If you’ve seen even one season of Shameless, then you likely have a pretty good idea of why it went on to become one of the most successful and longest-running dramedies on television. Spanning 11 seasons, the show intimately followed Frank, Fiona, Lip, Ian, and the rest of the Gallagher clan as they navigated the highs and lows of life in a lower-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
While the show was occasionally criticized for its lack of diversity, it was also praised for its portrayal of a family trying to stay afloat during trying times—a family not too different from our own. The Gallaghers are raw, real, and constantly grappling with contemporary issues involving money, drugs, fighting, sex, sibling rivalry, parental abandonment, pregnancy, homophobia, and identity. In the end, Shameless held a mirror up to our very own flawed society, highlighting where we are and how far we have to go.
If you enjoyed this addictive, thought-provoking show, here are 10 more in a similar vein that you’ll want to check out now that the Gallaghers’ tale has come to an end.
Shameless (UK version)
If you thought the Gallaghers’ story started in Chicago, think again. The American version of Shameless was actually adapted from the British series of the same name originally created by Paul Abbott. It, too, followed the lives of the Gallaghers, who in this iteration are part of the British working-class. Anne-Marie Duff played Fiona, David Threlfall played Frank, and a not-yet-famous James McAvoy played Fiona’s love interest, Steve.
Amazingly, both the British and American versions of Shameless ran for 11 seasons, an astonishing feat for a show centering around a single family and a premise that, in lesser hands, could have quickly gotten stale. The UK version offers fans a rare opportunity to see not only what inspired the William H. Macy-led show, but also a geographically and culturally different take on one of the most notorious and resourceful families on television.
United States of Tara
The Gallaghers are nothing if not quirky, and the family at the center of United States of Tara can certainly relate to that. The title character, played to perfection by Toni Collette, copes with Dissociative Identity Disorder while trying to be a functioning mother and artist. As Tara works to uncover the source of her disorder, she transitions back and forth between a variety of entertaining alters, including the provocative teenager T, gruff Vietnam War vet Buck, and perfectionist ‘50s housewife, Alice.
Tara’s family, played by John Corbett, Brie Larson, Keir Gilchrist, and a fabulous Rosemarie DeWitt, does their best to help Tara with her problems while also trying to navigate their own, presenting a refreshingly complicated dynamic that any family can relate to. United States of Tara is an offbeat dramedy that drives home the idea that even the zaniest of families can still find ways to enjoy the rollercoaster of life.
Speaking of off-the-wall families, the one in Weeds is anything but ordinary. After her husband’s untimely passing, Nancy Botwin (brought to life by Mary-Louise Parker in a role she was born to play) begins selling marijuana in an effort to maintain her family’s upper-class lifestyle. Things quickly go south, and though this dark comedy is lighter in tone than Shameless, it finds common ground in the Botwin family’s attempts to make ends meet while living through unfortunate⏤and not entirely legal⏤circumstances.
Just like we get to watch the Gallaghers grow up on Shameless, Weeds gives us eight seasons to see what will become of Nancy and her sons, Silas and Shane, as well as her goofy brother-in-law and the boys’ substitute father, Andy. Though some of the one-liners have aged a bit, Weeds remains an enjoyable exploration of the human ability to survive at all costs and is as addictive as the drugs Nancy peddles.
Six Feet Under
In a world as chaotic and unpredictable as the Gallaghers’, things like food, electricity, and safety are never a sure thing. Even at a young age, siblings Debbie, Carl, and Liam have to learn how to be as resourceful as possible in order to stay alive. Six Feet Under, on the other hand, spends a lot more time focusing on death. The acclaimed series begins with the demise of a funeral director (Richard Jenkins) who bequeaths the family funeral home to his sons Nate (Peter Krause) and David (Michael C. Hall).
Also starring Frances Conroy and Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under follows the Fisher family’s constant grappling with the concept of death as well as their everyday drama. The show’s use of surrealism certainly differentiates it from the more realistic Shameless, but its focus on family dynamics makes it just as relatable. The show ran for five seasons and left fans with a finale that is still hailed as one of the greatest in television history.
Not every character (or human) can always be on their best behavior, which is what makes juicy television dramas so exhilarating to watch. In Good Girls, the title characters are not quite as good as we’re led to believe. After playing life by the rules and getting nowhere, Beth (Christina Hendricks), Ruby (Retta), and Annie (Mae Whitman) do the sensible thing and rob their local grocery store. They think it’ll be a one-and-done operation, but naturally things don’t go as planned.
While a life of crime might not be the ideal choice for those of us in the real world, shows like Good Girls and Shameless demonstrate the lengths that some people have to go to in order to provide for their families. Like Fiona Gallagher, the women in Good Girls shine a spotlight on the mistreatment of women by men, highlighting a global issue that needs as much screen time as it can get. Life, as we know, isn’t always filled with cut-and-dried solutions, and just like the Gallagher kids occasionally have to steal their neighbors’ newspapers to stock up on grocery coupons, these no-longer good girls are ready to get down and dirty with their own unfair society.
