The Cleaner

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Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Tuesdays, July 15 (A&E)

The title suggests that this is about a guy who gets out the worst stains at his little shop in the strip mall. But, nope, "The Cleaner" is a reference to a former drug addict who struck a deal with God. So now he spends a lot of his time on interventions to get help for drug, gambling and sex addicts.

Benjamin Bratt stars as William Banks, the head of a small posse of former addicts. In the premiere, a single mother refuses to believe her athlete son is on meth, at least until she sees him scoop up handfuls of her jewelry to pay his dealer.

Banks, though no longer an addict, still has his problems. He is trying to succeed at a third reconciliation with his wife and spend more quality time with his two kids. Between addiction and family friction, a visit to the Cleaner is only slightly more cheerful than a meeting with an undertaker.

This is the first new scripted series on A&E in six years, which suggests that the cable channel is trying to break its own addiction to reality programs. "The Cleaner," however isn't exactly a clean break from reality. The series is based on the real-life story of Warren Boyd, a former addict and current intervention specialist, who gets a co-exec producer credit.

It's not clear if the fictional Banks gets paid for his good deeds, but the real-life Boyd -- who has been linked to substance abusers Whitney Houston, Courtney Love, Britney Spears and Mel Gibson -- has developed a well-heeled and presumably generous clientele.

Banks' assistants on the series, former addicts who still need lessons on winning friends and influencing people, are responsible for most of its flavor. Akani Cuesta (Grace Park) is a terrific tease, Arnie Swenton (Esteban Powell) raises whining to an art form, and Darnell McDowell (Kevin Michael Richardson) is one of the most gregarious characters on TV.

Bratt, who developed a following during four seasons on "Law & Order," will be a drawing card for "The Cleaner." But it won't trump the dreary, hopeless tone that pervades the premiere. Without more skillful dialogue and lively stories, this won't help A&E kick the reality habit.

Production: Once a Frog Prods. in association with CBS Paramount Television. Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Amy Price-Francis, Grace Park, Kevin Michael Richardson, Esteban Powell, Brett Delbuono, Liliana Mumy, Gil Bellows. Executive producers: Robert Munic, Jonathan Prince, David Semel. Producer: Cliff Rogers. Director: David Semel. Writer: Robert Munic. Creator/story: Jonathan Prince, Robert Munic. Director of photography: Brian J. Reynolds. Production designer: Michael Hanan. Editor: Tatiana S. Riegel. Music: David Lawrence. Set decorator: Lisa Fischer.Casting: Jeff Meshel. Co-executive producer: Warren Boyd.


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