DVD Review: THE CLEANER – Season One.

Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: June 9th, 2009
MSRP: $49.99

Stars: Benjamin Bratt, Amy Price-Francis, Grace Park, Kevin Michael Richardson, Esteban Powell

William Banks is a former addict. One day, when at the bottom of his life, he asked God to help him straighten out. If so, he would devote his life to being God’s “avenging angel” and do everything in his power to help others clean up.

Now, with a team of former addicts, Banks uses very unconventional means to provide addicts with a chance to clean up and rejoin the regular world.

Unfortunately for him (and his family), Banks has little clue how to interact with his own family. His words and actions repeatedly alienate him from his wife and children (especially his 15-year old son). As season one goes on, Banks seems to realize what an ass he can be and actually makes great strides towards rebuilding his relationship with his family.

On paper, The Cleaner should be a damn good show. It has an interesting concept and a strong cast. The problem: The writing. Way too often, it feels like an after school special. Rather than take a look at not simply drug addiction, but how people get drawn in and why, we simply get wretched drug addicts acting like something out of Reefer Madness. Because of this lack of depth, I found myself not caring about any of the clients or their families. It is only when one of the regulars fall do I actually give a damn.

The season ends with some conflict between Banks and his wife. It appears the writers got this idea while writing the next to the last episode because that is when the clumsily started the storyline. The long-suffering wife suddenly offers up some less than pleasant traits. The way it was written, her actions would have made more sense, but as it is, they seem a tad arbitrary.

According to the opening graphic, William Banks helps folks with alcohol, drug, sex and gambling addictions. But the show narrows it down to drugs. Only one episode features anything else, a bulimic. Even then, her father is a drug dealer and as much time is spent on him and his profession as is spent on her.

But there is an upside to THE CLEANER: the acting. Benjamin Bratt and co do a fine job here, coming across as real people and giving us a reason to keep coming back. As frustrated as I was some the writing, I kept clicking on to the next story. I saw most of the regulars as real people, with their own flaws and weaknesses. Also clear are the various relationships between them. That this occurs despite the weak writing is a testament to the cast.

As I said, despite the writing, I did find myself continuing with the series. I like the characters and want to see what happens to them next. They make season one better than it should be. If you have seen any episodes and liked what you saw, you will likely enjoy this set. Fans of Bratt will also be pleased, as he does a fine job here. If only the writers were on the same level as the cast.

Order season one of THE CLEANER.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.