Over the past nine seasons, fans of Showtime’s hit comedy series Shameless have watched as the dysfunctional Gallagher family and their loved ones tried to make ends meet and find happiness in Chicago’s South Side. Family patriarch Frank Gallagher spent more time drinking his problems away in bars and trying to con his way into a better life than acting like a father to his six children, forcing Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl and Liam to fend for themselves and causing them to get into all sorts of trouble in the process.
While most viewers can’t really relate to the chaos and drama of the Gallagher household, fans have enjoyed seeing the series’ dynamic characters attempt to figure out how to navigate through a world in which all the cards seem to be stacked against them. The majority of the shenanigans the Gallaghers and their friends have gotten into since Shameless‘ 2011 premiere have enhanced the series and helped increase its ever-rising popularity, but not all of their misadventures have been hits with fans. A few plot developments which featured some of the show’s central characters somehow fell flat and actually made the beloved series less enjoyable to watch.
Shameless‘ continued success proves that the enjoyable storylines have definitely outweighed some of the series’ weaker developments. Every time a storyline fell flat and threatened to make fans give up on the show, the writers came up with an exciting new development which forced viewers to stay tuned to the next episode.
Here are 10 Storylines That Hurt The Show (And 10 That Saved It).
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20 HURT: THE “THROUPLE”
The members of the Gallagher family have been a part of countless different unhealthy relationships over the past nine seasons. Fiona constantly sabotages her own happiness by dating morally questionable men, Lip seems to enjoy dating women he feels he can “fix,” Ian’s relationship with Mickey was adorable at times but it was never particularly stable, and Frank could never find someone he cared about as much as Monica.
Kevin and Veronica were a completely different story. Fiona’s best friends and neighbors demonstrated what couples are supposed to be like—they always supported each other and stood by each other, and have stayed in love throughout the entire show. Unfortunately, their relationship was almost ruined with the addition of Svetlana. When she turned them into a “throuple,” Kevin and V suddenly struggled to figure out what they really wanted and became weaker characters.
19 SAVED: THE INTRODUCTION OF SAMMI
Sammi Slott is one of the least popular characters in Shameless history. Frank finally entered his secret eldest daughter’s life in an attempt to secure her liver when his started to fail, but since she was initially unaware of their relation, she mistook his interest in her as attraction and tried seducing her father. When she finally discovered the truth, Sammi proceeded to be incredibly overprotective of Frank, and came into conflict with the majority of the series’ main characters.
Most fans wish Sammi was never brought into the show, but her surprise addition breathed new life into Shameless as suddenly, there was an additional Gallagher thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. Sammi served her purpose well, and when the series no longer needed her, she was written off and the show went back to focusing on its more likable characters.
18 HURT: IAN’S PATERNITY TEST
When Monica and Bob gave Liam a DNA test to see if Frank was really his biological son, Ian and Lip decided to test their own lineage. They joked about hoping to discover that they weren’t really Frank’s offspring, but the results revealed that Ian really did have a different father than the rest of his siblings.
Monica admitted that she took a lot of substances during the summer in which Ian was conceived and had no idea who his father was, but the DNA results indicated that it was someone in Frank’s family, namely one of his three brothers. Ian determined that the most likely candidate was Clayton Gallagher, but a definitive answer was never reached because this storyline was completely abandoned and the fact that Ian was really his siblings’ half-brother/cousin was never really mentioned again.
17 SAVED: FRANK’S LIVER FAILURE
Frank spent the majority of his adult life hiding from his responsibilities at the town bar. He drank until he was able to forget about his many problems, and in the fourth season of Shameless, his problems finally caught up to him and caused his liver to fail.
Frank’s sudden inability to spend his days in an intoxicated haze forced him to grow as a character. He developed a bond with Sammi, grew closer to Carl, and finally admitted to himself and his kids that his failures as a father were, in fact, his own fault and stemmed from his youthful immaturity. When he eventually got a new liver and was able to start drinking again, he reverted back to his old ways, but for a brief time fans got the chance to see a different side of Frank.
16 HURT: JIMMY AND ESTEFANIA
Jimmy Lishman was Fiona’s first love on Shameless, so for many fans of the show, he’ll always be the character she’s “meant” to end up with. Jimmy chose to leave Fiona in the series’ first season to avoid going away for grand theft auto, but he returned the following season to give their relationship another shot. Unfortunately, he was accompanied by Estefania, whom Jimmy was forced to marry.
Jimmy had to pretend to be with his wife so she could continue living in the country, but he couldn’t deny his continued feelings for Fiona. He had to constantly bounce back and forth between the two relationships, and things got even more complicated when he started sleeping with his wife any time he and Fiona got into an argument. The entire storyline was frustrating, and viewers grew tired of it very quickly.
15 SAVED: JIMMY’S REMOVAL FROM THE SHOW
The relationship between Jimmy and Fiona was one of the primary focuses of Shameless‘ first three seasons, but when Jimmy decided to enroll in medical school in Michigan and applied for a studio apartment which couldn’t possibly house Fiona’s siblings, she realized that their lives were headed down different paths.
