Showtime’s ‘Shameless’: In Defense of Ian & Caleb

June 21, 2016

Rumor has it that the cast of Showtime’s Shameless had their first table read for the upcoming seventh season. It got me thinking about all the things I loved (and didn’t love) about the last season (or two). Among the biggest disappointments has been the departure of Mickey Milkovich portrayer Noel Fisher and the hole his character’s absence has left on the show.

For the first five seasons I was a die hard “Gallavich” fan. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey are one of my all-time favorite television couples. Their love story was beautifully told with brutally painful lows and the most magnificent highs. In Fisher’s absence, Shameless writers had to decide what to do with Ian romantically. Would he spend the season wallowing in Mickey’s absence? Would he swear off men for the rest of time? They decided to have him slowly get involved with Mickey’s antithesis, a firefighter named Caleb (Jeff Pierre).

There’s a lot I could say about the way the Ian/Caleb romance unfolded and the liberties that were taken with Ian’s understanding of how relationships work. The Ian Gallagher we met in season 1 would have been horrified by some of the things season 6 Ian said to Caleb. I don’t believe for one moment that Ian’s relationship with Mickey would have made him so uncomfortable with a relationship that progressed at a more typical pace. That said, there was something nice about seeing Ian with someone who was so different than Mickey in so many ways. For so long Ian had to be the one pushing things along, and though Mickey really turned himself around, it was pleasant to see Ian at the beginning of something with someone who didn’t make him feel like an idiot for wanting something real.

ian mickey

We talk a lot on the podcast about two different kinds of ‘ships. The first is the kind of TV romance that makes you feel things all the way in your toes. It’s a visceral connection that hurts when things are bad and elates when things are good. The other kind is the relationship where you can relax because the character you love is with a good person. You can feel confident and comfortable in the thought that if these characters were people you knew in real life you’d be rooting them on. Some might argue that the best ‘ships fit into both categories. I, personally, love the drama-filled, angsty ‘ships that maybe aren’t so safe and smart.

At the end of the day, though, both are appealing for their own reasons. It’s part of why Jane the Virgin’s love triangle is so hard to decipher. Jane’s two love interests balance these two ideas and put them up against each other (while also mixing aspects of each type into each of her relationships).  Ian and Mickey broke ground in so many ways. The fact that their love story was the opposite of conventional is why so many people loved it as intensely as they did.

But, is it really so bad for Ian to find love in a more conventional way? If we play out the Gallavich road all the way to the end…what’s there? Which relationship takes Ian somewhere that we want to see him go? I love Mickey Milkovich with all of my heart. The thought of him rotting away in prison without Ian’s love destroys me. But, realistically, it’s hard to root for Ian’s relationship with Caleb to fail in favor of what he had with Mickey.

I’ll never know why Fisher chose to leave. And, should he return in season 7, I can’t say I’d be against a “Gallavich” reunion (certainly the goosebumps that appear on my arms from the mere thought are in favor). I want to give Ian and Caleb a chance, though. As a fan, first of foremost, of the character of Ian Gallagher, I want to see him have a chance at a healthy, successful relationship, even if it doesn’t make me feel quite as many things as I felt watching him with Mickey.

What do you think?

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10 comments on “Showtime’s ‘Shameless’: In Defense of Ian & Caleb

  1. Neely Jun 21, 2016

    I love Caleb with Ian. As much as I love Mickey I feel Caleb has been so good for Ian’s growth and acceptance of his mental issues. He wanted to do grown up normal things with Ian. It makes me happy.

  2. Brian Jun 21, 2016

    Is this a joke? Did John Wells pay for this article?

  3. Brian Jun 21, 2016

    I also have to say that this attitude seems to be playing right into the writers hand and what they are now trying to make viewers believe. After 5 seasons of pushing one relationship and showing the good and tender thing it grew to be, the writers all of a sudden wanted to try and pretend that Ian and Mickey’s relationship was something bad and toxic when that was simply not true. Nothing bad that happened to Ian in s5 had anything to do with Mickey, beyond his BPD, he was happy, they were happy and Mickey didn’t do anything to have people believe he was bad for Ian. It makes me sad that people are now buying into what is being shoved down their throats by the writers when we have seen the opposite for 5 seasons. Mickey was not bad for Ian, that’s just not true. And the writers now trying to make us believe he was is very upsetting. Ian is doing better in s6 because he is stable on his meds, not because of this so-called relationship. He could have stabilized just as easily on his own or with Mickey, let’s not pretend his relationship is what helped him, the idea is offensive in the first place and simply false.

