Region 2 Edition
Mark Mylod, Jonny Campbell, Dearbhla Walsh
David Threlfall, James McAvoy, Maggie O'Neill, Anne-Marie Duff
Shameless was one of 2004's
brightest drama series, and an unqualified hit for Channel 4, even if
it didn't initially pick up the audience it deserved.
The series, about a dysfunctional working
class family living on a northern council estate, is full of great
characters and stuffed with comic incident. Less gritty than Ken Loach
movies like Riff-Raff, and more upbeat than films like Mike Leigh's
Life Is Sweet, Shameless is a fine balance of humour and
drama. Some of the Gallagher family's escapades seem a bit far-fetched, but there's a grain
of truth to the series that makes it spark. Their struggles to keep their family solvent, and their convoluted relationships
with their neighbours, make Shameless compelling viewing.
Frank Gallagher, the drunken, rambling
patriarch of the Gallagher family, is a wonderful comic creation, and the
natural focus of the series. His children have learned to adapt and fend
for themselves after their mother deserted them, in the absence of a
fatherly role model. Frank is a monster, really, defining people simply by
what they can do for him, but is tremendously likeable, thanks in no small
part to David Threlfall's charismatic performance.
The DVD features the entire first season
of the show: seven episodes, of approximately fifty-minutes each. Sadly it
does not include this year's Christmas special. Hopefully we won't have to
wait quite so long for that and the second series to be released.
Each episode is presented separately. Some
episodes begin with recaps of earlier episodes, and some feature teaser
trailers for the next instalment. There are four episodes on disc one, and
three on the other, along with the bonus material.
The episodes are presented in anamorphic
widescreen format, in their original ratio of 1.78:1.
The four episodes on disc one puts a strain
on the MPEG encoding, and there are many instances
where blocking artefacts are visible. (A lot of the show is shot with
hand-held cameras, which demands a lot of data to capture). The results
are similar to what
you'd expect to see from a good digital set-top tuner. The average bitrate for
the episodes on disc one is just over 5Mb/s, with an encoding rate that
doesn't seem to be very adaptive. The episodes on the second disc average
5.43Mb/s, marginally better, and the encoding rate appears to be more
Motion artefacts aside, picture quality is
very good, accurately representing the series as it was shown on TV.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0
format (at 192kbps). The mix is naturalistic, and weighted to the front
speakers, but it's generally well-recorded, with occasional moments where
there's good separation.
The disc has English HoH subtitles, which
might also help people struggling with some of the broader accents. There
is a sequence in one of the episodes where characters are speaking in
French, and this is presented as it was for its original TV screening:
with burnt-in subtitles (they are not player-generated).
The disc's menus are nicely designed, and
straightforward. There's a Play All option on each disc. Otherwise
picking an episode leads to a chapter breakdown, where the default option
is to play the first chapter.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
There are two bonus featurettes, each about
ten minutes long.
Meet The Cast With Debbie and Carl
This is a messy featurette ostensibly made
and shot by two of the series' young cast members. It includes fleeting snatches of
interviews, and a few glimpses of the filming. You'll find out what the cast's
most embarrassing moments were, but not much more. Perhaps ten minutes'
worth was all that could be salvaged?
An Interview With Paul Abbot
Series creator / writer Paul Abbot, whose
credits include BBC conspiracy thriller State of Play and
textile-factory drama Clocking Off, chats briefly about the
creation of the series (it's "vaguely autobiographical" - Abbot was nine
when his mother abandoned her ten children). It's not nearly enough. You
won't learn here, for example, that the series started filming with
another actor playing the role of Frank (Sean Gallagher, who had appeared
in Abbot's series Linda Green and Clocking Off). Re-filming
the first episode, after deciding that Sean was too young to play Frank,
cost producers Company Pictures a cool £100k. This isn't even mentioned on
the disc, suggesting that the chances that we'll ever get to see any of
the footage are slim.
It's great to have the series available on
DVD, albeit somewhat tardily. The presentation isn't perfect, but it's
difficult to see how it could have been improved, except by adding another
disc, to improve the bit-rate. This obviously would not have been
The bonus materials are a huge
disappointment. The series deserves much better - a commentary track on a
couple of episodes would have been very welcome, as would the chance to
have seen the original version of the first episode, or at least some
clips featuring Sean Gallagher as Frank.