When Jimmy returned for the final time in the series’ fifth season, Fiona’s connection to him caused her to ruin her seemingly healthy and happy marriage to Gus in order to spend just one more night with her former flame. She immediately realized she’d made a mistake and broke up with Jimmy for the last time. Jimmy’s resulting removal from the show allowed Fiona to explore different relationships and finally move on and grow as a character, so while some fans miss Jimmy, it’s hard to argue that his departure saved Shameless.
14 HURT: FIONA AND ROBBIE’S FLING
When Fiona started dating Mike Pratt, it seemed like she was finally getting her life on track. Mike was great with her siblings, he cared a lot about Fiona, and unlike Jimmy, he was never at risk of being sent to jail or taken out. Mike was an extremely positive influence on Fiona’s life, but when she met his rebellious brother Robbie, Fiona realized that she craved chaos and dysfunction and couldn’t be truly happy with a nice, average guy like Mike.
Fiona slept with Robbie in Mike’s apartment while he was passed out, and Robbie continued to manipulate her and convince her to keep up their affair for weeks. This relationship sent Fiona’s life on a downward spiral, causing her to lose her job, her boyfriend, and her siblings’ faith in her competency as their guardian.
13 SAVED: LIP STEPPED UP AS LIAM’S GUARDIAN
When Liam accidentally ingested some substances provided to Fiona by Robbie Pratt, the youngest Gallagher was sent to the ER while the police arrested Fiona and set her bail at $100,000. Most characters on the show forgave Fiona for failing to watch over Liam, but Lip refused to give her a break and took it upon himself to be Liam’s new guardian.
Lip brought Liam with him to college, deciding he’d be safer in his dorm room than under Fiona’s care. He showed a lot of maturity during his time looking after his baby brother, and this storyline helped him start to replace his sister as Shameless‘ central hero.
12 HURT: FRANK CALLED CPS ON HIS OWN FAMILY
When Frank’s shenanigans forced his children to gang up against him and kick him out of the Gallagher house, Frank drunkenly called up Child Protective Services to get even on his “ungrateful” offspring. He made an anonymous report of neglect and abuse, and CPS soon arrived to split up his kids and throw them into the foster care system.
Frank has done a lot of selfish and cruel things over the past nine seasons of Shameless, but this storyline took his character to a whole new level. Viewers already knew that he was an awful father, but his willingness to tear apart his family just to prove a point showed that he was an even worse human being. It’s hard to ever forgive Frank for this disgusting scheme.
11 SAVED: IAN’S mental struggles
Every season, the Gallagher children become more and more like their parents. Fiona shares her father’s love for chaos, Lip has become just as much of a problem as Frank is, Carl enjoys coming up with schemes as twisted as the ones his father is known for, and Debbie shares her parents’ penchant for using people to get what they want. Ian isn’t really Frank’s son, but his struggle with Bipolar Disorder makes it clear that he’s definitely Monica’s.
Like Monica, Ian refused to ever recognize the gravity of BPD or take his medication. His struggle with being bipolar made his character arc incredibly relatable for a lot of viewers, and it actually strengthened his fan-favorite relationship with Mickey because it forced Mickey to put aside his insecurities to take care of Ian.
10 HURT: DEBBIE TRICKED DEREK to get PREGNANT
Debbie watched Fiona raise a house full of kids throughout her entire childhood, so she grew up thinking that it was fairly normal for teenagers to act as mothers. That’s probably why when she started dating her crush Derek Delgado, she lied to him about being on the pill so she could trick him into giving her a baby.
Debbie was desperate to lock Derek into their relationship and get an early start on motherhood, but her plan didn’t quite work out. Derek broke up with her, and Fiona told her that she wouldn’t do anything to help raise Debbie’s daughter. Debbie was previously one of the most mature and responsible Gallaghers, so her decision to be a single mom at such a young age was really unexpected and took the series in a direction viewers weren’t quite ready for.
9 SAVED: CARL ENROLLED IN MILITARY SCHOOL
If Shameless fans were told after the first season that Debbie would become a manipulative teenage mother while Carl would develop into a mature military student, they probably wouldn’t have believed it. Carl started out as one of the most twisted, rebellious members of the Gallagher family, so it always seemed like he’d grow up to be exactly like Frank. Viewers weren’t surprised when he took on a job selling substances and got thrown into jail, but his complete personality shift shortly after his release was quite the shock.
After Carl started to mature while attempting to impress a crush’s father, he enrolled in military school. There, he learned that he actually enjoyed following rules and helping others. Ever since then, Carl has been one of Shameless’ most upstanding characters and his growth as a character has made him more enjoyable to watch.
8 HURT: FIONA’S BRIEF MARRIAGE TO GUS
Fiona and Gus hit it off from their very first date, and were barely together for a few weeks before they decided to skip several crucial relationship steps and get married. It actually seemed like their spontaneous marriage was going to work out and Fiona was finally going to be happy until, of course, Jimmy came back to Chicago and ruined everything.
Fiona couldn’t stop herself from being with her ex, and when she confessed her mistake to her husband, he made it clear that their marriage was over. Gus was in and out of Fiona’s life over the course of just a couple of months, so it really seemed like their relationship was merely a ridiculous and unnecessary plot device created to remind fans just how much of a screw-up Fiona could be.
