After two absolutely brilliant series, two main characters leave the show. The massive popularity pretty much guaranteed a third series, and a fourth is reported to be in the pipeline.
This series opens as if the producers had decided to draw a line in the sand to separate it from the first two. Some of the characters are styled differently, the sets are not quite the same and the roles have altered. At first I found this slightly off-putting, but as the series progresses things seem to return to more familiar arrangements, or maybe you just get used to it.
With the absence of Fiona and Steve the other members of the family now seem a little more mature. Lip's and Ian's love life feature prominently, and there are some welcome episodes focusing on Kev and Veronica. (Maxine Peake takes this series' prize as the best actress in my book.) Of course, Frank and Sheila are not forgotten, both getting up to ever madder things. There are returns of some old favourites, and some new characters to add to the mix.
Some of the content of this series is rather more edgy and close to the knuckle, even for Shameless. There's less of a warm and fuzzy feel to the antics of the family, and some parts aren't quite in that slightly surreal realm the characters normally inhabit, instead being rather real-world serious. That's not to say there aren't some hilarious moments, my favourite being a slapstick moment when Kev goes to drive away from his evening class...
The DVD contains a "mockumentary" with Alice Barry (Lillian). Personally I'd have preferred to have seen a proper behind-the-scenes short, but this is an amusing, surreal and somehow fitting way of giving some tantalising glimpses. At first it's not quite obvious whether the interview is a poor attempt at something serious, or a total mickey-take. It soon becomes apparent. You may even recognise the interviewer.
Overall: good, but not quite as polished as before.