The Cleaner (A&E, Tuesdays, 10/9c) may only hint at God's presence, but his fingerprints show up everywhere in a show that illustrates our longing for someone to truly know us—and to be saved from ourselves.

The story follows William Banks (Benjamin Bratt), a recovering drug addict who made a pact with God when his daughter was born: if God helped him beat heroin, he would dedicate his life to getting others clean. He did, so Banks does. With a small team of ex-junkies and a persistent pursuit of the hurting that mirrors God's relentless love, Banks uses any means necessary to help addicts—much like the man on whom the show is based, real-life "extreme interventionist" Warren Boyd, a former addict himself.

In The Cleaner, Banks says, "I don't pray, all right? I talk." But his voice-overs suggest otherwise; he asks questions out loud, admits temptations and confusion, swears in frustration, and searches for meaning—echoing Ecclesiastes' declaration that God has set eternity in our hearts (3:11) and made us to cry out to him. It's Blaise Pascal's God-shaped vacuum. Other TV shows depict that yearning, but few can illustrate man's ugly attempts better than a drama about addiction.

Every episode of The Cleaner portrays this innate thirst for more. We see it in the cop who stays high so he won't feel the pain of shooting an innocent. We see it in the dad so enslaved to alcohol that he has his daughter pour his drinks because he shakes so badly. We see it in their pain, and we see it—and the Holy Spirit at work—in their road to redemption. In each episode, addicts reach their breaking point and decide to escape the cycle of self-destruction. This is The Cleaner's most powerful message: You can change. There is hope.

Of course, the messy work of addiction recovery is smoothed over for TV audiences; each junkie-of-the-week storyline is wrapped up in an hour. But all along, we see the complicated nature of Banks's journey, living with the consequences of his past while slogging through the full, complex cycle of rebirth. All of us have hit a point where we have recognized our sin, cried out to God, repented, been made new, and shared what we've found with others. In that sense, we are all cleaners.

Todd Hertz is a freelance film/TV critic for CT and the online marketing specialist for Re: Frame Media.

Related Elsewhere:

The Cleaner airs on A&E at 10/9 Central on Tuesdays.

Christianity Today posts additional TV reviews on Christianity Today Movies & TV.

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Our Rating
not rated  
Average Rating
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Directed By
Run Time
1 hour
Grace Park, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Price-Francis
Theatre Release
July 15, 2008
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