Blisteringly funny, offbeat drama following the rollercoaster lives and loves of an anarchic family from Manchester. Meet the Gallaghers. Mum went AWOL years ago, Dad stayed at home with the six children only to hit the bottle. And sometimes the kids... The real head of the family is big sister Fiona (20), who looks after Carl (11), Debbie (9) and baby Liam (3). She is occasionally helped, more often hindered, by reluctant virgin 'Lip' (16) and the actively gay, but very private, Ian (15).
Welcome to a hectic world of sexual adventures, triumphs, love, scams and a fair bit of crime on a rough Manchester housing estate, where wheel-less cars are the norm and the moving ones are stolen.
It's Frank's 50th and Liam has the dubious honour of sharing the auspicious day with him on his 11th birthday. Uncharacteristically, Frank snubs the chance of a party, and instead opts to dwell in his own lonely loveless existence until... Libby, a local librarian falls into his life. His passion reignited, a whirlwind romance ensues - but will Libby's mother Patty (a full-time wheelchair user), bibliophile activists and riot police stand in the way of Frank holding onto his new love? Meanwhile, Liam's inherited the dirty nappies, rubber gloves and responsibility of the Gallagher household. Nin, Liam's great grandmother, offers to move in and help ease his burden, but a selfish Frank rejects her. Liam is infuriated. Unable to cope herself, Nin is spurred into homicidal action and in turn teaches Liam a priceless lesson in surviving as a Gallagher. Elsewhere, whilst an overdue Karen worries about the paternity of her unborn baby, an oblivious Jamie and the rest of the Maguire clan prepare for the imminent arrival. Joe lurks in the background, but a medical emergency soon brings him to the fore and back in favour with the Maguires.
The Maguire clan is fully mobilised for the christening of its newest member baby Connor, with Mimi pulling all the strings. Her first act, reallocating godmother duties, leaves now 'ex' godmother Kelly devastated. Shane is stuck in the unenviable position of being forced to take sides between Kelly's need for acceptance and his mum's pursuit of respectability. Kelly demands he permanently cut the apron strings if their relationship is to last. Paddy's attempt to get involved in the family celebration is derailed by his own personal credit crunch. Papering over the cracks in his relationships, Paddy tries to press-gang Shane and Jamie into his new plan for the family business. While the lads turn him down, an eager Mickey is overlooked. Feeling ever more isolated, a fatal mistake by Paddy means Mickey must come to his rescue. At his lowest ebb, Paddy takes the christening opportunity to cleanse his own soul in front of the astonished family. Meanwhile Karen's spending is burdening her and Jamie under a mountain of debt whilst her affair with Joe threatens to spiral out of control. At the Gallaghers, Carl's experiment in the bedroom shocks Maxine into retaliatory strap-on action!
Karen's obsessive drive to prove herself more than just a mum has Jamie worried. With the help of a trampoline and a battalion of baton twirling majorettes her body is in perfect shape but her mind is in danger of unravelling, leaving the Maguires to pick up the pieces. Liam's pursuit of his first true love is threatened when he becomes tangled in a web of his own lies. His desperate attempts to conceal his Chatsworth life are shattered when Frank is summoned to the school. Maxine's life is thrown into turmoil when she is presented with an urgent choice. At the time she needs Carl most she finds him following in Frank's footsteps at the bottom of a pint glass. She turns to Ian for support. Elsewhere on Chatsworth, Yvonne is in debt and out of her depth when Paddy comes collecting. The Karibs concoct a plan leaving the shop under new management, Paddy enraged and Chesney starting a new independent life. Meanwhile, Mickey finds a plumber to help him with his neglected pipework.
Mimi gets a toy boy, Billy the Jockey football team's star striker, but her happiness is short-lived when she discovers her new beau is the not the man she thought he was. So when Billy tries to blackmail Mimi into continuing to see him, she decides to teach him a Maguire life lesson he will never forget. Shane and Kelly encourage Paddy to get back into the dating game; only to have their proposal rejected. Unperturbed, Shane rallies his brothers together and arranges a night out for Paddy. At the club Paddy's embarrassing 'Saturday Night Fever' dance routine cause his sons to abandon him. Emasculated, he returns home where he finds his own opportunity to make a proposal. Elsewhere, Frank is temporarily blinded by bootleg vodka. Rejecting doctor's orders to detox, the family take advantage of his blindness and set about turning his vices into virtues. Joe settles in as the new manager of the shop and in an attempt to make more money on the side, makes a deal with Shane.
