Showtime's Shameless, which just began its ninth season and is now the longest-running scripted show in the channel's history, has lasted as long as it has in large part because of how utterly fascinating its characters are to watch.
The characters at the center of Shameless have always been the Gallagher family, especially the core that includes patriarch Frank and children Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, and Liam. The cast spirals out from there to include neighbors, friends, enemies, colleagues, lovers, teachers, tenants, extended members of the Gallagher family, and many, many more. The fact that we were able to compile a list of 20 "new additions," which only includes characters that jumped on board in season two and beyond, just shows that there have been a lot of different people to come and go during Shameless's nine years-- and counting, as a tenth season is already confirmed.
While some of the characters that have joined Shameless post-season one have done a lot to make the show better, just as many have brought the shown down a peg or two. It's never easy balancing so many characters, and you're bound to break a few eggs when trying to come up with the perfect omelet of characters to fill out such a show. There are some cases when a character itself wasn't-- they just got stuck with bad storylines-- and vice versa, as some awful characters led to some really interesting plot threads.
Here are 10 New Character Additions That Hurt Shameless (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Jody Silverman
Jody was funny at first. With his dopey nature and his hilariously bizarre bedroom song choice, he was a nice bit of comic relief and offered an interesting third wheel dynamic in the complicated relationship between Lip and Karen Jackson.
Jody's shtick wore thin pretty quickly.
When Karen kicked him to the curb, that should've been the end of his character's time on the show. The writers thinly stretched out his story arc to include him camping out outside of the Jackson's home and, even more bizarrely, getting into a physical relationship with Karen's mother, Sheila. Karen and Lip's relationship went in its own compelling directions after that, and Sheila never needed help being more interesting, so it's not really clear what Jody's purpose was after his initial few episodes.
19 Saved: Lloyd "Ned" Lishman
Ian and Mickey Milkovich have been one of the most rooted-for couples on Shameless, but it was never the most functional of relationships. When Mickey is arrested, Ian is left heartbroken and alone and eventually finds his way into the arms of a man who calls himself Lloyd.
An interesting wrinkle to the introduction of "Lloyd" is that he is actually Ned Lishman, the apparently closeted father of Jimmy/Steve. While it is unfortunate that Ian ends up with another older, secretly gay man like he did at the beginning of the series with the owner of the store he worked at, it doesn't make the whole Lloyd/Ned storyline any less interesting to watch, especially in how it ends up affecting Jimmy and, later, Mickey.
18 Hurt: Sammi Slott
In season four of Shameless, we find out about Frank's ex Queenie Slott, with whom he apparently had a daughter named Sammi. It isn't at all surprising that a guy like Frank would've had babies with various women and had no idea about it until years later-- if ever-- when they come looking for him as adults.
The introduction of yet another of Frank's children felt a bit unnecessary to the overall dynamic of the show.
It didn't help that Sammi is an extremely annoying character who brought along the even more annoying Chucky, her son. The whole Slott family subplot could've been skipped altogether, and Sammi and Chucky both frequently ended up on "worst Shameless characters" lists for very good reason.
17 Saved: Dottie Corones
Frank seems like a character almost completely devoid of empathy, which is exactly why we love to hate him. Every time he exhibits the tiniest bit of heart or humanity, he very quickly subverts it somehow and turns it into a selfish scheme of some kind.
Initially, Frank's plans with Dottie "Butterface" Corones seem like his most vulgar yet. The idea is to pretend to get into a relationship with her so he could benefit financially from her passing, which shouldn't be too difficult given her serious heart condition-- which, conveniently for him, could be exploited if he is intimate with her. In their brief time together, Frank and Dottie actually seem to develop genuine feelings for each other, and what Frank does for/to her at the end actually comes across more sweetly than we ever would've expected.
16 Hurt: Robbie Pratt
Every show needs conflict. What makes Shameless interesting is how much of that conflict involves the Gallaghers themselves, both in dealing with the struggles of poverty-level life in a big city and with their addict, often absent father. That isn't to say that there is never conflict with outside characters or that doesn't involve the Gallgahers just trying to get by, but that's the foundation on which the show was built and is generally the most fascinating aspect of it.
When Robbie was introduced and eventually became something of the "main villain" of the show for almost an entire season, it kind of got away from what makes the show so great in its best moments. Having such a single, malevolent force-- besides Frank-- causing so much chaos for so long got a little boring.
