by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & The Cleaner & r & & r & (Tuesdays, 10 pm, A & amp;E) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & enjamin Bratt made his name in the mid-'90s as Detective Rey Curtis on Law & amp; Order. He was stoic, workmanlike, good-looking and beloved, so he was granted a turn in film, where he remained good-looking and turned in a number of similarly stoic, workmanlike roles. His most notable, though not his best, role --his best was as tormentor to Kevin Bacon's conflicted pedophile in The Woodsman-- came as the drug kingpin Juan Obregon in Stephen Soderbergh's Traffic.
In his return to television, an A & amp;E drama called The Cleaner, Bratt conflates the cop and the dealer, playing recovering heroin addict and (don't laugh) "extreme interventionist" William Banks, who goes around doing radical things to help junkies hit rock-bottom.
Don't worry: So far (four episodes), these are cute, redeemable junkies -- star varsity athletes, rock stars and haut-suburban mothers. White people. These aren't like poverty-stricken blacks or Latinos or anything. These aren't even poor whites, the kind of junkies who might suggest that drug problems are, to a degree, systematic -- fed by crappy schools, inadequate legislative representation, wealth disparity and an overwhelming lack of hope at the bottom. A junkie who hits rock-bottom to rebound to a greeter position at Wal-Mart isn't good TV. It's The Wire, which wasn't entertainment but a lens on our effed-up times.
No, the Cleaner isn't a lens on anything but the cult of personal responsibility. Bootstrap pull-ups and whatnot. The 12 steps.
The show's debut is being hailed (by A & amp;E's PR department mostly) as both a welcome home and as a coup for the small screen, another big-name film actor taking a prestige role on basic cable. Benjamin Bratt is no Glenn Close, though. He's no Holly Hunter. And The Cleaner, sad to say, ain't much of a prestige role.
The idea of an ex-junkie turned "extreme interventionist" isn't bad, and it's more nuanced than most network television, but it's wrapped in gimmickry rather than being suffused with substance. Banks talks to God as a narrative device, and then there's all sorts of annoying, inartistic cutting and panning and split-screening.
Bratt is serviceable, given weak scripts. The rest of the cast doesn't even rise to the milquetoast content. Grace Park, as much as it pains me to say (she purty), is a horrid actress. She's terrible as a robot on Battlestar Galactica and she's robot-like here, as a hypersexual recovering user who wants to jump Banks bad.
If the show starts really tackling drug use and not pre-fab lust and guilt and family drama, we'll have something. As it is, no one here's dirty enough to need cleaning.
The Summer Olympics
Aside from the widespread censorship -- curiously underplayed -- much of the content and drama and storylines feel trumped-up and not particularly sexy this time around. The best drama, as always, takes place on the field. That Phelps kid, for example -- he's pretty captivating. (NBC-U networks, every day, all day)
Premiere of yet another series about teens treating high school like the Zimbardo experiment. The difference being that these kids live in Britain. A potentially interesting distinction. (BBC America, Sundays, 9 pm)
The Cho Show
I remember liking Margaret Cho's original sitcom. Growing up a white boy in a rural farming community, I felt it gave me a deep, deep understanding of the one Asian kid I knew. (There were a ton of Asian people living elsewhere in America, I'd heard.) Then Cho's annoying yawp and fondness for racial stereotypes left the air. I felt as though I'd lost a valuable window into a vast, unknown world. (VH1, premieres Thursday 8/21 at 11 pm)