Maxine is desperate to make a good impression at her parents' party so cajoles Ian into pretending to be her boyfriend. He reluctantly agrees, but their act unearths deep feelings that take everyone by surprise. Meanwhile, Carl realises what he's lost by splitting up with Maxine so he is determined to win her back. But Carl soon finds love and hate are two sides of the same coin when Micky reveals a painful secret. At the Jockey, Mimi does her best to conceal Karen's illness after she returns from the psychiatric unit. While Karen settles back into Chatsworth life, Jamie struggles to cope with the reality of living with mental illness. Escaping for a night out, Jamie meets Michelle, a Madame of a thriving male Escort Agency who plans to seduce him into a murky but lucrative new job. While Lillian is away, Kelly takes control of the brothel and is soon making a fortune from an untapped market. Paddy is keen to get in on the action but Kelly's not interested, so he forces Chesney to become part of the Maguire organisation and accept an offer he can't refuse.
Paddy's plans to salsa into the sunset with his new love D'een are scuppered when Mimi forces him to guarantee the financial security of the family with one last job - targeting the drug money of notorious psychopath Roscoe. Torn between a new life with D'reen and his family responsibilities, Patrick calls upon his sons for help. Meanwhile, Liam is suffocating under an avalanche of household debts and the fallout from trying to gamble his way out of trouble. Looked upon as a massive disappointment by Frank, and with no options left, he is driven to desperate measures. And Jamie is literally flat-out trying to keep his family afloat while Karen is coming apart at the seams.
Frank's romantic interest, Libby, returns and her time away has only increased her ardour. Armed with just a mobile library she is determined to bring knowledge to the people and rekindle her romance. Libby's romantic delusion is only punctured when she witnesses the 'real' Frank, leaving her Elizabeth Bennett without the Mr Darcy she craved. But overwhelmed by his desire, Frank strains every sinew to win her back using an unfamiliar weapon, honesty. Jamie focuses all his energies into giving his Madam, Michelle, whatever she wants in order to pay off Karen's debts. But his unusual behaviour rattles Karen's delicate disposition and raises Paddy's suspicions and when Michelle makes it clear she wants more than Jamie can give, the pressure mounts. Risking the fury of a woman scorned, but with everything he cares for at stake, Jamie has no choice but to find a way out. Meanwhile, Lillian invests in a new HD television to keep the punters happy, but soon realises she has purchased a conduit to the afterlife.
Wedding bells are in the air on the estate, a little too frequently for the police, as the Maguire's exploit a new money-making scheme. Business turns to pleasure when Shane asks Kelly to marry him, but his dream soon becomes a nightmare when she turns him down. As his life unravels Shane uncovers a terrible betrayal by those closest to him and must suffer for the sins of his father. Hitting rock bottom he finds the strength to make an important decision. Now Libby and her mother are firmly nestled in the Gallagher house, Frank 'volunteers' to paint Patty's converted bedroom. But in the pursuit of a bargain, Frank falls and feigns injury leading to a potentially disastrous face-off with Patty. Elsewhere, Chesney holds a house party to get close to Sammy, but a promise turns to a threat when blood is spilt, leaving awful consequences.
Carl and Chesney's attempt to outrun their troubles make them realise the grass isn't always greener. Stranded on a Welsh farm they are offered sanctuary by a mysterious woman, Hazel. But things soon turn sour when news reaches them that they are now the prime suspects for Bonehead's murder. Back home, Liam and Maxine seem to be the only ones concerned by their disappearance which forces Ian to confront Jimmy, the real murderer, in order to establish the truth. Elsewhere, Mickey and Liam have been picked by the council to make a local community film in the hope it will inspire the residents of Chatsworth now that their estate has been identified as the most run down in Britain. With Kelly and Shane's help Mickey decides to stretch poetic licence in pursuit of glory, whilst Liam uses the competition as a cover to film evidence that could save Carl and Chesney from prison. Meanwhile, in a bid to better herself, Mimi joins the WI, but is humiliated and ostracised by the group, who make it clear she will never belong. In revenge, Mimi decides to pep up their annual calendar shoot with her own special mixture.
Shane is devastated to discover he's 'firing blanks' and while he frets, Kelly is reconciled to their future without children. The Maguire men refuse to let one of their own be struck down so decide to take matters into their own hands and get their heads together to come up with a sticky solution. Although Shane is keen to take up their offer Kelly refuses, and with Liam's help, both realise the answer to their problem lies closer to home. Carl and Chesney return to the Chatsworth and live undercover in Joe's storeroom. When Maxine discovers the boys are back, she risks her relationship with Ian by secretly concocting a plan to get them out of trouble. Carl prefers a more direct option, which puts all the Gallaghers in danger. While others choose to turn a blind eye, including Paddy, Shane refuses to stand by and do nothing, teaching Jimmy and his gang a lesson they will never forget. Meanwhile, Libby's attempts to set up a book club backfire when she, with Frank's encouragement, becomes an unwitting modern-day Robin Hood.
