A&E’s The Cleaner [Tuesdays, 10/9C] minisite describes this new series as being inspired by the true story of a real-life “extreme interventionist,” stars Benjamin Bratt as William “The Cleaner” Banks, who, after hitting rock-bottom from his own addictions after the birth of his daughter, strikes a tentative deal with God. Now along with his unconventional team, he helps people get away from their addictions by any means necessary.
William’s dedication to his task causes problems at home as his children, Ben [Brett Delbuono] and Lula [Liliana Mumy] try to get him to okay their withdrawal from extracurricular activities so they can spend more time with him – and his wife, Melissa [Amy Price-Francis] is growing frustrated with his having less and less time for their family.
On the other hand, William and his team are always ready to help others to get clean. In the pilot’s opening moments, the ep cuts between William coaching his son’s football team and his team members – Akani Cuesta [Grace Park], Arnie Swenton [Esteban Powell] and Mickey Efros [Gil Bellows] – nab a gambling addict whose husband has hired them. Later, a teenaged boy asks their help with his brother – an all-conference guard and solid student who has turned to drugs after watching his father die.
Although I’ve never been particularly impressed with Benjamin Bratt, he turns in a driven performance as William, the recovering addict whose deal with God has resulting in his talking with God like he talks with everyone – though God’s answers aren’t what you’d call vocal. Park’s Akani is smart and sexy, with a weakness for William besides her own addiction. Powell’s Arnie is a bit of a chaos disturber – he needs the job, but isn’t sure why, and he has serious boundary issues.
The pilot is pretty gritty, featuring one death by overdose, one near miss, and some strongly intense scenes among the living and somewhat less wounded. The language is considerably more intense than A&E’s last good original series [Nero Wolfe], but it feels appropriate and adds verisimilitude to the proceedings. The pilot is beautifully shot – some cool split screen work adds unexpected depth, and the more straightforward scenes and action sequences are equally effective.
Final Grade: B+