Back for a second season, The Cleaner (Tuesday, 9 p.m., A&E) follows William Banks (Benjamin Bratt) as he helps people overcome addictions. William takes a kind of Zen approach to his business, letting troubled clients find him and pay what they can. Why would he do such a thing?
During this week's episode, that obvious question never crosses your mind. Bratt is so compelling that you buy into the melodramatic scenario: William helping a crazed TV news anchor get back on the wagon after his wife is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Bratt creates a portrait of a soulful do-gooder - a former addict himself - who is tough or tender as the situation requires. William is somehow both laidback and intense, and his charming smile alone would make me forswear drink and drugs forever.
The Cleaner is a show for adults. It's not about cheap thrills (action scenes, sex, pretty young faces), but about working through problems. There's melancholy around the edges and intimacy in the conversations.
Help - I'm addicted to The Cleaner! Calling William Banks!
Destroy Build Destroy
Saturday, 7:30 pm (Cartoon Network)
Never has a reality show been more accurately named. Two teams of kids face off to DESTROY a machine, use its parts to BUILD a cooler machine, then use that machine to DESTROY the other team in a final showdown. The means of destruction range from TNT to mortars to guys with sledgehammers, and the rebuilding process is abetted by engineers at the kids' beck and call. Excitable host Andrew W.K. presides over the mayhem with gleeful absurdity, yelling "BOOM!" into a megaphone whenever he feels like it.
It's pure, elemental pleasure - and I haven't even told you about the human angle. In the premiere, one team is composed of cooler-than-thou skaters kids, the other of uncomfortable-looking math-club types. The smug skaters condescend to the "geeks," so of course you want to see them get DESTROYED.
I'd love to tell you how the competition turns out, but I'll just quote Andrew W.K. by way of a hint:
Sunday, 7 pm (Lifetime Movie Network)
Ellen Byerrum's Crime of Fashion mystery books feature a sleuthing D.C. fashion columnist with the unlikely name Lacey Smithsonian. This TV-movie adaptation of Killer Hair turns "unlikely" into a virtue: It's a perfectly realized bit of artifice. Lacey (Maggie Lawson) runs around town in old outfits - "vintage," she insists - trying to solve a hairstylist's murder. She cutely furrows her brow; she runs into friends, lovers or villains just when the plot requires her to; and she makes the kinds of deliciously witty comments you'd hear only in a mock hardboiled mystery. "Your little black party dress is not appropriate for mourning," Lacey sneers in voiceover, "unless your funeral is in a bar."
The actors are gorgeous, the fashions are irresistible and the tone is breezy. That's more than enough to keep you from caring that the narrative elements feel a tad old.
Sorry - vintage!
America's Got Talent
Tuesday, 8 pm (NBC)
The United States has been transfixed by the saga of Susan Boyle on this show's English counterpart, Britain's Got Talent. Boyle is the mentally challenged spinster frump who was paraded before the British judges to sing a serviceable version of "I Dreamed a Dream" and touch heartstrings with the fact that such an odd woman could hit a few notes on key. After winning second place in the finale, Boyle fell apart and was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. But producer Simon Cowell still vows to squeeze a few bucks out of his novelty before interest - or Boyle herself - dies out.
Come on, U.S., I know we can top this. Let's find even sadder cases to exploit on this summer's edition of America's Got Talent, and make even more money off them than Cowell will off Boyle. After all, we've got a reputation to uphold.
She's Got the Look
Thursday, 8 pm (TV Land)
I liked the last season of this mature-model competition. The over-35 women were more humane and thoughtful than the nasty young careerists on shows like America's Next Top Model. But I guess "nasty" is better for ratings. The current season favors finalists who insult one another, brag shamelessly and grovel before the judges, who in turn try to inflict as much pain as they can. "She looks like she's about to cough something up," one judge says of a model in mid-pose. I hoped she'd cough it up right in the judge's lap.
The series even casts a full-blown crazy woman, just to see what happens. In this week's episode, the disturbed model loses her mind during the elimination, pulling off her clothes and raving incoherently.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever experienced in my life," says judge Rachel Hunter. And that's saying a lot, given that Hunter was once married to Rod Stewart.