TNT has staked out a place in the TV drama field in recent years with shows featuring flawed lead characters whom one might not especially like but can still root for (The Closer
and Saving Grace
), and now A&E has made a similar move with The Cleaner
, the network’s first scripted series. For the show’s title character, William Banks (Benjamin Bratt), his gig is less a job than a calling. A recovering addict with stints in both rehab and jail on his record, Banks had bottomed out completely when he made what he describes as a "deal" with God: if He would save him in his darkest moment, then Banks would in turn devote himself to helping others whose addictions have put their careers, families, and very lives in jeopardy. And so it goes, as Banks and his young crew (all of whom have also been affected in one way or another by addictions to drugs, gambling, and the like) put themselves in some pretty funky situations to carry out their work, such as when Banks rescues an FBI agent who infiltrated a drug manufacturing operation only to become a junkie himself.
All of this righteousness doesn’t come cheap. Banks’s wife Melissa (Amy Price-Francis) and two kids have left him more than once in the past. They all live together now, but the situation is fraught, as Melissa accuses him of “replacing one fix with another,” and son Ben (Brett DelBuono) is mistrustful of both his dad’s ability to stay clean and his newfound relationship with God (in fact, William’s frequent “conversations” with the Almighty are a bit overdone). Nor does Banks handle family life very well, often reacting with impatience and defensiveness. The Waltons it ain’t. In fact, The Cleaner is pretty bleak stuff: the pilot episode alone features marital problems, suicide, and continual struggles with sobriety. But this show, with its edgy vibe (it pushes the envelope on the degree of profanity allowable on basic cable), moody lighting, and liberal use of alternative rock music, was already into its second season when this four-disc, 13-episode set was released, so they’re doing something right. Bonus features include occasional episode commentary, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, and more. --Sam Graham
Each week The Cleaner
follows Benjamin Bratt as William Banks, a recovering addict who helps others get clean by any means necessary as he struggles to maintain his own rocky personal life. William works with an eclectic team. Swenton is a wily smart aleck who is great undercover and always jealous of Akani, the beautiful, manipulative, and mysterious woman who always seems to get the best assignments and might just have a romantic past with William. Darnell is the newest member of William's crew. Darnell is deeply indebted to William for helping his younger brother get clean, but he must balance his deep religious convictions with the kind of work required as part of William's team. Together with this eclectic group, William works week-in and week-out to bring addicts of all kinds to the point where they are ready and willing to get help and begin the difficult process of getting clean. With every success and every failure, William wrestles with his own demons through an unusual relationship with God. He's a man caught between an unwavering commitment to his work, deep love for his family, and the ghosts of his own addictions. Bad for his personal life, perhaps, but these are the tensions that make William the one you want helping a troubled loved one, the one you trust to do whatever is necessary, the man you want by your side in your darkest hour. In the face of tragedy and addiction, William Banks will risk everything to be The Cleaner