I want to write this column about "The Cleaner", the drama on A&E.
It tries really hard to be an earnest, realistic drama about addiction and getting clean. The problem is, it's still TV, so it can't be too realistic, and if they could make it that way, it would probably be too depressing to watch.
Maybe it's hard for me to watch the show objectively because of my own background. Maybe all dramas have this problem. You got two types of viewers. 1) people who just want to watch for entertainment, and 2) people who have experienced addiction or been related to someone who has. You can't satisfy both camps, and someone will let both down. Maybe it's the same for doctors who watch ER or cops who watch Law & Order.
The Cleaner probably satisfies the first group more than the second because it is probably more entertaining than it is realistic. Then again, since there are no other shows close to this....it is the best they can do.
The show is really good, gritty, and has a lot in common with reality. But in real life, most addicts don't get clean (or stay that way) and their situations are not neatly tied up in one hour. The people on the shows are actors, so even with lots of makeup etc. they don't look as bad as real alcoholics or addicts. Even though they show them vomiting and stuff, they don't look that bad. They do the best job they can, though, given the restraints of TV.
Benjamin Bratt and the other actors, and their characters' stories, are the best part of the show and what is worth watching. They are all really good. There is a bit of preaching and thinking-out-loud, but it's not annoying. It's pro-religion, but you can ignore that aspect of it pretty easily if you want.
The shows that are hardest for me to watch are the ones involving families and alcoholism. I never knew anyone addicted to drugs, so I can't relate to that. Most of the stories on the show, that I have seen, anyway, are about middle-class or rich people because they hire him... most of the time, the bum lying in the gutter is not his client. Sometimes, though, they do have that.
I just watched a very depressing one that had two alcoholics and a drug addict. One had a little girl and her alcoholic father; her mom had died. That was very hard to watch. My dad was an alcoholic. My mom died when I was 10. I was put into foster care when I was 13. The episode had many similarities to my experience. This father, unlike mine, really cared about his daughter and wanted to get clean so she wouldn't be taken away.
William Banks would not have been able to help my father because he didn't want to get clean. I guess that being in that position, it is hard for me to feel much sympathy for the drunks and addicts. Banks talks about how they are in pain and stuff, when to me they are just whiny and selfish. Anyone who puts their own pain ahead of their family or loves ones is just selfish, and there's no getting around that. It took me a long while to figure that out about my own dad. My mom used to make excuses for him. Once he had to give up the alcohol after he had a stroke, I realized that he was just a selfish person and a jerk. There are lots of jerks in the world, and we all know them...it sucks to be related to them.
Unlike me, this little girl in the show took care of them both and was the more mature one in the relationship. However, when she got upset that her father was going away for a while to rehab, I could identify with that. Even though your father is a bum who treats you bad, you as a child worry about losing your parents, you still love them, and you fear the unknown and what might happen; change. Even though my getting put into a foster home was a great thing, I did not want to leave my dad and go there. That part was very painful to watch.
Unlike real life, though, this father got help and they got through their problems...things looked happy at the end. That doesn't happen so much in real life. I did get a little annoyed, though - they always act like foster care is the worst thing. I know it is a lot worse than it used to be, but still...it is often better than the home you were born into.
Next week, back to your usual happy TV blog!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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