7 SAVED: LIP’S BREAK-UP WITH HELENE
While Lip was attending college, his life started to become too stable and boring. He was on the fast track to becoming the first truly successful Gallagher, so Shameless needed to throw something in Lip’s path to keep his character arc as interesting and chaotic as his siblings’. That’s when Professor Helene Runyon arrived to mess up his entire life.
Lip was attracted to Helene’s maturity and experience, and quickly fell in love with her. They entered into a steamy affair, but Lip failed to realize that his relationship with Helene would upset his “friend with benefits” Amanda and motivate her to expose the couple. Lip was suddenly left heartbroken and expelled, and his fall from grace has actually made Shameless better since it’s allowed fans to root the tragic hero on as he tries to get his life back in order.
6 HURT: DEBBIE’S FAUX RELATIONSHIP WITH NEIL
Debbie was once one of Shameless‘ most innocent and caring characters, but as she grew up, she became the worst person on the show. She slept with Matt while he was intoxicated, despite knowing that he didn’t want to be with her. She tricked Derek into getting her pregnant. Then she took advantage of Neil by pretending to love him so she could live in his home and use him as a free babysitter.
Frank utilized a similar manipulation in Shameless‘ first season, and pretended to care about Sheila so he could have a free place to stay and spend all of her money. When Debbie used Neil, however, it seemed even more despicable because Neil suffered from a brain injury and Debbie refused to give him proper attention. This storyline ruined Debbie’s character beyond repair.
5 SAVED: MONICA’S FINAL RETURN
The Gallagher kids grew up with mixed emotions regarding their mother, since Monica abandoned them and always seemed to just walk in and out of their lives whenever she pleased. In Shameless‘ seventh season, she returned to Chicago to bid one last farewell to her family, and her final days brought with them some much-needed closure and made for the perfect end to her character.
When Monica found out that she had a brain aneurysm, she immediately decided to pass away in the company of her ex-husband and their children. She and Frank renewed their vows and had a few last misadventures together before she passed surrounded by her loved ones. Her family gathered to speak at her funeral, and while Fiona struggled to say anything positive, she did refer to Monica as her mother, something she’d struggled to do in the past.
4 HURT: LIPS INDECISIVENESS WITH SIERRA
Lip was in a very dark place before he met and fell for his diner co-worker Sierra. He had recently gotten dumped by Helene, was kicked out of college, and he was struggling with his issues. Sierra gave him the motivation he needed to dig his way out of his pit of depression and get his life back on track, but even after he finally sobered up, he couldn’t make things work with her.
It seemed like Lip’s primary goal was to win Sierra back and start a family with her and her son, but as soon as he changed enough to make Sierra ready to be with him, he told her that she should just try to make things work with her ex instead. The Lip and Sierra romance storyline was all build-up with no actual payoff.
3 SAVED: FIONA STARTED INVESTING IN HER FUTURE
It’s been incredibly difficult for fans to like Fiona ever since she started sabotaging her own happiness by choosing guys like Robbie and Jimmy over more stable and worthy options like Mike and Gus. For years, she made countless mistakes that kept her from reaching her own potential, but that started to change in the seventh season when she bought a laundromat and flipped it to double her money in a matter of weeks. She then used the money she made to buy an apartment building, and started to act lie a real, responsible adult.
Fiona’s investments motivated her to finally focus on her own success, which in turn made her a significantly less frustrating character. She started to expect her siblings to look after themselves while she tended to her own business, which helped her and the other Gallaghers become more independent.
2 HURT: PROFESSOR YOUENS’ BOND WITH LIP
Professor Youens was always far more than a mere academic supervisor and mentor to Lip. Youens was more like Lip’s father figure and drinking buddy, and even after they had a falling out, he bailed Lip out of jail and was the one who convinced him to enter rehab. Youens had his own struggles with drinking, so the two unlikely friends helped each other through their darkest moments and grew to see each other as equals.
Their storyline came to a surprising and incredibly disappointing end when the professor passed away during his incarceration and Lip discovered that his bond with Youens wasn’t at all unique. Dozens of other students claimed to be as close to the professor as he was, and their speeches at his funeral seemed to tarnish Lip’s memory of Youens and made their relationship seem far less meaningful.
1 SAVED: IAN AND MICKEY’S RELATIONSHIP
When Ian and Mickey first started being with each other, Mickey refused to acknowledge Ian as his boyfriend. Their relationship was purely physical, but the more time they spent together, the closer they became. Mickey let Ian tear his walls down, and he eventually mustered up the confidence to come out to his intolerant father so he could truly be with the man he loved.
Sadly, their relationship started falling apart when Ian was diagnosed with bipolar and refused to take his medication. Mickey to help Ian get better, but Ian was upset that his boyfriend seemingly wanted to change him. Mickey never stopped loving Ian, though, so fans never stopped hoping they’d find their way back to each other. In Ian’s final episode, viewers got what they wanted and the couple found their happy ending together in jail as cellmates.