9 premieres Sunday, Sept. 9 at 9/8c on Showtime.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, Showtime's parent company)