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The Biggest Differences Between Showtime's Shameless And The Original Series

From 2011 to 2021, Showtime's "Shameless" kept fans tuning in to see all the raunchy chaos from the Chicago Gallagher family. For a decade, Frank, Fiona, Lip, Ian, Carl, Debbie, and Liam showed audiences the struggles of living in Chicago in beaten-down neighborhoods with little to no money and how, through all of their hardships, they always managed to look out for one another. "Shameless" had a lot of heart and created a strong community of fans who were invested in every move of the Gallagher clan and all of their friends.

Most fans know that "Shameless" was based on a British television series of the same name. "Shameless" U.K. ran for just a year less than the U.S. series but aired seven years earlier, starting in 2004. Though there are a lot of similarities between the two shows, especially in the earlier seasons, there are many more differences. Watching "Shameless" U.K. and "Shameless" U.S. is like watching two different shows, so there's no danger in feeling like if you watch one, you shouldn't watch the other. Read on to find out the key differences between "Shameless" U.K. and "Shameless" U.S.

The Jockey vs. The Alibi Room

Many of the key plot points in both versions of "Shameless" comes from the copious amount of drug use and drinking that the characters do. Since drinking is such a huge plot point, it's only natural that one of the main sets for each show would be a bar. For "Shameless" U.K., the bar is called The Jockey. For "Shameless" U.S., the bar is called The Alibi Room. The Jockey is owned by the Maguire family, who are essentially the U.K. version of the Milkovich family. Different family members have taken on the task of owning The Jockey. First, Jamie, the oldest son, and his wife Karen tended the bar, then it went to Mimi, the matriarch of the family, and then Karen and Jamie took ownership once more.

The Alibi Room has a completely different set of ownership than the U.S. doubles of the Milkovich family. Kev and Vee, the Gallagher family's neighbors, are the owners of the bar, but when they meet Svetlana and start their three-way relationship with her, Svetlana immediately begins to try and take over the bar. She eventually tricks them into signing over the bar to her. However, after Vee and Kev have Svetlana arrested, Svetlana agrees to teach Vee how to run the bar and handle the finances, at which point the official ownership goes back to Vee and Kev.

The neighbors

A huge part of both versions of "Shameless" are the neighbors of the Gallagher family, who are the biggest supporting characters. However, though parallels exist between the neighbors in both shows, they're all very different. First, there's Kev and Vee. The characters exist in both versions — but the two sets of couples have very different fates. 

In both versions, Kevin and Veronica are in a happy relationship together. Kevin works at the bar and Veronica is Fiona's best friend. However, in the U.K. version, Kev and Vee leave in Season 4 after being arrested for trying to buy a baby from a Romanian orphanage. In the U.S. version, the couple is essentially the romantic heart of the show throughout the entire series, and they eventually get married and live a happy life with their children.

On the flip side, the other main featured families in "Shameless" are the Maguires for the U.K. version and Milkoviches for the U.S version. Since many of the Gallaghers leave the show in the U.K. version, many members of the Maguire family take on roles as central characters. However, in the U.S. version, the Milkoviches aren't a huge part of the show for most of the series' run — other than Mickey. They're more of side characters with little involvement, especially in the later seasons.

Mickey and Ian

A consistent point of both the U.S. and U.K. versions of "Shameless" is the relationship between Mickey and Ian. In both the U.K. and U.S. versions, Mickey gets a woman pregnant. However, in the U.K. series he leaves Ian — and the show — to take care of his baby, whereas Mickey in the U.S. stays on the show with his child.

The big difference between Mickey and Ian in the U.S. and U.K. is the ending of their story. The U.K. version sees Ian and Mickey engaging in a simple affair rather than a serious romantic relationship, which ends when Ian marries someone else. The U.S. version, though, puts Mickey and Ian as the most thought out and well-developed relationship throughout the entire series. They start out as a secret, but through many hardships end up getting married and being happy together.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "Shameless" U.S. showrunner John Wells talked about how important and planned out the big, traditional wedding was for the two characters. He said, "We want to make certain that we see real weddings, with anybody who is prepared to make that life commitment, whether they are gay, straight, transgender, whoever. If people love each other, they should be together, and that's why we staged it as a real wedding with tuxedos and flowers and love and family and even some people who object."


