Showtime's "Shameless" plans a euthanasia storyline later this season involving Joan Cusack and Louise Fletcher's characters.
Fletcher plays Grammy Gallagher, the hard-living mother of William H. Macy's alcoholic dad Frank Gallagher. Cusack plays the Gallagher's agoraphobic neighbor, who resolves to help Grammy Gallagher when she loses her will to live.
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"I think it's something that we're all uncomfortable about, which is, there's a moment at which the person who's alive doesn't really want to be alive any more and you have no idea what to do about it," executive producer John Wells said. "They're ready to give up, it's too painful, they're tired."
He elaborated: "Joan Cusack's character makes a choice about helping [Grammy] which gets remarkably funny, and you just can't believe you're laughing at it, but at the same time you know it's very true. And that's what we're looking for: Those moments when we're satirizing… and yet there's sort of a pit in your stomach where you go 'Ooh, there's something true about this.'"
Wells and the cast of the show spoke at a Television Critics Association panel on Thursday. The show returned for its second season Sunday.
Emmy Rossum, who plays Fiona Gallagher, the linchpin of her family, said the euthanasia storyline would continue the show's efforts to take on tough issues with a mix of honesty and humor.
"I don't think we're ever going for the laugh," she said. "We're trying to tell a real story about what real people are going through. Of course it's partly satire, but I also think that it's hard to say whether it's just a drama or a comedy. And I think that most comedies that are down the middle don't deal with subject matter like alcoholism, finding your sexuality at a young age, euthanasia and things like that."