While Queer as Folk was mostly about middle class gays in the 1999-era Canal Street Gay Village, Shameless takes place in the "housing estates" (US: "projects") of today. Both got American make-overs as US viewers have trouble understanding British working class and regional accents, and British TV is often too raunchy for the FCC. For an over-the-top peek at life in Manchester, see these shows.
With 8 seasons to date, Shameless follows the Gallagher family, and later the neighboring Maguires, with lots of interaction between them. Gay references are frequent. Both families have closeted gay sons. Early on, shopboy Ian Gallagher is humping the South Asian shop owner, Kash. Ian's older brother Lip and Kash's wife Yvonne find out, with interesting coming-to-terms for all. Later Ian pals with Mickey Maguire. The one-time sex is casual, but in friendship they carve out a space in Chatsworth Estate, careful to keep secrets from their dads.
Ian's younger brother Carl, who grows up on the series, seems fine --all smiles in a gay bar his girlfriend's gay brother Brian takes them to. One of few original characters, Carl has become the young stud -- the writers find endless ways to get the clothes off him. Elliott Tittensor, the actor, also seems unfazed. Although Elliott's not known to be gay, his character Daz has a naked romp with another boy in the recent short Protect Me from What I Want (2009); see BoysOnFilm4.
Other gay Shameless roles include: the Gallagher clan's mother Monica, who ran off with her truck-driving girlfriend Norma; the local woman pub owner; Ian's and Mickey's various boyfriends - cops to small-time crooks; and a psychopathic gangster, Roscoe. Gays and sex are just part of an amazing and witty foray beyond the pale, tackling issues of class, drugs, family, and getting by in hard times. As Frank Gallagher, played by David Threlfall, says: "... they all know how to throw a paa'eee."
To compare with another Brit TV series, set in less gritty Bristol, with softer West Country accents, see Skins' gay character Maxxie, the first two seasons, played by Mitch Hewer.