Fans and critics alike seem to be all over Shameless, even though it's been on for so many years. This is not only a testimony to the talented and likable cast, but to the writers and showrunners who have made this show such a hit. Even those who haven't experienced the precise details of the grueling lifestyle of the Gallagher family can relate to something on the show; whether it's a complicated love story, the demise of a loved one, the battle with mental illness, fighting to keep a job, or running over your partner's ex with a stolen car.
With Shameless season nine now in full swing, it seems like the perfect time to delve into some of the best and worst last-minute changes that the showrunners have made. Some of these decisions are very well documented, and others you may be quite surprised by. In fact, even the most hardcore Shameless fans may be completely taken aback by what was supposed to happen on the show versus what actually occurred.
Any show that's been on as long as Shameless has faced its fair share of roadblocks, curveballs, and negative fan reactions. These hurdles are what generally make a show strong. After all, they force the creative team to show their worth by making last-minute decisions. But not all of the eleventh-hour choices made for the show have saved it from ruin. Some have actually harmed the integrity or even just the general nature of Shameless.
Without further ado, here 15 Last-Minute Changes That Saved Shameless (And 5 That Hurt It).
20 Saved: Avoiding The Trailer Park
In an interview with The New York Times, Shameless showrunner, John Wells, discussed his journey bringing the show to US audiences. Originally, Shameless was a hit show in the United Kingdom. It was created by Paul Abbott who roughly based it on his own debauchery life.
Wells optioned Abbott's hit and retooled it in order to make it more appealing to the audiences he wanted to bring it to, but he had a harder time selling the idea than he thought he would. Most of the time he had to defend it to network executives who wanted to make the show far more stereotypical.
Nearly all the ntworks wanted to set the show in a trailer park somewhere in the deep South.
Wells eventually convinced them that Southside Chicago was a more honest setting.
19 Saved: Letting Emmy Rossum Edition For Fiona
It's sort of impossible to imagine what Shameless would have been like without Emmy Rossum. Her take on Fiona Gallagher is pretty hard not to fall in love with. This is a young woman who has been through practically the worst anyone could imagine. Rossum imbues her with a level of fierce grace that most other actors would struggle with.
As Rossum said in an interview, she nearly wasn't even allowed to audition for the part. That's because the show was originally supposed to bear stronger similarities to the UK version. That Fiona was blonde and much rougher; hardly what Emmy Rossum is. Thank goodness they changed their minds before shooting the pilot. Rossum has truly brought something far more unique to Fiona Gallagher.
18 Hurt: Making Ian and Mickey's Relationship Toxic
One of the best things about the first few seasons of Shameless was how the show portrayed a unique and fresh take on a gay relationship. Ian and Mickey's romance was something completely out of the ordinary in comparison to what's been portrayed in the past. It was violent and yet tender. It was edgy and also completely pure at the same time. As soon as the actor who played Mickey, Noel Fisher, decided to leave the show, the writers decided to frame their relationship as a toxic one.
This did a massive disservice to the wonderful story they had previously told.
However, this way, the writers could introduce new love interests for Ian without having to worry about topping the one with Mickey.
17 Saved: Keeping Justin Chatwin's Head
Much like Mickey was for Ian, Jimmy is seen as Fiona's most famous love interest. Although Jimmy was a criminal and a liar, Justin Chatwin's performance made us adore him. He truly did love Fiona, even when he was distracted by his ties to the criminal underworld.
At the end of season 3, it looked like Jimmy was gone for good after he boarded the yacht belonging to the criminal father of his fiancee, Estefania. Although this was slightly open-ended, originally it was supposed to be far more solidified. In fact, John Wells had shot a scene in which people were playing soccer with Jimmy's disembodided head. The decision to cut this scene was made last-minute in order to allow the show to bring Jimmy back.
16 Saved: Replacing Woody Harrelson as Frank
Woody Harrelson is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation. The man is so capable of making seemingly dislikable characters incredibly empathetic. This is probably why he was originally cast as Frank Gallagher in Shameless. It's hard to argue that Harrelson wouldn't have done a stellar job with the now iconic character. After all, he could act the phonebook and make it interesting.
Most of us couldn't see anyone else playing the part but William H. Macy.
It's the role of a lifetime for Macy, and he's made it completely his own. We're all lucky that Macy had to drop out to shoot a movie, forcing the showrunners to cast Macy.
15 Hurt: Recasting Mandy
It's not that Emma Greenwall is a poor actor, it's just that the original performer who portrayed Mandy Milkovich was so different in the role. Part of this had to do with the writing, which clearly was changed to better suit the replacement as soon as Jane Levy announced that she was leaving the second season of the show to star in Suburgatory.
