On A&E’s new dramatic series, The Cleaner, Benjamin Bratt is doing some of his finest acting since leaving Law & Order.After walking off the beat of NBC’s venerable cops and lawyers show, Bratt has tried to find substantive parts to sink his teeth into.The results have been mixed, at best.
It appears that the years of searching for the right role have paid off, landing Bratt back on television. On the show, Bratt portrays William Banks, a recovering addict who, upon finally getting clean, took a vow with God to help other people kick their habits by using whatever tactics are necessary. Using a secretive team of rehab operatives, Banks and company literally yank people off the streets, go undercover, and get involved with high-speed car chases to help people get clean (at the request of at wits end loved ones). If that sounds a little preposterous, you should know that the series is based on the experiences of Warren Boyd, a drug counselor who not only beat his own demons, but used tactics similar to those shown in The Cleaner to help friends and complete strangers. Boyd serves as an executive producer on the show.
The Cleaner has the general feel of any procedural show: tracking down the dealers or addicts, doing surveillance, and then going in for the kill (or in this case, injecting the addict with some kind of tranquilizer, rendering them unconscious and carrying that person off in a van). This aspect of the show feels pretty familiar, and were it not for the charm and appeal of the actors in Banks’ team (Grace Park, Esteban Powell and Kevin Michael Richardson), it might not be worth watching each week. However, the other aspect of the show, Banks’s family life, if far more interesting and is what gives the show its soul.
Banks is married with two good kids. His wife, Melissa, is a strong, smart working mother who binds the family together. Their two children, Ben (Brett Delano) and Lula (Liliana Mumy) are smart, eager to please, and coming into their own as individuals. This means plenty of questions about William’s past and rebellion because of it.
What’s unique about this side of The Cleaner is that at home, Banks is a complete fuckup (he does things like forgetting to pick up his kids from school and blowing off meetings with the principal).That his family members tolerate his behavior shows how much they care for him.Most impressive is his wife, Melissa, played perfectly by Amy Price-Francis.Melissa carries around the pain of her husband’s years of drug abuse and the effect it had on the family like a ball and chain.She is willing to forgive, but William is still earning his way back into her heart.Thus, despite the deep connection these two have, William must sleep alone on a cot in the office and physical intimacy is limited to kissing.
Here is a woman who obviously loves this man, but is making him work hard to redeem himself. This portrayal of a marriage trying to work through the problems is refreshing. And that William, the heroic leader with a mission to save addicts, is such an ass in his personal life really lends a nice dichotomy to The Cleaner.
Like any new show, The Cleaner is finding its footing and developing its characters. While I have started with some new shows and eventually given up on them (like In Plain Sight), The Cleaner has surprised me and is getting better. The show is definitely better than the â€˜D’ grade Entertainment Weekly gave it a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow, A&E will run the first three episodes in a row — the ideal way to judge for yourself.
Speaking of Entertainment Weekly and its television reviews, the magazine recently gave the ABC Family smash hit The Secret Life of the American Teenager a â€˜B-‘ grade. The hell? Have they watched the show? Brenda Hampton, the creator, has come up with quite possibly the most painful hour of television since, hmmm, 7th Heaven (coincidentally also created by Hampton). How this preachy dreck that takes itself so seriously has garnered any praise is beyond me. And yes, I did adhere to the three strike rule and sit through three full episodes. That I didn’t gouge my eyes out or smash my television is a miracle.
Finally, TNT.com is streaming full episodes of the new season of The Closer, their hit show starting Kara Sedgwick. The show has always had top notch in acting, and a recent episode, “Cherry Bomb,” was an excellent display of why the show is so successful. Besides the stellar main cast, this episode featured an excellent Daniel Baldwin and as an abrasive, belligerent father. However, Marcella Lentz-Pope delivered one of the finest performances I’ve seen on television this year. As Ally, a high school girl who was raped by one of her classmates, Lentz-Pops portrayed a girl desperate to be loved but traumatized by the incident with the right mix of naivetÃ©, grit and heartbreak. I definitely recommend checking it out.
R.I.P Bernie Mac.