Fans of "Shameless" U.S. will likely have mixed feelings toward Svetlana, the Russian prostitute who comes into the show during Season 4 and stays until Season 8. However, Svetlana doesn't exist in the U.K. version. 

In the U.S. version of "Shameless," Svetlana becomes pregnant with Mickey's child, and the two of them raise the child together until Svetlana leaves the show and takes Yevgeny with her. However, most of her character's relevance — besides her baby with Mickey — comes from her relationship with Kev and Vee and her desire to take over the bar. 

At first, Svetlana and the other prostitutes are working out of the upstairs in The Alibi Room, and then she starts her breast milk sweatshop after striking up a relationship with Kev and Vee. The three all work to raise their children together, and they also help keep her from being deported. Eventually, Svetlana scams Kev and Vee into selling her the bar. Vee, however, feels so betrayed that she calls immigration services and has Svetlana arrested. After some finesse, Kev and Vee get the bar back in exchange for keeping Svetlana from being deported. She ends up getting married to a senile old man and leaves with her baby to live with him.

Stella Gallagher

In both the U.K. and U.S. versions of "Shameless," the Gallagher family consists of Frank and Monica as the parents, daughters Fiona and Debbie, and sons Lip, Carl, Liam, and Ian — although Ian ends up being the son of Monica and her old boss, despite being raised as a full Gallagher child. However, in the U.K. version, there's an addition to the family that the U.S. version is missing — the U.K. Gallaghers have another daughter named Stella. Frank and Monica's third daughter was born at the end of the fifth installment of the U.K. series.

It's suspected that Frank named Stella after the beer Stella Artois. However, he negates these claims and says he actually named her Stella because she is a little star. Additionally, her middle name is Ianna, which is an homage to her half-brother, Ian, who helped deliver her. Frank also used the middle name Ianna as an apology to Ian for all of the poor events and revelations he's had to deal with because of who his parents are.

Stella is mainly protected and cared for by her siblings because of how absent her parents are. She's more of a background character throughout the show, although right at the end of the series she has some heartwarming moments with Frank.

Fiona and Steve

One of the biggest relationships in the U.K. version of "Shameless" is the one between Fiona and Steve. Fiona struggles so much to take care of her family and Steve is the first sign of something Fiona gets for herself. Fiona meets Steve at the club in the first episode of both series. She's impressed with how he stands up for her and they start a relationship. Eventually, though, Steve is forced to flee the country in both versions, leaving Fiona heartbroken.

However, in the U.K. series, Steve returns and convinces Fiona to abandon her relationship with Craig and run away with him to start a new life. At first, Fiona is hesitant to go because she's angry that Steve's life of crime led him to abandon her. However, she decides to love and trust him again, and the two leave in the middle of the night. Eventually, it's mentioned that the two got married. 

In the U.S. series, Steve is actually named Jimmy, and though his relationship with Fiona is good at first, he ends up being forced to marry a drug dealer's daughter and is presumed to have been killed by her father. He shows up later and Fiona cheats on her husband with him — but ultimately sends him away for good.

Characters leaving

It's only natural for a show that runs so long to have some main characters leave. Each version of "Shameless" produced 11 seasons, so it makes sense that the actors playing prominent characters eventually found new ventures to explore. In "Shameless" U.S., a few people left the show. Joan Cusack, who played Sheila Jackson, leaves in Season 5. Justin Chatwin, who played Steve, also leaves in Season 5. Isidora Goreshter, who played Svetlana, leaves after Season 8. Most memorably, Emmy Rossum, who played Fiona, leaves after Season 9.

Though it's expected for people to leave a show that runs for so long, "Shameless" U.K. had many more departures than fans might expect. Nearly every single main Gallagher character leaves the U.K. version early. Fiona leaves in Season 2, Debbie leaves after Season 6, Stella isn't even born until Season 5, Lip leaves in Season 5 and doesn't come back until Season 11, Carl leaves in Season 9 and doesn't come back until Season 11, Liam leaves in Season 8, and Ian leaves in Season 7. 

Since so many of the Gallaghers leave the U.K. version, the Maguire family becomes the main focus of the show. This differs greatly from the U.S. version, where the Milkovich family is the equivalent of the Maguires, and are hardly featured — other than Mickey.

Mental health struggles

"Shameless" U.S. is commendable both because of its portrayal of queer relationships and the way the writers highlight mental health and the struggles that come with it. In both versions of the show, Monica struggles with bipolar disorder leading to some devastating moments. However, in the U.S. version, Ian also struggles with bipolar disorder and viewers see the consequences of it not being dealt with properly.

The show doesn't just deal with bipolar disorder. There are also storylines of alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, anxiety, and even agoraphobia. The U.S. "Shameless" goes to storylines about mental health that the U.K. version barely scratches the surface of. Nylon highlights the importance of what "Shameless" U.S. depicts — especially how people who struggle financially can't afford to take care of their mental health, both literally by not having the means and figuratively by not having the mental capacity to manage anything but survival. 

"Shameless" exposes the healthcare disparity between classes and how mental health care is often a luxury. "Depression is read as laziness, not having the energy to deal with your kids is seen as neglect. 'Shameless' is a perfect allegory for how poor people have to keep moving in the face of ill-managed mental health."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Character actors

The biggest difference between the two shows is the cast, as there are no overlapping actors in the U.K. and U.S. series. Though most of the characters are the same, the portrayals are completely different. The U.K. overall has more of a colder vibe, whereas the U.S. version really tugs on the heartstrings — although both versions lean into the scrappy behavior.

There are some actors that have achieved greater mainstream fame than just being on "Shameless." From the U.K. cast, David Threlfall, who played Frank, had an illustrious theater career and starred in other productions like "Hot Fuzz," while Anne-Marie Duff, who played Fiona, has been in other productions like "Sex Education." The biggest actor from the U.K. "Shameless," however, is James McAvoy, who played Steve. McAvoy has been featured in major productions such as "Split," "Atonement," and the "X-Men" films.

Many of the U.S. "Shameless" cast members have created a name for themselves outside of the show as well. Joan Cusack, who played Sheila, is famous for voicing Jesse in "Toy Story" while Emmy Rossum first became known for her role as Christine in "The Phantom of the Opera." Jeremy Allen White has since gained fame from his show "The Bear" and William H. Macy is perhaps best known for the Coen brother's iconic film "Fargo." 

Character Development

Characters development is a key factor to making any show great, although the U.K. and U.S. versions of "Shameless" go about this in different ways.

In the U.K. version of "Shameless," many main characters leave. Fans may struggle to develop strong emotions toward any character because they're afraid the character will leave soon. If they do develop a love for the character and are anxiously waiting to see what happens to them next, they can be blindsided when the character suddenly leaves. Unless they are invested in Frank or some of the Maguires, the audience will likely miss a character or two at some point in the show. Since they leave so early, it's hard for the audience to see them fully develop.

For the U.S. "Shameless," there's a bit more development and consistency with the characters. Though some of the characters, like Sheila or Jimmy, leave before the show is even halfway over, almost all of the Gallaghers stay throughout the run of the show. Even Fiona, whose departure shocked and mostly devastated the fanbase, left in Season 9, so there were only a few seasons without her presence. All of the characters have significant time to develop on the show. There are also more romantic attachments to root for in the U.S. version — such as Mickey and Ian — which is definitely a factor in strong character development. 

Overall production

Though the characters, romantic relationships, and platonic friendships are typically what keep a show's audience coming back for more, there are other aspects of the show that are important to keep up to par. Namely, the production value of the show that involves sets, special effects, and cinematography. 

Though there aren't many large-scale special effects in either "Shameless" series, there is a bit of a disparity in the budget. Typically, the U.S. "Shameless" had more resources in both production and marketing in general, but this was partly because "Shameless" U.K. suffered some budget cuts. According to The Guardian, Channel 4 had a large cost-cutting initiative which caused some "Shameless" U.K. seasons to decrease in episode count, limiting the amount of time the show had to play out important story arcs.

Another important aspect of both "Shameless" series was the fact that many scenes were shot on location. For "Shameless" U.K., they shot on location at Wythenshawe, but not as often as "Shameless" U.S., which often filmed on location in Chicago. They often used real Chicago places, and the "Shameless" house in Chicago is a tourist spot for fans to visit if they want to see the exterior.