At least it’s easy to envision the pitch meeting where A&E said “yes” to its first original drama in six years: “It’s like ‘Intervention’ meets ‘Mission: Impossible’ — all based on a real guy!” That premise, however, feels painfully slight in the premiere, despite Benjamin Bratt’s stoic performance as “extreme interventionist” William “The Cleaner” Banks, who rebounded from personal addiction to become a sort-of guardian angel — having sworn an oath to God to help druggies get clean. To bastardize a ’60s expression, after an hour, most who drop in will yearn to tune out.
As a recovering addict, Banks pursues his redemptive operation under the wary gaze of his wife (Amy Price-Francis), from whom he was briefly estranged; and their two children, the older of whom (Brett Delbuono) seems irritatingly hostile even by TV teen standards.
While balancing life at home, Banks also coordinates a disjointed, ragtag bunch he uses to carry out his missions of mercy. They include the flirty Akani (“Battlestar Galactica’s” Grace Park) and loose-lipped Arnie (Esteban Powell), who keeps saying untoward things that make his boss want to punch him in the mouth.
There’s also a touch of “The Equalizer” here, inasmuch as Banks takes on an assignment (presumably each week) to save some hapless boob with a monkey on his or her back. In the pilot, it’s a teenager whose mom is in denial about his crystal meth habit.
“Get the team together. We got a kid in trouble,” Banks snaps after a preliminary meeting.
Yep, that’s roughly the level of dialogue, where the protagonist’s communication with God comes across mostly as cheap exposition — a shortcut to explain the status of his relationship with his wife and certain team members. Director David Semel (working from fellow exec producer Robert Munic’s script) also employs a split-screen device to no real purpose, while all the barking into walkie-talkies feels considerably overblown without, say, national security hanging in the balance.
“Galactica” fans will doubtless enjoy seeing Park in more flattering garb, but the supporting characters don’t really pop out of the box, and Bratt’s inner turmoil comes across as a tired device, even with the bona fides of real-life inspiration underpinning it.
A&E bet heavily on “The Sopranos” reruns to brand the channel, but its grit and blue language notwithstanding, “The Cleaner” doesn’t represent the kind of hour destined to build on that foundation.
Sure, it takes a village to raise a child, but once they’ve stumbled into drugs, apparently, it requires a SWAT team.