The Cleaner Review: The German nation is not renowned for its sense of humour so to base a UK comedy on the German series Der Tatortreiniger (Crime Scene Cleaner) may not seem to be the best idea that Greg Davies has ever had.
Davies created and writes The Cleaner (BBC One & iplayer) in which he also stars as Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead who insists, at every opportunity, that he is not just a cleaner but a ‘crime scene cleaner’ described, in the pre-launch blurb, as someone sent in by police to mop up the mess left behind after gruesome killings and accidents. There-in lies the first problem: having watched the first three episodes there is only one gruesome killing which has occurred in the first. In the second episode there has been a domestic accident, not a crime and in the third episode a death by natural causes and Wicky never actually gets to go inside the deceased’s house anyway.
Greg Davies has written each episode as fundamentally a two-hander, furthermore he has been deferential in giving the dominant role to his co-star. In episode one, the magnificent Helena Bonham Carter plays a long suffering housewife who, at the end of her tether, has murdered her husband in a stabbing frenzy. The one episode in three where a crime has actually been committed.
This is a good start to the series with some cracking lines and moments of slapstick amid the gore. However in the second episode there has been a death but no crime has been committed so Wicky is simply the domestic cleaner which he has previously insisted on refuting. Again basically a two hander with David Mitchell expertly playing his often seen short-fused angry man role. This time Mitchell is a writer with writer’s block who rants on and on while Davies creates slapstick mayhem.
The third episode has nothing to do with crime scenes or cleaning but everything to do with Wicky avoiding perceived disability and dietary faux pas in conversation with BAFTA nominated Ruth Madeley. Somehow she manages to keep from corpsing – although I’m sure there are plenty of outtakes for a blooper reel.
The Cleaner is a series of sharply written stand-alone comedy plays blending verbal comedy, slapstick and pathos.
It is a credit to Greg Davies, to the excellent cast and the production team. It will surely be re-commissioned.