A&E’s new drama The Cleaner appears to be inspired by the network’s own popular reality series Intervention, in which addicts are confronted by their loved ones, who demand they get help. So picture Intervention, add cartoon-hero dialogue and outlandish scenarios, take away any authenticity (even though it’s inspired by a true story), and you’ll have The Cleaner. I’d describe it as ludicrous, but that might give the impression that it’s remotely entertaining.
Former druggie William Banks (Law & Order’s Benjamin Bratt) runs a service in which he and his special-ops-style team of fellow ex-users — including Ally McBeal’s Gil Bellows as a growly muscleman and Battlestar Galactica’s Grace Park as an oversexed, Lamborghini-straddling trust-fund princess — can be called upon to round up addicts and force them into rehab. This premise assumes that addicts are wily masterminds who function on a Jason Bourne level of ingenuity. To corner a gambling addict, for instance, the team deploys radar trackers, sexual espionage, and car chases. And after all that, they just grab the lady and drive her to rehab. Yes, this is one of those dramas in which characters never take the obvious, logical A-to-B route, but instead opt for endless Rube Goldbergian detours. To catch a teenage drug addict, the team goes undercover, sets up stakeouts, infiltrates a white supremacist gang, and ultimately sticks the kid with a needleful of sedatives — all for a boy who regularly wanders in and out of his home when he needs more cash. The show also assumes that addicts’ loved ones are utterly inept human beings: The kid’s mom stands in various rooms watching him while looking bewildered, even though the boy is as mellow as a kitten and she has a strapping nephew willing to strong-arm him into rehab. But then, that solution would make sense.
The Cleaner shifts between these shenanigans and Banks’ personal life: He has two kids and a loving but wary wife (Californication’s Amy Price-Francis) who doesn’t entirely trust him because of his former addiction. Banks deals with his sobriety by talking to God a lot in a streetwise, weary way — because he’s a struggling guy, okay? Despite kicking drugs, he still smokes — because he’s human, okay? Banks, in case you didn’t get it, is a man who’s not perfect, a man who’s trying the best he can. He’s not, however, the man I’d call in an emergency. Not even a midsummer-I’ll-watch-anything-on-TV sort of emergency. D+