Watching: Downton Abbey and Shameless

   Last night’s episode brought together many plot lines, all leading up to a dramatic finale, unfortunately in only two more episodes.  Mrs. Hughes, the downstairs head maid and fixer of all problems in the house (the staff therapist), has so much on her mind these days.  Mostly she is dealing with the big drama with Anna and Mr Bates due to the visiting valet/Anna’s perpetrator being present in the house. She told him off! Then there is the smaller love triangle with Ivy, Alfred and Daisy. There is no high drama with Mary this year, although she did seem very happy to see the visitor Gillingham, and to have physically conquered the pig problem…’they are my pigs!’
   Bates has had plenty of time to think through what he should do about the perpetrator of Anna’s sexual assault, and now he has the opportunity to do it. What would be the best punishment for the visiting valet?  There was no such thing as a legal consequence during those times, so it will have to be handled individually.  Bates will probably kill him. Or not…maybe permanently injure him? Please Mr. Bates, don’t do something stupid that will put you in jail again.
   Then there are the two main upstairs scandals: Cousin Rose and Edith. I think Rose’s infatuation will pass, but Edith’s pregnancy will rock Downton Abbey, as her boyfriend has disappeared and she just decided against an abortion.  The only outcome I can see  is to bring Michael back…maybe from being kidnapped, get married, and Edith will have the child of the man she loves.  That would be a fairy tale happy-ever-after, and Edith’s character and life story doesn’t seem to be going that way.
   Shameless is Showtime’s over-the-top drama, sometimes comedy, about the dysfunctional Gallagher family from the south side of Chicago, nominally headed by father Frank, who spends his days drunk while the kids take care of themselves.  Frank steals from the cookie jar in this already broke household to buy booze…and that is only one minor crime that he has committed against his family.
   This season the show introduced two new ‘good’ characters: Fiona’s boss/boyfriend and 13 year old Debbie’s 20 year old boyfriend. Thank goodness this boyfriend called it off because of the age difference and that Debbie was not successful in her drive to have a sexual/romantic relationship. Twenty-one year old Fiona has always been the surrogate mother and stalwart of goodness in the family, but now she is in big trouble. This season 18 year old genius Lip has been facing that if he wants to succeed in college, on a scholarship, (succeed?…usually a big NO for him) that he actually has to do the school work, which is bringing out a new good side of him. Twelve year old Carl is just getting worse by becoming  Frank’s criminal right hand man.  That kid really needs help. One of the show’s  themes is  elusiveness or even absurdity of goodness in an inherently bad worldthe family! They all keep trying.  That is probably the best theme.
   In last night’s episode Fiona had to face two awful consequences to what looks like a developing sex addiction.  Her boyfriend/boss finds out that she was been having sex with his ne’er do well brother. Good boyfriend ends it with her, but lets her keep her first real job…with benefits. Bad brother stops by the house and leaves some cocaine after Fiona kicked him out and everyone starts to party.  Baby Liam gets into the coke and passes out. Everyone goes to the hospital, and the baby is OK. Watching Fiona get arrested was heartbreaking.
   It is Fiona’s fault that the coke came into her house and that Liam almost died.  Will Frank have any responsibility here? With Fiona going to jail, will Lip be able to stay in college? Will 17 year old gay brother Ian get out of the bars, where he is getting high all the time, and is AWOL from the Army, and come home to help with the family? the home he just left by joing the Army. Then there is the possibility of  crazy but lovable neighbor Sheila just taking over, which she is kind of ding already.  Or newfound Frank’s oldest daughter, Sammi, might have to introduce herself to the family and step up.
   The show is so over-the-top about sex, booze and drugs and the endless tolls it takes on this family, that it is always holding on by a thread. It is fascinating, but I still cannot decide whether I love it or hate it. It is the most outrageous soap opera ever. William Macy as Frank is unbelievable.

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