Liam befriends World War Two veteran, Reggie, to help him with a school project. Troubled and lonely without his sister and fed up with Libby's well-intentioned interference at home, Liam finds solace in his friendship with the old man. But when Libby spies on them, she jumps to the all the wrong conclusions - leading to a tragic confrontation between the Gallaghers and Reggie. Maxine is shocked when her brother, Bruce, turns up with a black eye claiming a homophobic attack by their dad, but her loyalties are tested when she confronts their father and discovers the real story. Bruce's arrival as an openly gay man on Chatsworth agitates the locals and he quickly outstays his welcome at Ian's house, but he charms his way into Mimi's heart and the Jockey, leaving Mickey teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, Karen is put out when Joe appears to have moved on by taking control of his life and attending anger management classes.
In an attempt to build up some confidence, Ian joins the local boxing club and quickly strikes up a friendship with the owner, Jock. But when the club faces closure due to Jock's debt with Paddy, Ian enlists Maxine, Carl and Chesney to help raise funds. However, it soon becomes clear that Ian has stumbled into a hornet's nest of unfinished business between Paddy and Jock. Meanwhile, a moment of heroism prompts Mickey to apply for a job with the fire service, but during the assessment he is haunted by old doubts. Returning a failure, he feels wounded, but his handling of a life-threatening emergency proves that he deserves respect. At the Gallaghers', Libby's biological clock is in overdrive, and to Frank's utter horror she makes it clear she wants to have children of her own before it's too late. Elsewhere, Liam is targeted by bullies, while Karen sets up a Chatsworth's Got Talent night at The Jockey.
Kelly takes guardianship of her 15 year-old half sister Tonya who is homeless and needs help to get her baby boy out of care. In a meeting with Tonya's social worker Julie, it's agreed that custody will only be considered if Tonya proves she is responsible by looking after a simulation baby. But it's not long before the unruly teen leaves Micky holding the plastic baby, forcing him to make a painful decision. Elsewhere, Libby witnesses the results of an apparent miracle from a visit to a French grotto and organises a pilgrimage for Patty. Petrified and elated at the thought of liberation from her mother, she persuades Frank to escort Patty while she waits anxiously at home. The unlikely travelling companions end up sharing a room in a convent where Frank becomes the improbable focus of attention.
After months of separation Patrick and Mimi amicably agree to a quickie divorce, but they get a nasty shock when it's revealed their marriage was never legal. Mimi flies into accusations and recriminations holding Patrick to blame. She then hatches a plan to secretly marry and divorce legitimately in order to save the souls of their children who were born out of wedlock. Everything is in disarray, and Patrick is due to leave for a new business venture, but the mission to re-marry brings up memories of the past and unearths their true feelings. With his parents apparently divorced, Micky feels orphaned and bitter about his relationships. In an effort to cheer him up, Maxine and Ian treat him to a night out where he meets a guy, Gary. Their connection restores his faith until he discovers their bond is built on secrets and half-truths. Micky must decide whether to bare the burden of his own lies or if honesty is the best policy. Patty sets Frank up on a benefit scam, landing him behind bars. But when Libby learns the truth, she rails against a righteous Patty in order to raise bail and free her love.
During his birthday celebration Joe receives the tragic news of his father's death. The painful realisation that life is too short fuels his determination to start a new life with Karen. Although Karen is uncertain, Joe manages to convinces her of their future together away from Chatsworth. Trying to come clean to Jamie, Karen's confession is derailed when he reveals his own grubby secrets. Emotional deadlock forces Joe into a course of action with far-reaching consequences for all of them. Elsewhere, Bruce gets a chance to shine as caretaker/manager for the Jockey football team, but when he arranges a gay five-a-side football tournament Chesney is not willing to 'come out' with the other lads. And while Ian plays with the boys, Maxine explores her artistic side as a life model.
Karen and Joe are holed up in the shop with the spectre of Jamie's revenge hanging over them. Joe is plotting their future away from Chatsworth, but Jamie has Connor in hiding and Karen isn't going anywhere without her son. Joe uses his dubious contacts to snatch Connor and drag his new family away to freedom, but little does he know he's carrying unwelcome baggage! When Maxine and Ian are mugged they viciously fight back, taking their attacker captive. At odds on what to do with their prisoner, the couple quickly realise their relationship is falling apart. Elsewhere, a dark cloud falls over the Maguire family when notorious gangster and psychopath Roscoe shows up. The brothers scatter for cover, leaving Mimi to suffer the intimidation along with a dose of extreme indigestion.