I guess I didn’t get the memo. I tuned in, somewhat by accident, somewhat out of curiosity, to the premier of The Cleaner, starring Benjamin Bratt, A&E’s new series about a former addict who spends (most of) his life trying to “persuade” other addicts (usually by kidnapping them and putting them in rehab) to give up the life. According to him, more than half the addicts slide back and he loses a huge bunch to death.
I liked the show a lot, despite the fact that the second most attractive character, Rick, (played by Gil Bellows, an actor I particularly like) dies of a suicidal overdose at the end of the premiere episode. Bratt is a professional, likable actor who is completely believable in the role; the supporting cast is interesting and different, and the writing is clever (I especially liked a scene where Bratt and his wife talk about how they quit smoking, and, of course, they haven’t. I even like the idea of an ex-addict smoking; it seems real). Bratt and his wife, played by Amy Price-Francis, have a difficult and complicated relationship, made all the more so by the end scene, which I shan’t give away for all of you who still wish to give the series a shot. The two kids are also far more interesting than other television kids.
But when I went online to find out more information about The Cleaner, I found the critics either hated the show or were pretty indifferent to it, almost universally dissing it. A real disconnect for me, because while I often disagree with critics about popular comedies, I am usually right there with them when it comes to good and serious drama.
The story is based on the real life addiction expert to the stars, William Boyd.
I put The Cleaner in the category of other good off-season drama openings, like last summer’s Damages, which I am still hoping will start again, and with indie channel offerings like The Shield (another series I am still waiting for). It may not be quite up to snuff in the writing department, but The Cleaner kept me watching, avidly, throughout its first episode and I'm already waiting for next Tuesday at ten p.m.