Published on July 15th, 2008 | by Erich Becker0
The Cleaner – Pilot (01×01)
The Cleaner is an interesting take on the we’re-not-quite-a-procedural-but-we-are drama for A&E who have come up from the reality wasteland with another try at a scripted series. Benjamin Bratt stars as William Banks a former addict who hit rock bottom and now helps others when they need to kick their addictions. Banks has a team and will use any means necessary to get you into a program, whether you want it or not, meaning the program comes booted with gritty nature to it, although there are some issues.
From the very beginning it’s hard to notice that this might turn into a procedural over the course of its run with a few family bits thrown in to break up the stories, but the pilot episode lent itself as a mix between CSI and the personal lives of a low-key drama thrown into the mix as well. Blend that up with unique subject matter, the intoxicating presence of Grace Park and you have yourself another cable show where you can say the s-word a lot. In fact, the pilot episodes big twist comes straight out of the CSI pilot episode as well, although there is room to evolve and grow here.
While it’s hard to base an entire series on its pilot, there are parts that work and parts that don’t in The Cleaner. Bratt’s screen presence has been missed since his days on Law & Order ended, and aside from passable made-for movies his lack of steady TV work has been disappointing. He’s a great actor and can carry a show very well. Banks gives off a vibe somewhere between Gregory House and Gil Grissom, while being sarcastic, he always means well, plus he talks to God. God doesn’t manifest herself as Alanis Morissette, random people, or inanimate objects, Banks just responds to events with fleeting questions, proclamations, and commentary directed towards the sky with no acknowledgement. If God were truly all around us, why does everyone talk to the clouds? Why not that happy little tree over there, or this large sheepdog?
Banks’ team is composed of the aforementioned Grace as Akani, joining her Cylon compatriot Tricia Helfer (Burn Notice) on another cable series, Arnie (Esteban Powell) who doesn’t really want to be here today, and newcomer Darnell (Kevin Michael Richardson) who joins the team at the end of the pilot episode. The opening case and the team get second billing to Banks and his family life in the pilot episode, but as the season goes on a good dynamic looks to form.
The Cleaner has the potential to be something fresh and exciting with its subject matter and take-no-prisoners attitude to helping people, almost to the point of the team becoming mercenaries or vigilantes. Yet, the too-safe moments and structure of the show could certainly use some mold breaking to keep it from competing with the big boys on network TV, where CSI, Law & Order, and their spawn still run strong.