The Cleaner

There are so many things happening each week in the entertainment world – new music, video games, TV shows, films, books, etc. – that I don't generally write negative columns. With so many things I'd like to share, why focus on the things that make me roll my eyes? But sometimes I'll find something that annoys me so much I have to complain about it. The television show The Cleaner falls into that category. As this show enters its second season I'm surprised it wasn't cancelled halfway through its first.

Benjamin Bratt plays William Banks, a former drug addict who made a deal with God and now spends his time kidnapping people, chaining them down, and detoxing them against their will. He says he's God's avenging angel but I'm not sure what he means by that. Doesn't God's avenging angel go around wiping out entire cities and turning women into pillars of salt? I don't recall reading anything in the Bible about punching newscasters in the face or chaining them to the bed. But let's say God decided to send an angel down to be a soldier in the drug war. Wouldn't He send that angel after the big drug suppliers? If you're going to be avenging then why would you go after the people who have been damaged by the product, not the producers and profiteers of the product? I'm completely confused by this concept.

This isn't the only major plot point that makes no sense to me; there are plenty of others to choose from. As the second season starts, William is separated from his wife and you'll love/loathe the reason given: she says they need to separate because they never have. Using this logic every couple in the world would eventually end up separated. I know, I hear your poor brain recoiling and saying what?? but if we get hung up on this we'll never get to the main reason I despise this show, which is its deep disrespect for its own characters.

Banks and his team of recovering addicts treat their clients like escaped slaves. The "cleaners" beat them, deprive them of their freedom, humiliate them, and forcibly detox them. Not only can a detox of this sort be fatal in and of itself, but it's hard to imagine that this kind of treatment will be a success. If the success rate of members of Alcoholics Anonymous, a renowned organization of people who are working hard at beating their addictions, is in the mid 30th percentile, what kind of success rate are you going to have for people who are actively fighting treatment?

I don't need to tell you how serious addiction is or how many lives are impacted by it each year. And I realize that we aren't supposed to expect a television show to give us any real insight into complex problems – we're supposed to think of it as "just entertainment" – but good television does exactly that. Think of David Simon's The Corner or The Wire for excellent examinations of what drug addiction does to families and then an entire city. A facile, mawkishly sentimental show like The Cleaner insults the intelligence of the viewer. I would love for anyone who works on this show to give me an actual example of even one time someone has been helped by their husband shaking them and screaming "Look at yourself!" It's ridiculous.

It's hard to judge the acting in this series when everything else is so awful. Even the most talented actor will struggle when the words they're given are clichéd and the emotions hackneyed. The maudlin background music that plays whenever Banks talks to God or tries to interact with his family doesn't help at all; it makes the viewer feel like you're stuck in the worst elevator in the world, listening to a private, psychotic, conversation on a cell phone that is absolutely none of your business but you just can't ignore because it's in your personal space. There's a weird treacley feel to the music that is at odds with the violence and despair that is so prevalent.

Mia Michaels had more to say about addiction in this two minute piece she choreographed for Kayla and Kupono on So You Think You Can Dance than I've seen in more than a dozen episodes of The Cleaner.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is a dramatic departure from our usual format. I'm going to link you to three tweets about the new movie Bruno so you can get a taste of what the people on the street are saying. 1) 2) 3) Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at