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The 13 Greatest Disparities Between Shameless US and Shameless UK

Table of Contents
  • 13 The US Shameless Had A Higher Budget And Production Value
  • 12 The Acting Is Better In The US Shameless (But Shameless UK Has Its Highlights)
  • 11 The UK Shameless Had Slightly More Longevity
  • 10 The Neighbors Are Different (But Central In Both)
  • 9 There's Less Censorship And More Mature Content In Shameless UK
  • 8 The US And UK Shameless Have Different Romance Plots
  • 7 The Gallagher Family Stick Together In The US Shameless
  • 6 The UK Frank Gallagher Isn't As Bad
  • 5 The US Shameless Has A Russian Influence
  • 4 The UK Shameless Has An Irish Influence
  • 3 The Pub In The UK Shameless Is Nothing Like The Alibi Room
  • 2 The US Shameless Improved Character Growth
  • 1 COVID-19 Wasn't In The UK Shameless
  • Summary

    VIDEO: Shameless UK vs US {split screen}
    TV Rewind
    • The US version of Shameless had a higher budget and production value, allowing for more elaborate aspects of the show and targeting higher viewing figures.
    • The acting in the US Shameless received considerable awards attention, with William H. Macy's portrayal of Frank earning six Emmy nominations.
    • The UK Shameless had slightly more longevity, running for 11 seasons and 139 episodes compared to the US version's 11 seasons and 134 episodes.

    While both shows follow the story of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, the Shameless US vs UK versions of the show had a lot of differences throughout their respective runs. Starting in 2004, the UK Shameless followed the lower-class Gallaghers led by their useless and troublesome patriarch, Frank. Years later, the US Shameless began with Oscar nominee William H. Macy stepping into the role of Frank with the series premiering on Showtime.

    Both series had long and acclaimed runs with large ensembles and wild stories of the families' misadventures. However, viewers who have watched both series will know there were a lot of ways the two series were distinct. The remake was able to stand on its own while the original had aspects that could not be improved upon. From the character arcs to the key storylines to the tone of the series, the Shameless US and UK versions created two fascinating takes on the Gallagher family.

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    13 The US Shameless Had A Higher Budget And Production Value

    The Larger US Market Allowed For A Bigger Scale

    UK Shameless cast

    While neither series was a big blockbuster epic like some series on television now, the US Shameless benefited by airing on Showtime which offered a greater budget than the original series ever had. That means they could afford to elaborate on some of the aspects of the show, and create more of a spectacle. Of course, as is with American popular culture more than British, there are significantly different product placement and marketing involved that alter the financial situation.

    Both shows have used an elaborate set to create the Gallagher households, but the US Shameless does feature a significant amount of on-location shooting. For example, Patsy's is a real business. The general quality of the cameras and equipment used is better in the US version too. Generally speaking, the US Shameless was also targeting much higher viewing figures than its UK counterpart, which was made as a quirky-yet-endearing drama trying to cultivate a smaller-yet-dedicated viewership.

    Custom image of Ian, Mickey, Frank and Fiona in Shameless


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    12 The Acting Is Better In The US Shameless (But Shameless UK Has Its Highlights)

    The US Shameless Earned Considerable Awards Attention

    When it came to the role of Frank, David Threlfall received a lot of acclaim, but William H. Macy Macy plays him with a significantly more villainous edge, earning six Emmy nominations in the role. There are some other significant actors cast in the US version, including Emmy Rossum as Fiona, breakout star Jeremy Allen White, and recurring character Joan Cusack as Sheila Jackson who won an Emmy for her performance. However, the UK Shameless does have some stage merit as well. In the first season of the UK version, Steve is played by James McAvoy, who would go on to have a huge career in Hollywood with roles in the X-Men prequels and Split.

    11 The UK Shameless Had Slightly More Longevity

    Other Countries Have Also Done Their Own Remakes

    Frank and his kids in Shameless UK

    Though many UK shows tend to go for shorter runs compared to their US remakes, such as with The Office, this is a rare example of a UK original having a higher episode count. The show ran from 2004 to 2013, producing 11 seasons and 139 episodes in total. Meanwhile, the US Shameless also ran for 11 seasons, running from 2011 to 2021. However, it only produced 134 episodes, just five shy of the UK Shameless.

    To credit each version, both shows have received many awards and high viewership ratings. There have also been other international adaptations of the show based on the original UK series, including one in Turkey called Bizim Hikaye, one in Pakistan called Hamari Kahani, and a Russian version called Besstydniki.