Levy originally portrayed Lip's future love-interest and Ian's "beard" as a spunky, energetic, young woman despite the downright awful and abusive upbringing she had. Greenwall, on the other hand, leaned heavily on the "wounded bird" cliche that sort of hurt the show. There's no telling how exactly the character would have evolved if Levy stayed to complete her arc, but it felt like she was headed in a better direction.
14 Saved: Kev's Leg
When it comes to the heart of Shameless, Kevin and Vee are right there. They add such a steady support for the Gallagher clan, who are obviously the focus of the show. But Kevin and Vee are also a constant source of amusement for the audience. Whether it's their adventurous life in the bedroom, struggles as new parents, or "get rich quick" schemes, the pair is always highly entertaining. During the third season of Shameless, Kev's adventures were a little more challenging for him since his leg was in a cast.
The writers didn't have much of a choice here since Steve Howey hurt his Achilles Tendon during a basketball game.
This last-minute change actually added a lot of freshness to the show as it made it harder for Kevin to do any of the things he's become known for.
13 Saved: Mickey's Role Promotion
When we look back at the success of Shameless, we can't ignore some of the incredibly well-developed supporting characters that have shared the screen with the Gallagher family. One such character is undoubtedly Mickey Milkovich.
According to an interview that Shameless showrunner John Wells had with The Hollywood Reporter, Mickey was only supposed to appear for a couple episodes on the series. The actor behind the now beloved role, Noel Fisher, had a burgeoning film career after being cast on the show and this made it difficult for the writers to schedule him. Once they saw how audiences reacted to him, as well as his chemistry with Cameron Monaghan, they made the last-minute decision to write him into the show in a much larger capacity.
12 Saved: Carl's Injury
Similarly to how Steve Howey's leg injury unexpectedly changed the writing on Shameless, Carl's Ethan Cutkosky broke his leg during the production of season five. The injury reportedly happened while Ethan was dancing at a party. Though the injury itself must have hurt, it actually helped the character quite a lot, especially when it came to some of the plotlines surrounding how Carl used his unfortunate disability to his advantage, namely to get girls.
Up until this point, it felt like Carl's character was quite stagnant and needed a fresh approach.
He and Debbie were always dreadfully underwritten in comparison to their older siblings. This painful accident added something unique for him to deal with on the show.
11 Hurt: The Two Seans
Negan was almost Fiona's boyfriend. That's right, The Walking Dead and Watchmen star, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, was originally the man who ran Patsy's diner. Though his character name wasn't named "Sean," the man who Fiona would eventually fall for, it's easy to presume that Jeffrey's character was destined for that role.
Unfortunately, Morgan explained that he had a scheduling conflict which didn't allow him to return to play the character. The role was later retooled into Dermot Mulroney's character, Sean. This was the writer's answer to the problem that came with Morgan leaving Shameless, but Sean didn't exactly hit home with audiences, even with Mulroney's honest and tender performance as the addicted manager.
10 Saved: Recasting Sheila
Similarly to William H. Macy replacing Woody Harrelson after scheduling conflicts, Joan Cusack took over the role of Sheila once Allison Janney decided she couldn't commit to the show after the pilot was released. Again, much like the Frank situation, both Joan Cusack and Allison Janney are two of the best actors of their generation. Janney, in particular, has a filmography that's highly impressive; from her early role in Howard Stern's Private Parts to her Oscar-winning turn in I, Tonya. She could have easily played the Gallaghers' sweet and agoraphobic neighbor with a sociopathic daughter.
No one could have played her as Joan Cusack did.
It was a sad day when Cusack left Shameless. Her role is easily one of the best the show's ever had.
9 Saved: Vee's Pregnancy Luck
Sometimes there's just no way to hide an actor's pregnancy on a television show. The pregnancy just has to be written into the show by any means necessary, even when the character who becomes pregnant has previously been said to be unable to bear children. This is precisely what happened to Shanola Hampton's Vee. Shanola became pregnant with her little girl back in 2013, which forced the writers to do a 180 with her character.
This decision added so much to the life of Vee and her husband, Kev. Up until that point, the pair had been struggling with having kids, all while having crazy adventurous only suitable for a Shameless audience. Bringing Vee and Kev into adulthood by giving them the enormous responsibility of having kids made the characters even more likable and relatable.
8 Saved: Carl Going Military
For season seven of Shameless, Ethan Cutkosky asked to be written out of the show so he could enjoy his time in high school and a normal life as a teenager. This created both a challenge and an opportunity for the writers of the show, who were a bit blindsided by this decision. Their answer to this problem was to send Carl to military school.
Cutkosky desiring a break from his hit show actually allowed his character to grow.
