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DVD Review: The Cleaner – The First Season

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In The Cleaner on A&E, Benjamin Bratt stars as William Banks, a former drug addict who helps other addicts kick their addiction by any means necessary. Bratt’s portryal of Banks is loosely based on addiction counselor Warren Boyd. The first season had a 13-episode run in the summer of 2008, and will continue with a second 13-episode season later this month.

When his daughter Lula was born, Banks made a promise to God he would get clean and get his life together. He has created a “cleaning service” with other former addicts, including Darnell (Kevin Michael Richardson), Swenton (Esteban Powell), and Akani (Grace Park, Battlestar Galactica). Banks uses former addicts to help the current addicts kick their habit. He reasons that only addicts know what other addicts really go through. Banks and his crew use whatever methods they can, some morally questionable, and they don’t always work. Akani is the breakout member of the crew who constantly thinks she knows more than Banks and has had a relationship with him which nearly ended his marriage.

Banks routinely has chats with God and even though he has the best of intentions, they don’t always work out. He puts the clients first and that has caused strains on both his marriage to his wife Melissa (Amy Price-Francis) and his relationships with his children Ben (Brett DelBuono) and Lula (Liliana Mumy). All three threaten to break off relations with him routinely as Banks hasn’t been able to find a way to balance work and family. Also as a former addict he has the added threat of relapsing.

Banks and his crew encounter people addicted to drugs (both illegal and prescription) and alcohol. Since this is a drama, there’s nothing as “mundane” as food addiction or gambling, which can be serious in their own way but doesn’t fit the style the writers are trying to achieve. Just like in real life, not everyone is saved and Banks must deal with the consequences from those who hire him to help the client and his own crew who sometimes had the solution Banks didn’t see. Bratt is believable as the recovering addict who wants to help others get clean and the ensemble strengthens all performances.

The only downside to the series is the stories never just follow the logical path from point A to point B and go for the dramatic punch each time. Hopefully with season two there will be some “ordinary solutions” that still seem plausible.

There are a few extras on this set. There are commentaries on the pilot and the fifth episode with Benjamin Bratt and series creators Jonathan Prince and Robert Munic. The pilot was logically chosen to talk about the series, its concept, and the experience of shooting the pilot, which was shot more like a film. The fifth episode "Here Comes the Boom" was chosen because the trio felt it was one of the strongest episodes. I wish there was a commentary on the season finale because the commentators usually discuss how characters have changed from the season premiere to the finale as well as how storylines changed and were modified.

“The Mystery of William Banks” is a unique extra as it has the actors talking about one another in character, which is something I haven’t seen before and is better than just having the actors talking about their characters or co-workers.

There are a few deleted scenes which were cut for time and didn’t advance the plot, but it’s still nice to have the option to watch them.

Rounding out the extras are cast and crew interviews where they talk about their experiences making the series and working with one another.

The Cleaner is a good show with a strong cast and hopefully it will build upon stories and themes established in the first season.

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