Billions, Shameless: cable TV shows worth watching

Billions and Shameless rule. My calendar is not divided so much into seasons of weather, but rather shorter seasons marked by the premiere and evaporation of new and old Cable TV series. They come and go quickly on a 12-14 week run on costly Cable TV and DirecTV, but some are worth watching

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

There are six seasons in my world and they don’t include the monotony of Spring, Summer, Fall or the snow-blinding Winter. They are seasons created artificially by HBO and Show Time and several other Cable TV broadcasters.

Cable TV and DirecTV, which which have mastered the art of treating consumers like they were “beets,” milk us for every penny for the new shows and even more for the old re-runs so that the average cost of one cable or DirecTV box is about $65 each.

It’s a true rip-off that should be nationalized by the American government, controlled and pillaged on behalf of the people. But, of course, the Federal government on either side of the political party line doesn’t have people who care about the taxpayers, and officials on the local level depend too much on the political contributions they make to do anything about it.

So as TV consumers, we’re stuck. We have no choice. Either watch Cable TV or DirecTV and pay the ransom for our entertainment, or go off the grid. So, you make the best of a bad situation.

English: Actress Emmy Rossum at the 2010 Indep...

Actress Emmy Rossum at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only highlight of this dilemma is that each season now, more and more Hollywood movie and television series companies are competing hard for the wealth of cash pilfered from the public by the Cable TV and DirecTV services. Just like the banks dig into drug money — Wachovia is a good example of that — the cable companies are digging into the exploitation of the entertained masses.

That’s America. There should be a TV show about it. Fortunately there are a few others during this brief seasons that begin this month.

Tow shows stand out, Shameless, which is on its 6th Season and is so popular it has been renewed based on the performance of its Season 6 premiere for a 7th, 12 episode long season next January. Shameless shameless exploits women and sex so much that it sets new records on how many people are having sex during one 50 minute episode, and how many sets of breasts one can see during one couch potato sitting.

The series stars Emmy Rossum as the oldest daughter of the motherless Gallagher clan, Fiona, headed by the drugged up, streetwise homeless father, Frank, played by William H. Macey. You might complain about all the sex and drugs and even some of the violence on the show, but the truth is that Shameless isn’t exploiting our society. It’s only giving us a closeup look at things in our society we pretend we don’t want to see. Or maybe things that are too close to home.

We have watched in 5 seasons actor Ethan Cutkosky grow up in his role as “Carl Gallagher” from an innocent child into a hardened, streetwise drug-dealing and sex manipulating 17 year old who reigns over his growing cast of street peeps with street smarts that are impressive, if creepy and frightening, too. Carl is a street gang in and of himself.

The show on Showtime on Sunday nights masterfully offers everything that Americans crave in television entertainment, either through Comcast Cable TV or DirecTV — the online services are inconsistent, low quality and unreliable for most people but generate hundreds of millions in profits anyway.

I’m wondering if Showtime officials when they are not drunk with success have sex on mattresses covered in cash might sober up enough to contemplate a movie version of the series, not after the Series is done but now while the series is hot. Usually, movies come back as reunions following long periods of TV death, but I think Show Time should strike while the angry red nail is hot!

And if Showtime’s Shameless on Sunday nights wasn’t enough for you — it is more than enough entertainment for an entire week — Showtime has landed what is going to quickly become the next hottest show Cable TV/DirecTV show, Billions, starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti who has filled the shows of the late but powerful character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who left us wanting so much more in February 2014.

Lewis starred in the hit Showtime series Homeland, which was based on the war on terrorism, until he was murdered by hanging from a construction crane — that’s how they do it — by Jihadists in 2014. Homeland was, during its first three seasons, the most racist anti-Arab and anti-Muslim program on television besides FOX TV News. But last season in 2015, (5th season), it made a radical change away from racism to good screenwriting and a great plot that focused on real issues rather than pandering to the quick buck of racist hatred.

Homeland is now one of my favorite shows, too, along with Shameless and Billions, and the HBO heavyweight, Game of Thrones, which just completed a stunning 6th Season of only 10 episodes each. Short but powerful, it should restart in April, the beginning of a new 10-week season of entertainment.

TV seasons have breaks between seasons that make the public want more. They feed us bread crumbs — bread crumbs that taste great, and we crave for more.

Billions is all about a U.S. Attorney and a hedge fund billionaire who battle it out in the wake of the recent attention grabbing and money stealing scandals involving Bernie Madoff (who will be featured in a special TV movie soon) and the spectacular movie “Wolf of Wall Street,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

The first episode sets up the antagonists and the conflict and anything involving so much money will involve a lot of greed and sex, too. Maybe us little people might learn something on investment from the show. But that would only make us want to recognize that despite a small handful of great shows (include Flip or Flop on the HGTV Cable TV/DirecTV channel among my all time favorites), cable TV is a wasteland of broken and unfulfilled entertainment promises.

If the producers and Hollywood film and TV companies really cared about the public, instead of Oscars at the Academy Awards, they would extend these popular series from 10 and 12 episodes to 30 episodes or more, like another mainstream TV show I love, Grimm, about a monster killer (called a Grimm and played by David Giuntoli) who is a police investigator in Portland, Washington.

Billions on Showtime

Billions on Showtime

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s columns are published by the Illinois News Network every week. You can reprint his columns with full credit to the author, using the shirttail and without content edits.

Hanania is also President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is, and Email him at: [email protected].