15 Saved: Professor Hearst
It is established very early on that Lip is extremely intelligent and is capable of great things if presented with the right opportunities. Unfortunately, those opportunities don't easily present themselves to low-income people in low-income neighborhoods, and Lip is often forced to use all of his smarts and resourcefulness for less--than-noble pursuits.
Eventually, Lip crosses paths with Professor Hearst, who sees Lip's potential and offers him a place to put his skills to better, more academic use. Lip, of course, is hesitant of this offer, but Hearst isn't willing to take no for an answer, and often knows just what to say and how to say it to get Lip (temporarily) on the right path. In fact, Professor Hearst is arguably one of the only characters on Shameless who is able to effectively spar with Lip on that level.
14 Hurt: Svetlana Yevgenivna
Svetlana's initial entrance on Shameless immediately put viewers off of the character, being hired by Mickey's dad to force herself on him in order to turn him straight.
Svetlana is just involved with one infuriating plot line after another.
Her sham marriage to Mickey was never enjoyable to watch-- especially in what it does to Ian-- and the subplot that stems from her career choice just gets increasingly absurd the more that's piled onto it. That she then blackmails Mickey and threatens to tell his father about his rekindled relationship with Ian and also cruelly mocks him. She's also awkwardly involved in Kev and Vee's relationship.
13 Saved: Trevor
Trevor is the first major character on the show to be tran, and not surprisingly, Shameless handles it with class and realism. He also ends up being one of the more positive relationships for Ian, for as long as that lasts, with that being one of the main threads of the seventh season.
Unfortunately, Trevor's second major season was season eight, which wasn't one of the better-received seasons of the show. As such, he kind of got lost in the shuffle of the backlash against the show that year. Putting that aside, his pining for/missing Ian that season and the love triangle of Ian, Trevor, and Mickey is one of the more interesting parts of a somewhat dud season.
12 Hurt: Amanda
If there is one thing that Shameless isn't lacking in, it's characters. At any given time, there are more than enough characters on the show between the main cast and whatever recurring characters are around to make for interesting and varied stories. On the rare occasion that the show just has a completely superfluous character, they stick out like a sore thumb. Amanda is one such character.
She has never once felt like a truly necessary character.
She's never been involved in any plots that couldn't either have been omitted entirely, or could've involved another, better character. Amanda never does anything particularly egregious on the show, but she just never seems to justify her presence, either.
11 Saved: Sean Pierce
With the exception of William H. Macy, the cast of Shameless primarily consists of actors who were either completely new when the show started, or were still on their ascent to stardom. Still, every so often, the series knows just when to bring in another veteran for a little of the wisdom that only someone who has been acting for decades can provide.
That was the case when Dermot Mulroney joined the show as Sean, the owner of Patsy's Pies, which is how he meets Fiona. The pair struck up a romance that even resulted in them getting engaged, though they never went through with the wedding. While his season eight return felt a little forced and unsatisfying, his time on the show before that and his relationship with Fiona was a highlight of seasons five and six.
10 Hurt: Estefania
When "Steve" first leaves the show, we had no idea if we should expect his return or not. Whhile it was smart to bring him back as his and Fiona's relationship drove the show for years, we could've done without him bringing a new wife along with him.
Estefania definitely seemed designed to be an annoying presence on the show, but that doesn't make it okay.
That whole silly nonsense about her true love being lost and forgotten on a cargo ship didn't do much for her character's existence on the show either. She wasn't so much a character as an obstacle for Jimmy and Fiona.
9 Saved: Caleb
Ian has definitely had a few romantic relationships over the course of Shameless, but most were purely physical or the physical component was the key aspect. Arguably, it wasn't until he met Caleb that he first started to truly realize that he could have a relationship with another man and not have bedroom activities be the main driving force behind it.
Ian and Caleb's relationship was very sweet for a time, and it was nice to see a gay relationship on the show that wasn't all about illicitness and sneaking around. Sure, it didn't end well, and Caleb's views on infidelity weren't the best, but he was still a great presence on the show and changed Ian for the better-- if only for a while.
8 Hurt: Kassidi Callagher
Despite your personal feelings on how Carl grew during the course of Shameless, it's hard to deny that his progression as a character was to be expected. Even among characters who might not be on a path we would choose for them, it is still possible to have certain aspects of them just feel off from a storytelling standpoint.
Kassidi is wrong for Carl in just about every way, which wouldn't be a problem for the show if it weren't for the questionable choices that the writers made for her.
