A 'Cleaner' slate for A&E

Net in rare original drama pickup

A&E Network has given the green light to "The Cleaner," marking the cable network's first original scripted drama series in six years.

"Cleaner," inspired by the true story of a real-life "extreme interventionist," stars Benjamin Bratt as William "The Cleaner" Banks, who, after hitting rock-bottom from his own addictions during the birth of his twins, strikes a tentative deal with God.

In exchange for a second chance, he vows to kick his addictions and dedicate his life to helping others get clean from their own addictions by any means necessary.

"Cleaner" marks the first series to come out of CBS Paramount Network TV's cable division. It was created by Jonathan Prince ("American Dreams") and Robert Munic. Prince is executive producer, while Jay Silverman and Warren Boyd are co-executive producers. The pilot was written by Robert Munic and directed by David Semel.

The network has ordered 13 hourlong episodes of "Cleaner," including the pilot. It is scheduled to go into production shortly, pending an end to the WGA strike, and is tentatively set to premiere in the summer.

A&E executive vp and GM Bob DeBitetto believes the project is unique among other cable offerings.

"It's not a crime show or a law show or a hospital show; it's something different," he said. "It's the sort of honest, authentic, emotional storytelling that defines a lot of our programming."

He sees "Cleaner" as a good fit with A&E's off-net series like "CSI: Miami" or with its unscripted programming including "Intervention," which deals with similar themes as "Cleaner." He declined to be more specific about scheduling plans for the show, citing competitive reasons, but said that "we view this as one of our real crown jewels and will be looking for a very competitive time period."

Meanwhile, DeBitetto said A&E is continuing to move forward with the development of additional scripted dramas; he's hoping to debut a second series in early 2009.

Three other pilots are in contention for a series pickup: "Danny Fricke" and "The Beast," from Sony Pictures TV, and "Under," from Fox Television Studios. DeBitetto is hoping to put "Danny" into production later this month; the other two pilots already have been shot. In addition, he wants to do a "second round" of development after the writers strike ends.