Scheduling history: All seasons of Shameless have aired on Sunday at 9:00.
See (who saw) how it all began: Showtime's dramedy Shameless was based on a British series of the same name, but that series clearly didn't bring a mass American following to the table out of the gate. Shameless premiered at a modest 982,000 viewers and 0.4 demo rating on 1/9/11. It dropped to 810,000 viewers (and held the 0.4) in week two, but it was pretty much all uphill from there. It grew to 903,000 viewers in week three, then over a million (and spiked to a 0.6 demo) in week four. Most of the second half of its season saw 0.5 ratings.
The best of times: Shameless, like many cable dramas before and since, took a massive leap between seasons one and two. After a season one full of 0.4's and 0.5's, Shameless generally hit 0.7's and 0.8's in season two (only dipping to 0.5 against the Super Bowl). Season three began with another huge spike to 1.1 on the 1/13/13 premiere night (0.3 above any previous result), and that remains the series high. The spike for the full season didn't end up quite living up to that 1.1 promise (it settled around 0.8), but it was still another significant leap.
The worst of times: Shameless has never returned to the depths from early season one. Its last 0.4 rating came in episode eight. After double-digit growth in seasons two and three, though, the show did have its first ever decline in season four (albeit by a miniscule amount), and it dropped more significantly in season five.
Then vs. now: Though Homeland looked like the new Showtime darling after its season one Emmy win, Shameless may have quietly become Showtime's biggest ratings success in a post-Dexter world. Though Homeland had that Emmy and two years with the Dexter lead-in, Shameless season four narrowly outrated Homeland's first season without Dexter. And it pulled this off in what many would argue is a more difficult time of year: Sunday event season. Though Showtime has sat out Shameless against the Oscars the last few years, it's still faced the Super Bowl every single season.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.