    • Tamar Jun 21, 2016

      It’s interesting because I think there are several ways to look at the arc of Ian and Mickey’s relationship. While I’d agree that nothing that happened to Ian in season 5 was Mickey’s fault, one could argue that Ian’s leaving town (at the end of s3), wrecklessly joining the army, and everything that followed was, in some part, due to his toxic relationship with Mickey. I am a die hard fan of Ian and Mickey together but Mickey’s (understandable) inability to come out to his father and his marriage to Svetlana destroyed Ian. Mickey more than made up for it, but it seems at least slightly myopic to ignore all that came before his declarations of commitment at the end of season 4.

      The other thing is that I never commented on Ian’s happiness. I agree with you 100% that Mickey made Ian happy. I think that’s what makes their relationship so enjoyable to watch. When it’s good, it’s so so good. But, from a strictly “real life” perspective, Mickey is a criminal whose most successful endeavor was stealing people’s property while claiming to be a moving company. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that there is something appealing about Ian being with somebody who has some real stability.

      As I said there are many things that can be said about missteps in the development of the Ian/Caleb relationship and they bothered me tremendously throughout season 6. But if Noel Fisher is unavailable, I’m not horrified to think of Ian moving forward, despite the anger/sadness I might have about the way Mickey’s legacy has been presented.

      • Brian Jun 21, 2016

        I am not ignoring the issues they had prior to s5 and the part Mickey played in Ian’s issues. However, it seemed obvious to me that Mickey made up for the (as you said) and that they had moved past that as a couple. Mickey made huge strides for Ian, he risked a lot in order to be with him and stayed by Ian’s side during a very difficult time.

        I have to say that I’m a little tired of the real life excuse being used as an excuse for this show. Franks has killed multiple people and is not in prison, that’s not real life. Frank would never have gotten that liver transplant in real life. In real life, women’s gestation periods last 9 months and none of that has been reflected on this show so we cannot use real life as an excuse. Additionally, this is not real life, it’s a television show and its supposed to be an interesting narrative, not something that’s always true to what would happen in real life. Story-wise, this sucks, Ian and Mickey were electrifying to watch, and excellent television. This current “relationship” is more boring than watching paint dry and has not been done believably at all. Also, calling Mickey a criminal seems to imply that he is less deserving of Ian’s affection because he wasn’t raised in a normal middle class family and doesn’t have a good job, which should not be true.

        Also, I think the number of times anyone defending Caleb has to say “if you look past the fact that this happened, it you ignore the fact that they did this…” I don’t think something should have to be tip-toed around so much in order to be good and enjoyable.

        And this is also ignoring the harm that Caleb has done to Ian in s6. They had sex before Caleb disclosed his status to Ian, which I believe is a crime, he is the one that told Ian to lie on his EMt application, later leading him to be let go (and then rehired through the most unrealistic scene I have ever seen, but I digress).

        In addition to all this, I would be much more open to considering Ian in another relationship if it did not seem so obviously designed to appear “better than Mickey” and “more stable than Mickey” in order to try and degrade Ian and Mickey’s relationship and make it seem like it was bad for Ian. Caleb is so obviously attempting to be sold as the superior boyfriend, I am offended as a former viewer that the writers seem to think that their audience forgot the last 5 seasons and will now see Mickey and his relationship with Ian as the negative thing they are now trying to sell it as. I’m not buying, and I’m sad that others are.

        • Tamar Jun 21, 2016

          These are great points and I don’t disagree with any of it. I am just more willing to allow this avenue to be explored, which is obviously just a matter of taste. (Although what you say about when Caleb disclosed his status is important and I hadn’t thought much about it)

          Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts in such a civil way. If you haven’t listened to our podcast, the whole goal is to celebrate relationships and to hear out all opinions. “Shipping” often gets so toxic and people have such a hard time engaging in pleasant discourse, but we think it’s so important. Of course we’re not all going to agree, but why shouldn’t we hear each other out? This website is a new extension of the show with the hope of expanding the conversation. Thanks so much for being a part of it.

          • Brian Jun 21, 2016

            I think you will have a hard time engaging in “civil and respectful” discourse about this topic in particular. Many are still extremely angry about how Mickey and their relationship were treated so I don’t think many are interested in having a respectful discussion on the positives of Ian’s new “relationship” (which are few as far as I’m concerned)