Carl has spent much of the series quite stagnant. Aside from a brief fling with the Bonnie and a broken leg, he's been pretty much the same character since the start. When Carl returned from military school, he still had all the criminal edge he had before but matched it with a real purpose.
7 Hurt: Svetlana Getting Pregnant
Before Shanola Hampton's got pregnant, forcing the writers to make the decision to write it into the show, the same happened for Shameless' resident Russian. In an interview with After Ellen, Shameless' executive producer Nancy Pimental explained that they had to make the last minute decision to make Svetlana pregnant after Isidora Goreshter revealed that she was in her personal life. Originally this decision was a funny addition to the show, as she was supposedly a surrogate mother while being Mickey's live-in "beard.
This premise wore out its welcome and didn't add much to the show at all.
The writers basically wrote the baby out of the show, even though he still occasionally pops up to remind us that Svetlana is a mom.
6 Saved: Recasting Liam
Technically the youngest member of the Gallagher clan has been recast twice. Originally, he was portrayed by twins, Blake and Brennan Johnson. Baby roles tend to be portrayed by identical twins as it's easy to switch between them. Although the Johnson twins can still be seen in the opening credits, they were recast for the third season of the show. Brenden and Brandon Sims took over the role and lasted all the way until quite recently. Aside from a tragic season four plotline tied to Fiona's addictive blackhole, they really had nothing to do but act cute.
Heading into season seven, the writers decided to recast the role one more time, giving it to the very talented Christian Isaiah. This allowed them to do far more with the character.
5 Saved: Cutting Sammi
If there's one thing that Frank didn't need was more children. At one stage in the game, the writers clearly didn't agree and gave us Sammi, Frank's daughter from a previous relationship.
In short, Sammi was absurdly nuts and not particularly likable.
Even her Gallagher half-siblings didn't seem to fully understand why she was around. She sort of felt like a curve-ball thrown at the show by the writers to complicate things. Her presence never felt authentic. The only plus that came with Emily Bergl's Sammi was her strange little son, Chuckie. Even Shameless' showrunner, John Wells, explained that they could do little with the character and randomly decided to turf her after a run-in with Mickey.
4 Saved: Not Making It A Remake
Due to the original Shameless' popularity in the UK, it makes sense that John Wells wanted to bring it to North America. He clearly found a message and set of characters who could be reworked in a way that would resonate with a wider audience. The first few episodes of his version follow nearly the same beats as the material he based them on. Eventually, he spiralled off into his own version, which was the best decision he could have made.
By making Shameless his own, not only did he create something unique, but he also saved two of the best characters. In the original, both Fiona and Jimmy don't last long on the show. If he were to have made a straight remake, we would have had practically none of the best storylines we've been gifted.
3 Saved: Bringing Jimmy Back
After John Wells and his team decided to ditch the scene that depicted the demise of Justin Chatwin's Jimmy, fans were left on the edge of their seats wondering if he'd ever return. Initially, all signs seem to point to a massive "No!" In fact, John Wells claimed that the character did, in fact, meet his end at the hands of his fiancee's criminal father at the end of season three.
Though there was always speculation regarding Jimmy's return, not even the cast knew that John Wells was going to bring him back for the season four finale.
Jimmy's brief story arc in season four added much-needed conflict in Fiona's relationship with Gus, and also showed the audience just how far Fiona has come since they were last together.
2 Saved: Expanding Svetlana's Role
Originally Isidora Goreshter's Svetlana was only supposed to appear in a few episodes as a Russian woman of the night in need of a Green Card. The character was supposed to add a bit of conflict in Ian and Mickey's already challenging relationship, as Mickey decided to marry Svetlana in order to hide his orientation from his abusive father.
Shameless' executive producer, Nancy Pimental, explained that Isidora's performance was so strong that they just wanted to keep writing for her. Seemingly overnight, the character became a mainstay on the show. Though some dislike the character, she has been involved in some of the most outlandish and entertaining storylines on the show. Who could dislike her "throuple" with Kev and Vee?
1 Hurt: Continuing Without Emmy Rossum
Although Emmy Rossum is still very much a part of the current season of Shameless, she did announce that she would be leaving once season nine comes to a close. Presumably, she allowed the writers enough time to come up with a fitting end to Fiona's storyline, but it undeniably threw a wrench into their plans moving forward. At this point, one can only speculate what the show will be like after her exit, but it's safe to say that it will harm the very foundation of the show.
She's been the center of the show since the start.
Sure, it will force someone like Lip to take his sister's parental role, but no one could possibly add the level of heart, integrity, and fierce grace that Emmy Rossum brought as Fiona.
What last-minute decision do you think saved or hurt Shameless? let us know in the comments below!