The problem with living 2000 miles away from Chicago is that you don't always make it home for the holidays; and for someone who spent almost every Christmas in Chicago for more than two decades that is something that takes some getting used to. Since we couldn't just hop on the Metra to downtown for ice skating at Millennium Park, caroling at The Bean, or a visit to the Christkindlemarkt then we had to settle with the next best thing: seeing Chicago on TV instead.
If you are a television devotee (which I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have become) then the holidays pose the additional problem of not having any normal programming available. It certainly makes sense: there is just too much going on during the holidays for audiences to tune in at the normal times for their normally scheduled programs. And in times of scarcity such as this there is only one place to turn: On Demand.
We recently decided to give the Showtime show "Shameless" a try. Set in Chicago somewhere "on the south side" (though evidently not much south of Cermak) it is a freewheeling ensemble show about the escapades of a family with a drunk dad, a missing mom and six kids trying to just figure out how to make a go of life.
Unlike other big shows filming in Chicago like "Mob Doctor" (while it lasted) and "Chicago Fire", "Shameless" combines on-location shooting in Chicago with scenes that are shot on a sound-stage at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank. (I accidentally got to walk onto one of these sets during a studio tour. One minute in a sound stage, the next minute in the Gallagher's living room on a hot set (which means DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!))
And though I would love to be a purist and advocate for all shows to be shot on location I also readily admit that the technique is pretty seamless on "Shameless". If we can't be home for the holidays it is at least comforting to see it being so distinctively represented on TV.