MORE FROM THE WEB
This is Us
If Shameless has you in the mood for more family stories, look no further than the lauded NBC drama This is Us. This award-winning drama doesn’t feature an impoverished family hustling to keep the lights on, but it does introduce us to the Pearsons, a diverse family with plenty of rollercoaster experiences of their own. Starring a powerhouse cast that includes Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, and Justin Hartley, This is Us serves as a cozy, if tearjerking, reminder that at the end of the day, family is everything.
Unlike Shameless, which has its emotional moments but lives more in the realm of comedy, This is Us can make you ugly cry at the drop of a hat. The writing is as powerful as the performances, seamlessly utilizing time jumps and flashbacks to inform the story happening in the present. It’s hard to imagine a show with more drama than what the Gallaghers undergo, but This is Us leans into some of life’s heavier moments and beautifully succeeds at reminding its viewers that when life hands you even the sourest of lemons, it’s always worth trying to make something resembling lemonade.
Orange is the New Black
Shameless is nothing if not gritty, and Orange is the New Black delivers grit by the bucketload. Taking place in an all-women’s minimum-security federal prison, the show does an unapologetic deep-dive into the lives of Litchfield Penitentiary’s colorful cast of inmates as well as the moments that led them to be incarcerated. The show’s cast, which includes Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Yael Stone, and Selenis Levya, is absolutely stunning in their respective roles and brings a refreshing, timely dose of diversity to a storyline that’s equally adept at highlighting global issues.
Like the Gallaghers, the inmates at Litchfield have to work with what they have, namely cell blocks, prison chores, and the threat of solitary confinement if they step out of line. Orange does not gloss over the unglamorous life that is prison living—it dives right in and holds a magnifying glass to every hair-filled drain and crusty romantic encounter. The Gallaghers and their friends know all about the realities of that life⏤even when it comes to prison⏤and Orange is the New Black goes even deeper with its seven-season character study.
Before Phoebe Waller-Bridge became the award-winning writer and star of Fleabag, she was busy penning Crashing, a lesser-known but equally brilliant ensemble comedy about a group of six twenty-something friends living together as property guardians in an abandoned hospital. Fans of Shameless know just how many sexual encounters the characters engage in, and the ones in Crashing experience similar angst as their romantic lives begin to intersect the longer they live together.
Like the Gallaghers, the characters in Waller-Bridge’s comedy (which she also stars in) are trying to survive and thrive in the best way they can. To them, that means shacking up together in one of the least-desirable living spaces this side of a dilapidated house or a prison. Despite their bizarre circumstance, the characters form a family of their own and end up having experiences that are so enjoyable to watch unfold, you’ll wish there was a much-deserved second season. Be sure to follow up your viewing of Crashing with Fleabag, which features plenty of family drama in its own right.
Brothers and Sisters
The Gallaghers would be nothing without their strong sibling bond, which in many ways serves as the spine of both the show itself and the characters’ ability to prevent their communal life from collapsing. In a completely different geographical and financial place but equally dysfunctional are the Walker family in Brothers and Sisters. You wouldn’t necessarily think that a financially stable family living in Pasadena, California, would struggle as much as the Walkers do, but like any good ABC drama, these characters will surprise you.
The show’s exceptional cast is led by Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths, Matthew Rhys, and Dave Annable. When the patriarch of the Walker family (Tom Skerritt) passes away suddenly, his five children and their headstrong mother reunite to say goodbye to him and navigate the shocking twists and turns left in his wake. If you think the Gallaghers navigated some hardcore family drama, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Walker family raises them several glasses of wine in the family dysfunction department and simultaneously demonstrates that any family, no matter how flawed, can make it through the worst of times if they can learn to come together.
After watching all 11 seasons of Shameless, you deserve to dive into a family show that’s a little lighter on the drama but still gives you the same family-themed entertainment that the Gallaghers provided. Enter Modern Family, one of the longest-running and most successful comedies of all time. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh out loud more than a few times over the course of its 11-season run and will make you fall in love with its characters the same way Shameless did.
Modern Family is a mockumentary sitcom that follows the lives of Pritchetts and the Dunphys and their many misadventures. Though the show is much funnier than anything you’ll find on Shameless, it offers a similarly fulfilling glimpse at a period of time in this family’s life, highlighting the joys and pitfalls of parenting and growing up. In addition to its stellar award-winning cast, Modern Family features more diversity in its title clan than even Shameless can boast, featuring nuclear, blended, and same-sex families all coming together for the first time ever on screen.
Regardless of which show you watch after your viewing of Shameless, the good news is that there are plenty to choose from. The better news is that the Gallaghers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even though their show has come to an end, it’s available to stream in full on Netflix, allowing you to revisit your favorite TV family whenever you want⏤and there’s certainly no shame in binging it again.