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'The Cleaner' is back

June 23, 2009 |  3:00 am

Television has always had a soft-spot for drunks and drug addicts, both real and fictionalized. Forty years ago, Dean Martin seemed to never draw a quite-sober breath (even if that was just ginger ale in his highball glass); nowadays Hugh Laurie plays a medical savant/Vicodin addict on "House."

During the intervening years, a whole new genre of character evolved: the recovering addict. John Larroquette's recovering bus manager on “The John Larroquette Show” gave way to the vice presidential AA meeting on "West Wing," which in turn begat Dani Reese, Charlie Crew's former-cokehead partner on the already much-missed "Life."

And now we have William Banks, former drug addict turned extreme interventionist, on A&E's “The Cleaner.” Starring Benjamin Bratt, "The Cleaner," now entering its second season, is essentially a recovery procedural. Having assembled a crew of motley sober special ops (including the terrific Grace Park from "Battlestar Galactica" as Akani and Esteban Powell as Arnie), Banks is hired by loved ones to locate, rescue and snatch a variety of drunks and addicts, then hustle them off to various locations where they are dried out, twelve-stepped and generally read the riot act of sobriety. The more compelling and overarching story is how Banks' addictions have damaged his marriage and family, perhaps permanently, and the ongoing effort required to stay sober. Bratt beautifully captures the seesaw of fury and acceptance of a man in the midst of perpetual transition.

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(Photo by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)