    10 The Neighbors Are Different (But Central In Both)

    The UK Shameless Has Two Different Families As Supporting Characters

    Kev and Vee exist in both versions, but leave the UK Shameless after the fourth season. At that time in that version, the Maguire family became more central characters. The US Shameless version of them, the Milkovich family, doesn’t exactly have the same type of dynamic, even though Ian and Mickey are romantically involved for some time. They remain side characters for the rest of the series, with little to no involvement in the most recent seasons (aside from Ian’s departing moments when he arrives in prison).

    Kevin and Veronica in the US Shameless are much more prominent and helpful toward the Gallaghers, with Veronica being Fiona's best friend in both versions and Kev being more friendly with Frank in the UK Shameless. The couples in both versions do want children, with the UK Shameless couple trying to buy a Romanian orphan and getting busted for it. Their marriage in the UK Shameless seems a lot shakier, with Kev's ex-wife Roxy returning and wreaking havoc on their relationship.

    9 There's Less Censorship And More Mature Content In Shameless UK

    The Tone Of The Show Offers Different Context To The Subject Matter

    Frank smoking a cigarette in Shameless UK

    Both versions of Shameless are known for their no-holds-barred take on the Gallaghers’ lives, including nudity, drug use, swearing, and more. However, the UK Shameless pushes the line just a little bit more toward mature content. For example, Ian’s sex scenes feel more censored in the US Shameless, but this isn’t entirely the show’s fault. The actor who plays Ian (Cameron Monaghan) in the US version was underage at the time they were filming some of these scenes.

    There also seems to be much more full-frontal male nudity in the UK Shameless than there is in the US series. This is unsurprising though, given that British censors were notably laxer about nudity on the small screen than their US counterparts in the 2000s. The difference is also partly down to intent, with the UK version of Shameless deliberately going for shock factor much more often thanks to leaning more into the comedy side of dramedy than the Shameless US version.

    Split image of Fiona, Frank and Sheila, and Debbie in Shameless


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    8 The US And UK Shameless Have Different Romance Plots

    Ian And Mickey's Relationship Is The Most Notable Change

    Ian and Mickey smiling on Shameless.

    A lot of the romantic relationships between the characters play out differently when looking at Shameless UK vs US. In the UK Shameless, Ian ends up marrying a woman after his affair with Mickey ends, while in the US Shameless Ian and Mickey get married in the season 10 finale. Another major difference is that Monica and Frank have a seventh child, Stella, in the UK Shameless. In the US series, Monica dies in season seven with just six children behind. After that, Frank goes through a slew of new romantic interests, all of which seem to die or leave.

    All in all, since the relationships each character has in Shameless are tied into the plot by definition, this is perhaps the area with the most notable level of difference. By the end of the UK and US versions of Shameless, each had their own unique plot threads and narrative arcs, and both had exclusive characters that didn't appear in the other version. As such, there are many relationships in the US Shameless that don't happen anywhere in the UK version of the story, and vice versa.

    7 The Gallagher Family Stick Together In The US Shameless

    There Were More Cast Exits In The UK Shameless

    Gallagher Family in Shameless UK

    One of the biggest differences in the case of Shameless UK vs US is the American Gallagher family doesn't drift apart. In the UK Shameless, much of the main cast leaves eventually. Fiona isn’t in the third season, as she leaves briefly to be with Steve. Audiences know how that scenario worked out for her in the US Shameless. However, Emmy Rossum did eventually leave the US show after season 9.

    A lot of the other main Gallagher characters have left for entire seasons in the UK Shameless. Frank is really the only one who stays the entire run. By the end of the UK series, it seems as though the entire focus has shifted away from the Gallaghers and onto their neighboring families. Most of the US Shameless cast stuck around until the very end, keeping the sole focus on the Gallaghers.

    6 The UK Frank Gallagher Isn't As Bad

    His Bad Behavior Doesn't Come Close To Macy's Version Of Frank

    While the UK Shameless' Frank is still a stereotypical on-screen alcoholic, he's not necessarily cruel and has a borderline functional relationship with the Gallagher children. Fiona does tire of taking care of her father, but their rapport is nowhere near as contentious and volatile as it is in the US Shameless. In the UK Shameless, Frank is much more a victim of his own circumstances rather than the sole cause of them.

    He makes efforts to help his children at times, rather than exploit them as the US Shameless Frank does. The US Frank Gallagher has done some truly reprehensible things all for the sake of some cash, including losing Liam in a bet, convincing Carl that he has cancer, ruining Dottie's heart transplant so he can collect her pension, and much more. The UK Frank Gallagher is hardly the perfect father, but there are also many more moments when he overcomes his inner demons for the sake of his kids — even if he does get into a string of comedic mishaps on the way.

