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The Cleaner on A&E

Benjamin Bratt plays William Banks in A&E’s new original series “The Cleaner”. Banks is a married father of two who made a pact with God during the birth of his second child. At the time he made the pact he was “slamming dope” and desperately wanted to get clean. When he was finally successful in kicking his addiction, he became “God’s soldier” in the fight against drug, sex and gambling addictions. He leads a small team of recovering addicts who do whatever it takes to help other people “get clean”. The series will premiere July 15, 2008, but I was able to see the preview DVD for this review.

The pilot episode begins with explanation of who William Banks is and what he does.
William Banks has save 257 people from addiction to drugs, sex and gambling.
He’s not a cop. He’s not a superhero.
He’s just a man with a calling.
This is his story.”

Following that viewers meet Banks while he’s coaching his son’s football game. He’s back and forth on the phone with someone. They’re discussing tracking someone. Then we meet Connie (Grace Park, “Battlestar Galatica”) and watch as she follows an unsuspecting lady out to her car. When she’s in her car, Connie and another team member- Arnie Swenton (Esteban Powell, “Powder”) – follow her. Further down the road, yet another member (Mick played by Gil Bellows) in an SUV pulls out in front of their target. Suddenly everyone is out of their vehicles and the team rounds up their target, puts her in the SUV and their mission is complete.

This scene is an example of the non-traditional way the team gets the targets of their missions into treatment. This particular woman had a gambling problem and her husband hired Will and his band to abduct her in an effort to get her into treatment. Will explains later that they are a last resort. They don’t advertise because desperate people will find them. This initial scene is very dramatic and involved. There’s a certain point of trying to shock the senses, because we expect something completely different. It worked. I was immediately pulled into the storyline.

Interspersed here is an outline of what we can expect with regard to Will’s relationship with his young, teenage son Ben (Brett DelBuono). Will is coaching his son’s football team and we see how they interact as his son gets ready to kick the extra point. Will asks God to help his son make it through the posts, but his son isn’t impressed. We’re given the impression that Will’s son isn’t exactly impressed with his father’s faith. Throughout the program we catch glimpses of Will’s relationship with his family- its real. He and his wife, Melissa (Amy Price-Francis, “Californication”) love each other, but aren’t averse to typical fighting that occurs because of Will’s job. We’re shown how close Will and his daughter are, but not so close that Will doesn’t forget an important event or two. The talents involved in “The Cleaner” do an excellent job of portraying Will as an average guy trying to make up for past mistakes, and his family trying desperately to support him. He becomes more real and less “hero”-like.

“The Cleaner” follows Will closely, but viewers are also treated to up-close looks at the lives of the team members and the families they help. The targets aren’t shown as criminals who should be locked up, but as victims of circumstance who stand an excellent chance of overcoming their personal demons. There are no obvious bad guys in this program and that makes it an even more intense drama. There seems to be a tone of “Intervention” here, with a more dramatic form of the intervention. Everyone is loved by someone and everyone is hurt by someone. There are setups to certain scenes that made me think “Oh, how predictable” but when the scenes played out I ended up happily surprised and eager for more. I was cheering the story as it unfolded and couldn’t wait to see good things happen. And by the end of the program I found myself caring deeply about all the characters involved.

“The Cleaner” is definitely a series that I will be following closely. Benjamin Bratt is spectacular as Will Banks and the writers do a magnificent job of keeping the show fresh and unpredictable.

“The Cleaner” premieres on A&E Sunday, July 15, 2008 at 10PM EST.

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