Namely, the decision to have her concoct a fake abduction in order to get her rich dad to pay them a bunch of money, which is way too tired of a cliche for a show that is generally all about avoiding cliche.
7 Saved: Nessa Chabon
During the much-derided eighth season, Fiona and Veronica weren't able to spend much time together due to some plot machinations, which left Fiona without a constant companion. The lack of the typical ongoing interaction between Fiona and Vee meant that Fiona was suddenly left with a lot less to do as a character, the result of which was the writers coming up with some interesting tenants in Fiona's building.
Nessa was definitely the more interesting of the these tenants, and served as a fun buddy for Fiona in Vee's absence. It was also refreshing that the show introduced a lesbian character for Fiona to spend time with without resorting to the usual go-to of having it be all about her trying to get with Fiona. That's something Shameless has resorted to a few times too many.
6 Hurt: Derek Delgado
There's no disputing the fact that Debbie is the least-liked of the show's main cast-- even Frank has more fans. She started off as a bright and caring girl but the writers sent her down a dark path. Some defend this as being realistic for a child of a broken home marred by substance abuse, but so are all of the Gallagher kids-- and somehow, none of them end up completely changing personalities.
Her boyfriend Derek was at the center of Debbie's uninteresting-- and character-damaging-- pregnancy storyline.
Though he flees from the the responsibility-- another boring choice for the character and the subplot-- we're still stuck with it.
5 Saved: Bianca Samson
Another person who showed that Frank isn't as completely cold-hearted and empty inside as he often seems, Bianca remains a standout of all of the characters introduced in Shameless. This is especially impressive given the double-whammy of her single-season appearance, and the fact that the catalyst for her introduction was yet another goofy Sammi subplot.
Bianca was initially just a doctor who treated Frank, but was soon revealed to be diagnosed with a terminal illness and looking to spice up the limited time she had left. Sure, Frank doesn't show her the purest way to do so, and takes her to some very dark places-- but he also takes a bold, surprising step to help her at one point. Her final days aren't all positive, but they involve some of the show's most poignant scenes.
4 Hurt: Helené Runyon
A lot of Shameless is unflinchingly realistic. At the same time, a lot of it also involves heavy suspension of disbelief at some completely absurd situations that these characters find themselves in. Some of the latter is for the sake of a funny scene or interesting episode, but there are times when things are just too ridiculous too enjoy.
The fact that a guy like Lip would just so happen to find himself in a class with an older female teacher who is down with having an affair with him seems a bit too coincidental, especially a teacher who basically initiates it. That's a complete breach of her professional responsibility.
Most of the plot threads that involve Helené are hard not to sigh our way through.
It's all based on a situation that feels a little too contrived and obvious.
3 Saved: Gus Pfender
Gus Pfender does one of the biggest 180s in Shameless history. At first, it seemed like he might be one of the good ones for unlucky-in-love Fiona and we found ourselves actually rooting for their whirlwind marriage.
But when they separate because of Fiona's feelings for Sean, Gus-- who definitely had a right to be angry-- completely turns into a monster, writing vicious songs against her and making their legal entanglements as sticky as possible. But what matters is whether a character makes for good television, and Gus has definitely done that. It's also the sign of a well-developed character that we can't help but wonder what might have been between Fiona and Gus, had Sean not come into the picture.
2 Hurt: Holly Herkimer
In Holly's initial appearances on the show, she served the storyline for which she was introduced well, as one of the badder girls in Debbie's class who agreed to come to Debbie's birthday party only so she could have a shot with Lip. Then she was gone, which is fine-- some characters come and go for a specific episode or two an that's all they are needed for.
Unfortunately, the Shameless writing staff thought that Holly should return in season four and becoming a recurring character.
Holly's return introduced Debbie to the world of ladies of the night.
It always felt like a half-baked attempt to up the show's shock value, both with that plot thread and Holly herself.
1 Saved: Eddie
One of the newer additions on this list, Eddie— no, not Karen’s ill-fated father— worked with Lip at the bike shop. She was initially just a friend with benefits to Lip and little else, but she eventually developed into an interesting component of the love square of her, Lip, Sierra, and Charlie.
However, Eddie’s most important contribution to the world of Shameless is arguably her niece, who she had taken in and was raising as her own but then abandoned when she ran off to Mexico with another guy. How could this make her a positive presence on the show? Because someone has to take care of Eddie’s niece, and this gives Lip another shot at being a father figure, something we discover early on he is interested in.
Who's your favorite new character on Shameless? Let us know in the comments!