    5 The US Shameless Has A Russian Influence

    The Character Of Svetlana Was Integral In The US Shameless

    Svetlana at the bar in Shameless

    One of the most notable characters in the US Shameless that doesn’t appear in the UK Shameless is Svetlana. She initially arrives on the show as a Russian sex worker hired by Mickey’s dad after catching him with Ian. However, she becomes pregnant with his child and begins living with him. Eventually, she ends up in a three-way relationship with Kev and Vee, and at one point tries to take control of the bar.

    Svetlana had a significant impact on the show and was present for five seasons before Isidora Goreshter left in season 8. Conversely, while there are minor Russian characters who appear in episodes here and there, they're rarely if ever named and only exist to serve specific plot points, usually around the criminal exploits of the Maguires.

    4 The UK Shameless Has An Irish Influence

    The Differences Between The Milkovichs Vs The Maguires Is Substantial

    The Macguire family in UK Shameless

    Unlike the US Shameless, the UK Shameless saw a greater inclusion of the Maguire family (the UK's version of the Milkovich family), and the Irish mobsters had a huge impact on the storyline. The Milkovichs mainly served their purpose as a bigoted influence against Ian and Mickey's relationship, with some occasional chaos thrown in for good measure. The Maguires had a much bigger stake in the overall plot.

    The Maguire's influence in drug sales and other criminal organizations is a big part of the UK Shameless, and they also have more children than the Milkovichs. Mimi and Paddy Macguire's only daughter Mandy passes away in series 6, and Mandy ended up having a daughter, Katie, with Lip Gallagher. The Maguires also run The Jockey, the UK version of The Alibi Room, rather than Kevin and Veronica. When looking at Shameless UK vs US, the Maguire family had a much larger influence on the story than the Milkovichs.

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    3 The Pub In The UK Shameless Is Nothing Like The Alibi Room

    The Future Of The Alibi Club Plays Into The Finale

    The Jockey pub in Shameless UK

    In the UK Shameless, The Jockey is run by various characters before eventually being owned and operated by members of the Maguire family. First, it was Karen and Jamie, then it was Mimi, and then it was back to Karen and Jamie again. On the US Shameless, Kev and Vee take over The Alibi Room and run it consistently. That includes Svetlana’s attempts to take over control of the bar from them when she realizes they aren’t the most financially adept individuals. During the Shameless series finale, Carl considers buying The Alibi Room and turning it into a cop bar.

    2 The US Shameless Improved Character Growth

    The US Ensemble Does Feel Too Large At Times

    The cast of the television series Shameless.

    In the UK Shameless, the timeline goes by much faster, and audiences don’t get to make a connection to the characters that they do in the US Shameless. The multiple cast exits from the series are one reason for this. As a result, that takes away more of the time viewers get to know those characters before saying goodbye. There are also so many different characters in the UK Shameless that remain as side characters in the US Shameless that it gets a little too distracting to connect to everyone.

    1 COVID-19 Wasn't In The UK Shameless

    Frank Gets A Happier Ending In The UK Version

    US Shameless' Frank Gallagher had to pay for his sins, and showrunners made the right choice in killing him off through COVID-19 in the series finale. Since the US Shameless ended in 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic was included as a part of the story in the final season, whereas for obvious reasons, this didn't play a role in the UK Shameless. The fate of the Gallagher family patriarch is one of the biggest differences of the Shameless US vs UK versions.

    The UK Shameless saw Frank reconcile with his family and Fiona after she offered him cold hard cash to walk away from his family consequence-free and he refused. The US Shameless, on the other hand, saw Frank diagnosed with alcoholic dementia and slowly losing all of his faculties and dignity, and Emmy Rossum didn't return as Fiona for the finale. Frank tries to commit suicide and fails, leaving a note for his family that goes entirely unnoticed, but it's his COVID-19 infection was ultimately the end of him.

    • Shameless US

      Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy

      Release Date:




      Streaming Service(s):
      Hulu, Netflix

      William H. Macy

      John Wells

      Season List:
      Shameless US - Season 1, Shameless US - Season 2, Shameless US - Season 3, Shameless US - Season 4, Shameless US - Season 5, Shameless US - Season 6, Shameless US - Season 7, Shameless US - Season 8, Shameless US - Season 9, Shameless US - Season 10, Shameless US - Season 11


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