people at the upper ends of the American social class system.
Instead of assuming guilt for not living the traditional, middle-class
life typically depicted on American television, the members of this
TV family bond over a shared opportunity to make their way.
In many ways, Roseanne started a new era of television.
Before this sitcom, the majority of series in the domcom (domestic
comedy) or family sitcom subgenre focused on problems that were
materialistic and easily solvable in thirty-minute time slots
(McCleland 165-176). These situations and conflicts are amplified
to seem problematic for the character while viewers recognize that,
in reality, these issues are trivial in comparison to other real-life
problems. Also, these programs focus on the characters’ journeys
to resolve the problem at hand. By keeping the focus on a
particular character or group of characters, any critical,
sociopolitical context is situated in the background if present at all.
In the exploitation era, we see a shift in the purpose of contextual
elements. Instead of establishing a televisual space where a
character (or set of characters) might find redemption, the set itself
– most often the Conner’s modest and messy living room in
fictional Lanford, Illinois – acts a critique of the larger culture. The
shift toward a comedy of exploitation capitalizes on the context of
a situation to critique a larger narrative existing outside of the set,
both the location for shooting and the television set.
There are ways in which the Showtime series Shameless,
which is based on a British television series and transplanted to
Chicago, recalls elements of Roseanne but casts them in a much
harsher light. Episodes of the show first aired in 2011, and the
series is still on the air as of the publication of this anthology. In
this essay, I argue that the comedy-drama Shameless situates the
violent abuse of resources as a form of comedic exploitation.
Furthermore, I argue that the context of the show exploits the
value of Blackness and classicism to uphold a sacrosanct vision of