Shameless Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best

After 10 years and 11 seasons, Showtimes' hit series, Shameless, finally came to a close earlier this year. For the past decade, viewers have looked to the show for laughs, tears, and the much-needed reassurance that, "Hey, my family isn't that bad after all!" Throughout its long time on the air, Shameless' quality wavered from flawless to cringeworthy and back again. A lot. The show was never the most stable (in regards to both characters and writing), but that was half the fun. Viewers never knew which type of Shameless they were going to get and the only way to find out was to watch.

Now that we've all mourned the loss of televisions messiest family, it seems like the perfect time to look back on the show's seasons from worst to best.

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Season 8

Season 8 of Shameless was bad. Harsh, but it’s the truth. The season was a convoluted mess, and if a storyline wasn’t plain cringe-worthy, it was boring and irrelevant. Honestly, does anyone remember anything about this season other than the absurdity of Ian (Cameron Monaghan) becoming Gay Jesus and blowing up a van? Didn’t think so.

Compared to the beautiful tonal balance and the layered and relatable characters of past seasons, season 8 just felt like a caricature of what Shameless used to be. Ask any fan of the show and they’ll probably have some pretty negative words to say about this season, and rightfully so. It was a wreck.

Season 9

Even though it was a huge step up from the previous season, season 9 still did not live up to the standard that fans had come to expect. Part of the reason was this season acted as a direct sequel to season 8. Many of the sloppy plotlines that bogged the past season down continued into this season, mudding it for all the same reasons as its predecessor. Yes, the awful Gay Jesus storyline does make a reappearance.

Beyond the obvious storyline pitfalls, the lead-up to Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum) departure cast a shadow over the entire show. Instead of building up to a meaningful sendoff, Fiona’s last few episodes felt like they were stalling until it was time for her to go.

Season 10

Being the first season without Fiona as the leading lady, season 10 had a lot of issues to overcome and it showed. With their protagonist gone, the writers clearly struggled to find a new dynamic among the show's characters. The result was an aimless season filled with the cast acting various levels of out-of-character and making decisions that did not make sense given previous developments. For instance, Debby (Emma Kenney), the character who was previously one of the least responsible of all the Gallaghers, was suddenly deemed the new head of the family. Much like the rest of the season, it didn't make much sense.

The writers do deserve some credit though, it’s not easy to keep a show going after the departure of a main character and there were still some good elements to the overall shoddy season. Notably, Noel Fisher returned as Mickey Milkovich and fan favorite couple “Gallavich” finally got their time in the spotlight with Ian and Mickey tying the knot by the season’s end.

Season 5

After the heaviness of season 4, season 5 resumed the show’s previously lighthearted tone. The change in emotion was surprising, but some fans might say it was a needed break after the darkness of the previous season. But, unlike the drawn-out and methodically planned storylines of past seasons, most of season 4 felt rushed. Plots were abandoned as quickly as they were brought up, with some ideas never getting an opportunity to develop into fully-fledged storylines. The standout of the season was by far Ian’s continuing mental health storyline. Gut-wrenching and beautifully acted by Monaghan, the plot was a highlight of the entire series.

Season 11

Let’s start off by saying that Shameless’ final season was by no means bad. Could it have been a more meaningful sendoff to a beloved show? Sure, but it was certainty not the worst thing the show had ever produced; especially considering the challenges that the COVID-19 Pandemic presented. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner John Wells admitted that the entire season had to be completely rewritten over Zoom after the world went to hell three days before the season’s shooting was planned to begin.

Given the setbacks, season 11 was an entirely acceptable and entertaining season. It’s just unfortunate that the show’s goodbye had to be riddled with so many trials.

Season 6

There is technically nothing wrong with season 6–– The acting is great, it's entertaining, and the characters get a fair amount of development. It’s just that the season is mostly forgettable. While some solid storylines start to develop, mainly Fiona’s terrible romantic choices and Lip’s (Jeremy Allen White) unhealthy relationship with alcohol, nothing comes to a head until the following season.

Season 7

The Gallaghers left season 6 at rock bottom. Fiona was abandoned at the altar, Lip fell prey to alcoholism, and the family cut ties with Frank (William H. Macy). Season 7 highlights how the gang can come back from that. Most of the lingering storylines from the first half of the series are tied up here, offering a sense of closure. Honestly, this season feels like an end to the series, odd given the fact that there are four more seasons after it.

Season 2

Season 2 carries on the established storylines of the series' first season while introducing a new flight of immoral characters and ridiculous situations. Basically, it's season 1, but more. While the season was immensely enjoyable and expanded on many of the first season’s best qualities, it was just...there. It wasn’t something brand new like its predecessor, but it was still a solid sophomore season.

And then came the season finale: the Thanksgiving episode. Yes, that Thanksgiving episode. A.K.A one of, if not the, most infamous episodes of the entire show. Long story short, the season ends with the Gallaghers' long-lost mother, Monica (Chloe Webb), attempting suicide during their holiday dinner. The episode is absolutely haunting and sets the tone for the entire series moving forward.

Season 3

By the time season 3 came around, Shameless had found itself a loyal fanbase eager to see what was next for their favorite unethical family. What they got was a front-row seat for the consequences of the Gallaghers' actions.

The kids are placed in foster care, Mickey’s homophobic father finds out about his sexuality, Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins) is left comatose after a car crash, and Frank’s character turns from toxic comedic relief into just plain toxic. The season marked a huge turning point in the series, drifting into the darker territory hinted at in the end of season 2.

Season 1

The one that started it all and introduced audiences to the dysfunctional Gallagher family. There is a certain charm to the inaugural season of Shameless that just cannot be matched. When the show premiered back in 2011, there was truly nothing else like it on American television. In a time where sitcoms and fantasies were everywhere, the complete lewdness of its premise mixed with the poor morals of every single member of the Gallagher clan was oddly refreshing.

Shamelessly crude with the driest of humor, season 1 is definitely the season that took the most inspiration from the UK series it is based on.

Season 4

From its start, Shameless was always a dark comedy. Straddling the line between comedy and drama had always been its forte, but season 4 is when the show started trading mostly comedy with a touch of sincerity for all seriousness with a hint of humor. All that to say, this season was dark. But, just as the show’s darkness increased, so did the quality.

Shameless’ most iconic moments were from this season. From baby Liam accidentally finding Fiona’s stash of cocaine to Ian’s Bipolar diagnosis to Mickey’s coming out, if you know Shameless you know season 4. The tonal shift was jarring compared to the camp of the first seasons, but provided a much-needed opportunity for the cast to show off their acting chops and for viewers to truly connect with each character.

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Aubrey Carr (10 Articles Published)

Aubrey Carr is a journalist and film critic with a passion for horror movies. When she is not writing she can be found painting, baking, and obsessing over French cinema.

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