U.S. version of “Shameless” could mean an Emmy for Emmy

If you were lucky enough to stay tuned to Showtime following last month’s Season 5 Dexter finale, you were in for a treat when the cable network previewed the first 20 minutes of its newest drama, Shameless.

The drama stars William H. Macy as a drunken single father of a working-class family in Chicago but the real reason to tune in — aside from the all-around greatness of the first three episodes — is Emmy Rossum.

Adapted from the long-running British series of the same name, the U.S. format follows Frank Gallagher’s (Macy) six children as they make do when dad is often passed out drunk. Rossum plays Fiona, the eldest of the Gallagher kids and the parental unit of the family. The role is a serious departure for the actress best known for playing Christine in the 2004 big-screen adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

Rossum, 24, breaks out of her doe-eyed damsel mold — she appeared in 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow and 2006’s Poseidon — and tackles a very adult role in the drama, where Fiona is tasked with ensuring all the family’s bills are paid on time, and that all her siblings — ranging in age from a baby to high schoolers — are taken care of. Add to that keeping tabs on dear old dad and juggling work as well as a complicated love life.

Justin Chatwin co-stars as Steve, Fiona’s seemingly straight-laced upper-class love interest and his scenes with Rossum are a perfect blend of two people fighting early onset adult responsibilities with a spark-filled twentysomething resistance.

Other highlights among the cast include Jeremy Allen White as Phillip “Lip” Gallagher, the second-to-oldest of the family, who will likely be one of the year’s breakout stars. He fills every scene with ease and wit, walking the fine line between comedy and drama like a seasoned veteran. His best scenes come with younger brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan), a closeted military school kid who’s having an affair with an older, married guy.

Joan Cusack steps into the role Allison Janney initially was cast in (Shameless was second to ABC’s Matthew Perry comedy Mr. Sunshine and she left the drama when Sunshine was picked up to series) and plays agoraphobic neighbor Sheila, whose family the Gallaghers just can’t seem to get enough of.

Overall, Shameless marks one of the 2009-10 TV season’s best and we’ll call it now: Emmy for the Emmy in ’11.

And if the 20-minute preview doesn’t convince you to check out Shameless when it premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime, there’s always the British version, which, according to the Daily Mail, will feature a lesbian sex scene between former U.K. Big Brother star Tina Malone and Karen Bryson.

No word on if the U.S. version will follow the British version’s path when it comes to the lesbian story line.

What do you think of Rossum’s Fiona?

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