10 Sep 2021
Te Cleaner (BBC One) is a strange creation, and – although intriguing – it may turn out to be an acquired taste. Loosely based on the German comedy series Der Tatortreiniger (Crime Scene Cleaner), it is written by Greg Davies, who also stars as Paul “Wicky” Wickstead, a cleaner sent to clean up the mess left behind after gruesome murders and untimely deaths. . (The title and setup slightly spoils the first joke, where he walks in like he’s a detective, only to slap his tray of solvents and rags.) Each week, Wicky visits a different house; every week he deals with a different “client”, to put the business language to macabre use for good reason.
In this opening episode, he’s tasked with making a suburban kitchen look normal after a murder, rather than how it looks when it arrives, as if someone had pushed a cow through a blender and used the results as dough. wallpaper. He soon finds himself engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with “The Widow,” played by Helena Bonham Carter, who is incredibly watchable in just about everything she does, including this. Here she’s in her HBC heyday – disheveled, reaching insanity, and in a stylishly oversized coat. The widow stabbed her husband 38 times. “You only need five stab wounds,” Wicky growls. “Everything else is showboating. “
What follows is theatrical vanity that does a lot with minimal cast. There’s a curious neighbor who believes cleaning is a woman’s job – until Wicky pushes her away with a few chemical formulas and brags about how he can extract beets from anything – but in reality , it’s a duo between Davies and Bonham Charretier. She returns to the scene of the crime and holds him hostage in the first few minutes of the episode, which leaves the rest to play out like a meditation on boredom, domesticity, and what drives a woman to so much length.
If that sounds a bit heavy for a comedy, then maybe it is because it is. The Cleaner is a curious mix, trying to balance burlesque moments, such as the brutal kick of a pie, with pathetic observations about ambition and freedom. Sometimes it works wonderfully. Widow’s complaints about feeling invisible are beautifully written and performed, and their fantastic duet is truly touching. But the two actors sometimes seem to perform at different heights, in two different shows. She berates Wicky for keeping his world small, while he complains loudly that he is “held at gunpoint by a murderer with a shit”. Bonham Carter may be an Oscar nominee, but she’s no better than literal toilet humor.
In the end, however, he begins to lie down and begins to look like a miniature movie. I was intrigued enough to move on, and it continues to find its marks in later episodes, including one starring David Mitchell as the novelist whose grandmother died of burns, and another with Ruth Madeley from Years & Years as a strict vegan and neighbor. of the deceased, who helps Wicky when he is excluded from a crime scene. The darker moments suit Davies, who has a sense of melancholy that goes beyond some of the more headstrong instincts here, and the anthology style is a smart choice that revives the format week after week. It’s a curious and unusual novelty that packs a lot in 30 minutes, and it’s hard not to admire its ambition.