Series Four sees the colourful collection characters of the Chatsworth Estate return with a bang, but this time they have two new cops to contend with when witty, smart and sexy Carrie and fresh faced Tom arrive to join forces with resident bobby Stan. But the Gallaghers need not worry too much after they team up with local gangsters, the Maguires. It's game on when the three Maguire brothers reunite when prodigal son Jamie Maguire returns from a stint in prison to set sparks flying with Karen, while not-so bright Shane Maguire, and wannabe hard man, Micky Maguire are never far behind.
However, Frank and the kids are soon sent into a spin when mum Monica turns up, claiming to be back for good, even though she'd previously left them for another woman. But her lorry driver girlfriend Norma is not going to give her up without a fight and turns up to try and win her back - living in their camper van in the vain hope of winning back her heart. But with the return of Monica, where will this leave Sheila and the twins? More of it, just what the heck do the women see in Frank to make him worth fighting over?! Hmmm, perhaps I don't really need to know that...
Philip has started taking his parental responsibilities seriously, that is until a University offers him the escape route he's always wanted. Meanwhile, Ian is content looking for love while Carl's secret crime spree isn't leaving him nearly enough play-time with the girls. Then there's Debbie, who has decided to interview some potential boyfriends. Carol is back, but still having trouble keeping her legs and mouth shut, while Kash is happy screwing the council. And what is the connection between Kev, Veronica, Marty, Sue and a Romanian baby? However, one thing is certain - the Chatsworth housing estate would be dull place without the lot of them.
As a series broadcast on Channel 4 there was never going to be anything special about the picture quality. However, there's the sell-thru market to consider, plus the all important export market - assuming people will understand both the accents and the humour! So, with the merchandising and the all important bottom line, plus Shameless being one of Channel 4's biggest ever money spinners, it means that there's some money to be spent on the production - and it all shows here. Still, bigger production budget or not, Channel 4 always has a knack of delivering the goods when it comes to home grown material - and it shows here.
The picture is bright and colourful with a high level of detail throughout. The interior scenes are well lit and the grimy and smoky pubs and their houses looked suitably awful to keep you away from for life. Even the outside scenes looked superb and equally depressing - with no problems with pixelisation or outlining. Also, given that this is a television series, there are no problems with print damage. When compared against some of the bigger American productions, with their near unlimited budgets, it's yet another cracking result for this groundbreaking series.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Kbps sound track was exactly as I'd expected from a television series - nothing exciting. Since the UK's terrestrial broadcasts can only be performed in NICAM they are restricted to two channel sound or Dolby Pro-logic. As such, there is no real need to do anything spectacular with the audio, but then again, the series doesn't really call for anything too dramatic and involving. Instead, we have some clear and audible dialogue (which is needed at times!) accompanied by a good musical score. It simply does what it needs to do - and it handles it all with ease.
The main and submenus across each of the three discs are simply, but pleasantly, animated with various cut scenes from the series playing in the background accompanied by the theme tune. The episodes may also be played in one go or individually selected from a separate menu. Each episode is also available with English Subtitles and, in a surprise addition, a Audio Descriptive track.
Extras wise, the third disc includes a welcome collection of Deleted Scenes (including an extended musical Take That scene from the final episode of the series) and Outtakes. Running for twelve minutes, and without a "play all" option, the six Deleted and Extended Scenes have no explanation as to why they were cut. I guess the usual reasoning of timing and pacing reasons were behind it, but it's still nice to know why. Finally, the six minutes of Outtakes are the usual collection of people fluffing or forgetting their lines, swearing and then laughing.
Channel 4 seem to have the remarkable knack of discovering talented writers, in this instance Paul Abbott, and producing some of the country's best known comedy/dramas with programmes such as Teachers and even Peep Show springing to mind. However, it is Shameless that takes all the accolades as Channel 4's most successful drama comedy ever. It's no wonder the production company paid a fortune for a purpose built set and studio in the deepest and darkest depths of Wythenshawe - pretty handy when the locals kept helping themselves to the production crew's belongings.
Packed with sex, drugs, gratuitous violence, ASBOs, love, ridiculous scams and plenty of strong language, it's not hard to see why it has such a cult following. However, it's also not the best tourist advertisement for the place known as Wythenshawe - and considering I drive to work near to Wythenshawe on a daily basis (and even near to where they are filmed the new series on their impressive looking set!) the general state of the estates seen in the series are certainly not just for the cameras (OK, so the Chatsworth estate is fictional - but it's modelled on real life experiences).
Built from 1926 onwards, Wythenshawe is essentially one big council estate - and one of the biggest council estates in Europe - and it's not hard to see how this social experiment ultimately failed with high crime, unemployment and the other problems they all bring. However, it's not all bad news as those drab and crime ridden estates seen on the show are slowing disappearing as various housing associations take over and renovate the housing stock - and even building new housing. Hopefully, the days of the real life Gallagher and Maguire families are numbered and the town can finally become what it was designed - and deserves - to be.
Whilst the series does have plenty of plus points, it's not quite the series I'd hoped it would be. Sure, it does have its funny moments, but not having seen any of the previous series it makes following what is happening quite hard. However, actually seeing Wythenshawe on a daily basis, it does remove some of the comedy element for me and even makes it uncomfortable viewing at times - especially when an entire family (along with pretty much the rest of the estate) are existing on benefits. Still, Frank Gallagher is the eternal optimist and the whole series reminded me of a real life version of the Simpsons - even if there was plenty of swearing!
If you're a fan of Shameless - and there are plenty of those - then it really is a no brainer when it comes to making a decision as to whether buy this DVD set. Running at over five hours, and spread over three discs, even the standard RRP price goes to prove that certain distribution companies don't feel there's a need to rip off the consumer with excessive packaging and ridiculous prices. Things get even better if you opt to shop online too, plus there's that small, but rather good, collection of extras to keep the fans happy too. Best grab one before the Gallaghers get their hands on them all!
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel