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The Only Shameless Characters To Appear In Every Episode

It's hard to imagine an episode of the top Showtime comedy-drama "Shameless" getting by without any of its eccentric and indispensable characters. Each one of them brings just the right amount of trouble and heart to the show, meaning that there are few "B-plots" in this series. Every one of the extensive Gallagher clan (which includes those related by blood, half-related by blood, and not related at all) feels like a main character.

Like a few popular American comedies you might be familiar with, "Shameless" was based on a series that originally aired in the United Kingdom. After a U.K. debut in 2004, the U.S. version reached American audiences in 2011 and delighted them for an entire decade, illuminating the lives of an impoverished family that, as creator Paul Abbott said, is "not blue collar, it's no collar." 

The show was the combined effort of an impressive array of talent, as evidenced by the wide variety of awards and nominations the series earned, for everything from stunt work (at the Emmy awards) to the portrayal of substance abuse and addiction issues (the Prism Awards) to representation of the LGBT community (the GLAAD awards). Of course, some characters missed a few episodes, and Emmy Rossum sadly left after Season 9, but that doesn't mean we love them any less. For fans, though, there's a special spot in our hearts and in TV history for the ones who greeted us episode after episode, for better or for worse — 134 times in a row.

Frank Gallagher showed us that absence is presence

Sure, he's a main character, but given how prone Frank is to disappearing, it's genuinely surprising that the chronically-absent father has never missed an episode. But the misadventures of the Gallagher patriarch are both hard to watch and impossible to look away from, and it probably wouldn't feel like an episode without him.

For better or for worse, "Shameless" showcases how the addiction and mental illness of a parent can shape the very identities of their children. This is something that set it apart from other series with similar premises. Frank's struggles weren't just a gag or a trope, they underpinned and defined everything and everyone else in the show from the very first episode. Young Debbie knows how to forge signatures, and eldest child Fiona collects utility money from the other siblings in a little box at breakfast. And that's only the beginning.

The more you watch "Shameless," the more you realize where the family's resilience comes from: William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher, for all his mistakes (or maybe because of them), is basically invincible. He seems able to evade the normal human consequences of repeatedly abusing your body and mind chemically and physically. Because he evades them, they fall on his children, who learn to overcome them. And while it doesn't justify Frank's neglect and abuse, they become invincible in their own right.

Lip Gallagher embraced absurdity week after week

The family's resident genius has come a long way from the beginning of the series. Coming from a family that doesn't have much, Phillip "Lip" Gallagher seems to have it all: a way with the ladies, a formidable intellect, and a fair bit of street smarts. Of course, he tempers it with questionable decision-making and poor judgment, the consequences of which have served to set him back in life many times. From episode to episode, you never know if you'll be getting his worst or his best.

In every episode, Jeremy Allen White balances on this difficult-to-walk line with grace, despite his role as Lip putting him in some of the most bizarre positions he's ever been in. There are a lot of moments to choose from, but White himself told Interview magazine that one particular "Shameless" moment was, looking back, the "most absurd thing [he's] had to do." In one episode, he had to use Nair on his nether regions in order to shoot a scene with a predatory teacher shaving him (with fake hair). Yep, that's pretty absurd.

But whether he was accidentally driving a stolen car, literally peeing on his father's head, or learning to be a father himself, we could always count on Lip Gallagher for a shamelessly good time.

Kevin Ball became a better father on the show and in life

Where would the Gallaghers be without their big-hearted neighbor, Kev? Luckily, we never had to find out, because good old Kevin Ball shows up, played by Steve Howey, in every single episode of "Shameless" — and only a handful of times without his partner in crime, Veronica (played by Shanola Hamptom who, Howey revealed, is his best friend, taught him how to manscape, and is like a mother on set, a confidante who "knows everyone's secrets").

Howey, in particular, has reflected gratefully on just how close the cast of "Shameless" grew during the series' run, and how he believes they will stay in touch. Ahead of the release of the final season, Howey commented on the "rarity" of such a long and successful career, an 11-season, decade-long run in which the cast and crew genuinely "grew up together."

There's a sense of coming-of-age inherent in the show's gritty subject matter. Since their own parental figures were constant sources of turmoil, it makes sense that the characters would rely on "chosen family" members and parental figures like Veronica and Kevin. Those bonds can be seen among the actors, as well. In fact, as he told Muscle & Fitness, Kevin's notorious physique is actually a result of Howey cutting out alcohol and adopting an insane exercise regimen — all in the pursuit of becoming a healthier, happier, and better father.

Debbie Gallagher grew up with her audience

Speaking of growing up together, fans of "Shameless" were introduced to little Debbie Gallagher when she was just a kid. Of course, all of the Gallagher siblings are just children, as much as we might forget it due to the fact that they are constantly acting as their own parents in the absence of truly mature caretakers.

But Debbie's maturity and groundedness in particular are all the more striking because of how young she is when we first meet her. She is the third-youngest Gallagher, but she acts like a mother, taking care of everyone from her drunken father to her baby brother. In reality, though, she really had to grow up on the show — just as Emma Kenney as she played the role for all 134 episodes. As Kenney told Variety, the trademark realness of "Shameless" meant she played out plenty of real-life milestones as she came of age with the show's cast and crew.

Debbie was one of the greatest constants in the show, at different times a mother, a rebel, a friend, a role model, and sometimes the opposite of any of the above. As an incredibly sensitive character, she served as a kind of barometer for the show: when times got darker, you could see it through Debbie. It's hard to imagine what any episode of "Shameless" would have been like without her.