SECTIONS: Reviews, The Cleaner

Back to Business with ‘The Cleaner’

Premiere Delivers What Fans Want

Benjamin Bratt/The Cleaner

The based-on-fact drama The Cleaner made A&E history during its first season. Starring Law & Order‘s Benjamin Bratt, Battlestar Galactica‘s Grace Park, Level 9‘s Esteban Powell, and 24‘s Amy Price-Francis, the original series averaged 4.2 million viewers overall and comparably high numbers in key demographics, making it the basic-cable network’s top-rated show ever. The Cleaner returns tonight (June 23) at 10pm ET to repeat that success during its second season.

The premiere episode “Hello America” features Oscar-winning guest star Whoopi Goldberg (The View, Ghost) as extreme interventionist William Banks’ (Bratt) former sponsor, Pauline Kmec, who now sponsors a well-known television news anchor and supposedly recovered addict named Davis (Gary Cole; The West Wing, American Gothic). When his wife Michelle’s (Jayne Brook; Private Practice, John Doe) battle with cancer becomes too stressful, Davis falls back into his old habits, motivating Michelle to contact William and his team members Akani Cuesta (Park) and Arnie Swenton (Powell) for one of their familiar life-saving interventions.

Esteban Powell, Grace Park, Benjamin Bratt/The Cleaner

If you’ve watched The Cleaner just once, you already know the drill: person asks for help with a difficult and rapidly declining addict, Team William analyzes the situation to determine the necessity and then the best strategy for abducting the fallen addict, complications ensue, lapsed addict eventually sees the error of his or her ways most of the time, and William has regular conversations with God throughout.

What makes The Cleaner resonate with viewers isn’t that routine, however, but rather the actual people involved in the process and their individual stories. The second-season premiere has some scenes with interesting camera work, a few very funny segments (just wait for the beach incident, for instance), good acting all around, and an especially nice yet heartwrenching twist that builds up to one of the most touching final scenes ever on the show, and there have been a few.

On the personal front, William and his estranged wife Melissa (Price-Francis) remain typically torn about the status of their relationship, despite their obvious love for one another. Those persistent feelings are one reason why William agrees to help put up a shiny happy front for her sake when her parents (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s Mariette Hartley and The O.C.‘s Barry Newman) arrive for a visit. The older couple are a challenge in their own right, but the masquerade isn’t all for nothing, as viewers see eventually.

All in all, “Hello America” is exactly what fans have come to expect from The Cleaner, so they won’t be disappointed. Those who haven’t sampled the series yet but are curious shouldn’t have any problems following the action, either, because each new episode introduces a different addict with a relatively unique set of issues to overcome.

The Cleaner airs Tuesdays on A&E at 10pm ET

The Cleaner photos courtesy of Sheryl Nields/AETN

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