What do you get when you have six kids (the oldest raising the other five); a deadbeat dad, who’s only full-time occupation is to be a con artist and get hammered; a high-end car thief that is actually an ivy league drop-out, and an agoraphobic? The building blocks for the U.S. Showtime series Shameless.

There is nothing envious about how the Gallagher’s live. They are a lower-class family living in Chicago, fighting to get by financially and trying to figure out life.

But this is no pity party.

I can’t help but laugh at the absurd predicaments that the Gallagher’s find themselves in, usually all thanks (or no thanks) to Frank Gallagher a.k.a ‘Frank the Plank’ (William H. Macy), the single parent to the six Gallagher children.

Frank is constantly scheming ways to make a quick buck and support his addictions. This can involve pretending to be homeless, hurting himself on the job to continue collecting disability and even taking a woman with Alzheimer’s out of a nursing home to play as the Gallagher’s longtime deceased Aunt Ginger — all so he can continue to collect her social security check when the state comes calling. Macy gives the role the life and energy it demands without stealing the show.

Even though Frank is around, he is never really there for his kids – and they are probably better off.

So, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the oldest of the Gallagher children assumes the role of mom and dad. Fiona works odd dead-end jobs to keep a roof over the heads of the five younger kids that live in the house. There is Phillip, who is academically inclined (and gets busted for taking the SATs for other kids); Ian, who is struggling with the secret of being homosexual (only a handful of people know); Debbie, the charismatic sister with a heart of gold (she only keeps a small amount of the money she collects for charity); Carl, if he’s not getting suspended he’s setting something on fire, and baby Liam.

Shelia Jackson (Joan Cusack) plays the kooky neighbor with a weird obsession with shoes in her home and is the agoraphobic mother of Karen (Phillip’s girlfriend) and wife to Eddie, a blue-collar worker that is obsessed with religion and clowns. In season one, Shelia and Eddie separate, and Eddie moves into the basement with his clown collection while Shelia and Frank develop a relationship (literally) over his head. Cusack and Macy have a loving and comedic relationship that is really blossoming in the show and something I cannot wait to see more of in season two.

Season two finds the Gallagher’s getting ready for summer, the kids are out of school, and they are all getting odd jobs to make extra cash to keep things afloat through the winter. Frank is up to his usual conman gimmicks that leave me laughing out loud; Shelia has overcome (mildly) her agoraphobia, and Fiona is dating around trying to forget Steve, who at the end of season one, took off for South America to hide from the law.

I’d tell you more, but I think they can do it best themselves.

Shameless Season 2 airs January 8, 2012 on SHOWTIME.