Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Bipolar Sunday Nights
by Pa Rock
Now that I have television, I make a strong effort not to become too dependent on it – deliberately trying not to schedule my life around the times that certain programs air. And since television offerings are not particularly stellar, that is often easy to do. Sunday nights, however, are proving to be more of a challenge.
A few weeks ago when Downton Abbey premiered its new season, I determined to sit down and try to get a fix on what all of the buzz was about. Having been overseas during the initial two seasons, I would be a newbie to the star-laden show.
But there was a problem, Houston.
At exactly the same time Downton Abbey was rolling out its new season on PBS, the American version of Shameless was also beginning its third season on HBO. I had been a big fan of the British version of Shameless (now in its tenth season) before heading off to Japan - and had quite a bit of knowledge about the colorful Gallagher family. But I had never had the opportunity to see what the Yanks had done with the show
Downton Abbey tells the tale of the stuffy and aristocratic Crawley family and their household staff living in an expansive mansion that in many ways resembles a fine old British castle. Shameless focuses on the other end of the social spectrum. The Gallaghers (in the British version) live in public housing and (in the American version) in a working class area of Chicago.
Both Downtown Abbey and Shameless feature compelling looks at families as they strive to function and survive in a changing world, though in many respects the two families are planets apart. The Crawley’s have a co-dependent relationship with their servants with each needing the other in order to achieve a certain level of prestige and sustainability. The Gallagher’s, a family of six children and young adults essentially raising themselves, are dependent upon one another and function fairly successfully in spite of their worthless, drunken father and absent mother.
The night of the twin premiers I was busy flipping back and forth in an effort to follow both stories, a mind-bending effort that left me feeling somewhat like an untreated patient with bipolar disorder. By the end of the evening I knew that I needed to make a decision, something which turned out to be relatively easy. While Downton Abbey has its charms, in an Oscar Wilde sort of way, Shameless is far more engaging and awfully damned funny. The former examines a world that once was, while the latter focuses on a world that all too often is.
Now I spend my Sunday evenings with the Gallaghers. It’s a matter of class, and I ain’t got none!