A Text From Frank? Showtime Turns to Community to Promote Final Season of 'Shameless'

SHAMELESS - William H. Macy
Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME

Fans of drama can join the Gallagher family group chat ahead of the series finale.

Ever wondered what it’d be like to text Frank Gallagher?

Fans of the drama series Shameless began to find out on Thursday when Showtime teamed up with Community, a startup that allows celebrities to connect with fans through SMS messaging, to promote the final few episodes of the long-running show.

In a recent tweet from the official Shameless Twitter account, fans were directed to text a Chicago telephone number because “Frank wants to know if you’d buy him a beer (or two).” Sending a message to the number prompted an automated reply asking if the user was a U.S. resident and at least 18 years old. If they answered yes, they were added to the Gallagher family group chat.

The partnership between Showtime and Community reflects the growing adoption of new technology platforms in Hollywood. On Feb. 8, MGM launched a campaign with celebrity video service Cameo, marketing new film Breaking News in Yuba County by offering personalized messages from Allison Janney and Bridget Everett.

For Showtime, which premiered the final season of Shameless on Dec. 6, Community provided the right platform to offer a deeper connection with characters that fans have grown to love. “Over 11 seasons of Shameless, fans have connected super passionately with the show’s central fictional family, going so far as to brand themselves part of The Gallagher Fam on social media,” says executive vp of marketing and strategy Puja Vohra. “As the series ends its run, we couldn’t think of a better way to bring fans closer to the characters they love than to let them enter and participate in the Gallaghers’ family group chat.”

People who have joined the chat can expect to receive two-to-three messages per week, including prompts like asking them to help younger brother Ian help pick out a Valentine’s Day gift for his husband, Mickey.

To craft the text messages in the voice of the characters, Showtime’s marketing team worked closely with producer John Wells Productions, Vohra says, adding that the group chat will reflect the current moment and demonstrate “how these characters would react to what’s going on around us.”

This is the first time that two-year-old Community has offered a fictional texting experience. The startup, backed by Ashton Kutcher, typically hosts conversations for musicians like Post Malone or actors like Kerry Washington. “Community was built for this,” says Community head of brand Chrystina Woody-Train. “We want to create new and innovative ways to keep people connected and without the worry of algorithms or trolling. The Gallagher family are beloved because of their relatability, which can no doubt be transferred into their text message conversations on Community. The possibilities of creativity are limitless. We're always amazed at how people and brands are using Community.”

The campaign is expected to run through the Shameless series finale, which bows April 11.