“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” –James Joyce

I think I like the idea of The Cleaner than I like the actual show. In the idea, we have Benjamin Bratt (never quite finding the proper show to anchor after he left Law & Order) portrays William “The Cleaner” Banks, an extreme interventionist. Based on the true story of drug addict who turned his life around after making a pact with God, the show is Intervention meets Mission: Impossible.

The intense, severe, though thoroughly committed William leads a ragtag group of compatriots: Akani Cuesta (Battlestar Galactica’s Grace Park), Arnie (Esteban Powell), and Mickey Efros (Gil Bellows). William struggles to balance out the calling of his mission with his family life: his not-too-long-ago estranged wife (Amy Price-Francis), his striving-to-be-perfect-as-a-means-of-control daughter (Liliana Mumy), and his obligatory-petulant-teen son (Brett DelBuono).

“You came to me. I pulled you out of your miserable dead end lives … people find us because they need us.” –William

And with its similar mission of the week, The Equalizer, I mean, The Cleaner bogs down. The show has a sense of gravitas, but not the tools to convey it effectively. The level of dialogue is strictly by the numbers, letting the situations provide the spark. Arnie is the only real, fleshed out character. Everyone else feels like a contrivance, a means to a plot end. Even William sometimes, with his conversations with God being the equivalent of thought balloons in comic books.

“I put my trust in you, my faith, and I’m not even a religious man. This whole arrangement is based on my lack of religion, so where does that leave us?” –William

We can’t save everyone. People caught up in self-destructive patterns and addictions. People suffer relapses as they try to claw their way out of holes they’ve fallen into. There is a high mortality rate to those caught in the throes of drug addiction. Drug addiction is sometimes argued to be a victimless crime (other than to the user). Yet, as The Cleaner repeatedly points out, drug use and the behavior attendant to it impacts the relationships of those around the user.

Relationships are the most important things to us and define who we are. In the process, they also can cause us the most pain as well as cause us to seek redemption. But how do you save people who don’t want to be saved? Who aren’t ready to be healed? Who aren’t ready for a cleaner?

“Trying to keep an open mind … this doesn’t even come close to making sense. I mean, you tell me how you justify this one. You tell me how to find the reason why.” –William

Many people depend on a “higher power” for strength to overcome their addictions. William made a deal with God to be His … avenging angel. William’s constant struggle revolves around trying to figure out how to do His work, especially in the face of so much failure. He’s spiritual, operating without the perceived obstacles of religion, but his spirituality still bumps up against life and his many, many questions. He employs a version of practicing the presence of God, being in constant prayer by talking to Him.

“What is it we were put on this earth for?” –William

In The Cleaner, we have a picture of how Christ often deals with us. He gets into the mess of our lives, willing to walk with us because he has once walked the same path himself. He accepts us, understands us, props us back up for us to keep walking. Knowing that most times we’re going to fall down again. And at the same time, we need to be agents of that cleaning.

As part of living out the mission he was called to do, William pours his life into a few. People we could call disciples who are committed to the mission. William also knows exactly who he is and what he was called to do. The more you know about yourself, the easier it is to accept others where they are, no matter the state they find themselves in. Ironically enough, in fulfilling the mission, or the working out of one’s faith, do he may find the answers to his whys.

This marks A&E;’s first original drama in six years as it attempts to build on the branding it hoped to established by airing re-runs of The Sopranos. The Cleaner has its share of profanity (we’re all the way up to the s-bomb as being “edgy”), but profanity alone doesn’t give a show edge. Better dialogue and more interesting characters do that. Strictly as a procedural, the show demonstrates signs of life that needs to be capitalized upon. The show is compelling despite its faults. Hopefully it will find its proper balance.

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