TV Review: The Cleaner
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Amy Price-Francis, Grace Park, Kevin Michael Richardson, Esteban Powell, Brett DelBuono, Liliana Mumy
Created By: Jonathan Prince, Robert Munic
Premieres: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:00 pm EST on A&E
The Cleaner is a new A&E drama series that centers on William Banks (Benjamin Bratt). Banks spends his free time collecting junkies, impulsive gamblers and other types of addicts off the street and delivering them safely to rehab. He's an "Extreme Interventionist" and is usually hired (though I'm not sure that he gets paid) by the family or close friends of the addict. Tracking down addicts and detaining them usually requires more than one person, which is where Banks' friends come in. Akani Cuesta (Grace Park) is a streetwise woman who has a bit of romantic history with Banks. Arnie (Esteban Powell) is kind of a whiner and isn't always the most professional but he's part of the team. Banks' best friend Mickey's trying to stay clean and save his marriage as well as be there for Ben. Finally, their's Kevin, a car salesman who has a brother that Banks helped get into rehab. Kevin wants on Banks' team so that he can give something back to the group that helped his brother.
The pilot episode follows Banks and his team as they attempt to find a kid who is strung out on drugs. Getting to see the team at work, attempting to track this kid down gives us a pretty good idea of what the characters are all about. In fact, one of the major complaints about this episode was that there was an overkill in the character department. It was as though we were meant to know and understand the relationships of everyone in the show all based on this one episode. For example: William wants to quit smoking. William's having trouble with his kids. William needs a new truck. William was once an addict. These are just a few little tidbits of information that are told to us in one conversation or another throughout the pilot. Very little of what we learned about the characters seemed to come out naturally. I don't think it's a bad thing to give a somewhat thorough introduction of the main characters in any pilot episode but the pacing just felt off here. Add that to some of the moments that should've come off as deep and meaningful that just fell flat. Like William explaining to his kids about why he talks to God and why he devotes so much time to tracking down addicts. It seemed like every scene had some conversation that explained what was happening and why. I guess I would've preferred the dialogue to back off a bit and just let us figure some of this stuff out ourselves.
Benjamin Bratt does an admirable job playing Banks, who is based on a real life intervention specialist and there's no real reason not to like his character, other than the fact that he has a troubled past and some problems prioritizing at home. As a fan of Battlestar Galactica, I was pleased to see Grace Park in this series. Park does a decent job with her role and there's a fun, sexy, rebellious side to her that we don't often see from her character(s) on BSG.
The problem with the pilot wasn't so much about the acting or even the story. There were a couple of intense moments that really worked but again, it felt like there was just too much being introduced all at once. There were a number of things that took place at the end of this first episode that left me feeling like I should've cared a lot more than I did. I mean, here you have a story about a man on a quest for redemption, dedicating part of his life to saving people who are living the same (or a similar) life that he once had. That's a great premise for a series. So I'm not going to give up on The Cleaner just yet but it would be nice to see this series settle into a more comfortable groove (preferably within the next couple of episodes).
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