The average soap opera is about as accurate a portrayal of real life as Scooby Doo is actual detective work.
Coronation Street might be good for the occasional giggle, but the impression it gives of modern Mancunian life is by comparison to reality so saccharine sweet it might as well be the setting for the Mr Men books.
In Hollyoaks it seems you only need to be 13 to run your own highly successful take on The Gadget Shop, and as for EastEnders? Well, the Fowlers might as well be the Munsters for all the relevance they have to 21st-century living.
Thank the Lord then, or actually Paul Abbott, for Shameless, the only drama on the box even attempting to hold a mirror to the people that watch it without handing out rose-tinted spectacles first.
OK, admittedly the whole thing is coated in a cartoonish bombast. If a real family were to find themselves in the scrapes experienced by the Gallaghers then they'd be locked up by the government in a sealed chamber on the moon for the protection of themselves and everyone within a ten-mile radius.
But then, if Shameless wasn't packed to bursting with such overblown storylines it'd be as tedious as standing in the middle of the roughest estate you can find and waiting until someone stole your shoes.
For example, take the episode (and a deep breath) where Debbie pretends five-year-old Liam has undergone chemotherapy to avoid the family getting into trouble for his denouncing religion in class, which ends in the Chatsworth estate holding "Liam Day", a fundraising carnival to raise money for his trip to Disneyland, where he announces publicly that he's not ill at all.
This is a slice of typical Shameless brilliance, because hidden underneath it are more truths, real emotions and everyday issues than can be packed into a year's worth of Dear Miriam. And this is why we watch it.
At the centre of it is a family that tells us it's OK to be different, that even the most dysfunctional of families can function perfectly as long as they look out for one another. Built around it is a cast of misfits that, without preaching or sentiment, show us that it's fine to be odd.
Shameless doesn't need a warning at the end saying: "If you've been affected by any of the issues in tonight's episode?" because chances are you've been affected by most of them and don't need to wear kid gloves to deal with them.
And let's not forget, of course, that the entire drunken, drugged-up and looking-for-a-scrap debacle is woven together with some of the finest acting and greatest writing we've seen on television in recent memory. It's proof that the majority of the British people aren't perfect, that we're prone to mistakes and that much of the time we're incapable of fixing them. But it also shows us that it's absolutely nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. Long live Shameless.