Benjamin Bratt was back on tv last night with the premiere of The Cleaner. I wish they would have titled the show “Cleaner,” but nobody contacted me for my opinion. And while the premise sounded hokey—an ex-addict who talks to God tries to save people from their addictions—I was still going to watch.
I didn’t really get excited about the series, though, until I finally watched “The Woodsman” with Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. I watched it about the same time that “The Andromeda Strain” first appeared on A&E. What I’d seen of Bratt’s performance in “The Andromeda Strain” hadn’t really impressed me. The character was an intelligent, highly-educated scientist who, despite his penchant for womaning, wasn’t really all that interesting.
His role in “The Woodsman” was much more of an every-man, scruffy and blue-collar. And it seemed to suit him much better. I felt it was possibly the same type of character William Banks, “The Cleaner” of title, was meant to be. And that’s what got me really interested in watching the show.
The reviews of The Cleaner have been highly mixed, from “the best new show of the season, if not the year,” to “not addictive.” Now that I’ve seen the premiere, you can put me on the scale as being closer to “best” than to “not.”
A show’s premiere is usually not the best indicator of what it’s capable of being. There’s too much exposition, the characters’ personalities are exaggerated in order for them to stand out, and usually the episode’s plot takes a back seat to the overall premise of the show. I recognized all these things, and thus was willing to forgive its sins.
I liked The Cleaner. I think it’s a great vehicle for Benjamin Bratt. The character is dynamic, but very flawed. He means well, but doesn’t always do the right thing. The supporting characters are also quite interesting, although they were a bit over the top. The flirty femme fatale (played by Grace Park, from Battlestar Gallactica), was a bit too sexual; the chatterbox Swenton (who kept putting his foot in his mouth every time he opened it), a bit too comical. But they’re interesting enough to want to know more; and hopefully their back-stories will be explored as the season progresses.
I think the show hit its mark in a number of places, most notably with Banks and his family. He’s not the perfect dad, he makes (BIG) mistakes, and he doesn’t always learn from his mistakes. His family’s reactions to what he does (and doesn’t do) are very real. And, it moved me to the point of tears.