  4. Many people seem to see Mickey as the “bad” one in his relationship with Ian, in a way of an bad influence, i see this differently. There isn`t anythin to excuse the violence Mickey used when he was angry or scared towards Ian but Ian wan`t the perfect boyfriend either, he pushed Mickey so often towards something he wan`t ready for, like his coming out, he wouldn´t have done it when Ian didn`t forced him to. And that´s simply what happend, he didn`t want to lose the last person me iwho made him feel better. Moreover Ian never understood or didn´t made an effort to understand Mick side of view, why he choose to marry lana for example, to keep Ian and himself safe, he was terrified of Terry. Then Mick makes an effort in s5 and Ian is lying, cheating and hitting him for it, and the bipolar can`t excuse everything he did. In my view he wan`t better than Mick, they were both pretty “toxic” to each other. In s6 they tried to show a healthy relationship for Ian but for me it wan`t that healthy, Caleb used Ian to piss of his Dad, then the lying on his application and having sex with Ian without telling him about being positive (an absolute no go). Overall i think Caleb treated Ian like a child, how he has to do things and how to be in a relationship. The scene on the bridge where Ian wanted to kiss Caleb more passionate and he slowed him down, there is nothing wrong about it but it seemed he wanted him to show how it`s right. The scene with the kid`s lunchbox a lot of people found sweet, i didn`t it just showed my point of Caleb acting like an teacher. Another think and important one for me is that Caleb always just says Ian needs to get over it and get´s his shit together but he has feelings too who are important and Caleb doesn`t seem interested in this, but especially with being bipolar it`s important to be supported and heard. I`m not beginning about what they did to mickey, people are pissed and i understand that because the writers could have respected his character more and Noel as well, they were constantly shitting on him and making fun (laughing about rape, how can this be funny, seriously) and replace him with an walking stereotype and that`s just sad especially for the actor who could have done more to his character if the writers had tried harder. But they basically told the people who loved mickey that everything was just not real and that`s just not fair, not to his character, his fans and the actor who partrays him.

  5. I think its complete bull crap to say that it’s nice to see him in a normal relationship I think caleb is shady n personal don’t like him but sense they say this is part of real life ok yes but as soon a mickey came out u make in bipolar never truly giving them a chance to have a normal relationship, on top of that as soon as they break up ian all the sudden has his bipolar under control and is on his meds n can handle a relationship (which him not taking his meds, not having his bipolar under control and not being able to handle how the relationship roles had change sparked the break up) also he moved on with no feelings no emotion to the fact mickey is gone. U want viewers to believe we waited 4 season watching in long for mickey to admit he loved him to open up n show he cares an now all the sudden he doesn’t give a crap, that he doesn’t care that they broke u he doesn’t care mickeys I’m jail he doesn’t care that mickey loves him I won’t buying it. The lie of him waiting it out him making a joke at the tattoo no feelings at all shown for a man he once deeply loved is bull that’s not real life. I hope noel comes back and I hope they make mickey and ian reunite their storyline made the show a lot better to watch. I love shameless all the same but its better with mickey an ian

  6. Gregory Shepherd Davis Aug 29, 2016

    Basically, the writers screwed up pairing Ian with Caleb.

    About 40 of my gay friends and I watched “Shameless” religiously until Noel Fisher left the show. As many have noted, it most definitely left a void, one that has yet to be filled. We basically stopped watching the show until we decided to give it another chance and watched Season 6 on iTunes. To say that we were disappointed with the selection of the most boring fireman to be Ian’s new love interest would be a major understatement. It is not “refreshing” to have Ian date the antithesis of Mickey. We, and I think most viewers, are dissatisfied with both the character of Caleb and the actor portraying him. None of the Gallaghers ever have stable relationships, which is what has kept the show interesting and edgy. Watching Caleb and Ian interact is like watching an afternoon soap opera…boring as hell. If the Ian/Caleb relationship continues into Season 7, my friends and I will likely “leave the show” ourselves again, as will most of our gay friends here in Washington, DC who are all part of HRC. I think this is the first time the writers have made a major mistake. There are plenty of ways to weave Mickey back into the story…one BS move would be to release him due to overcrowding or for some previously unknown evidence to be found to somehow exonerate him. Both suggestions are bogus, but perhaps the writers could figure it out. If it is money that Fisher wants, give it to him. If he truly does not want to return to the show, offer him even more money. If he does not return to the show, I strongly recommend the writers wake up and bring an end to the Ian/Caleb fiasco. I understand how nice it would be for Ian to have some stability in his life, but the writers really screwed up and need to give Ian a more exciting, interesting, and perhaps even a more talented sculpture as his boyfriend. There is absolutely no chemistry on the screen between Ian and Caleb, with the latter looking like a failed runway model. I have a feeling my friends and I are going to be disappointed with Season 7, which tends to happen after a show has been on the air for more than five seasons, and the writers start to run out of ideas, or at least fresh and invigorating ideas We shall see. But seriously, get rid of Caleb. There is no chemistry there like there was with Jimmy’s father and, of course, Mickey. The scenes between the two give the idea that the two of them are in a different series.

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