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Series / The Cleaner (UK)

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The Cleaner is a BBC One Black Comedy which first aired in 2021. A Foreign Remake of the German comedy Der Tatortreiniger, it stars Greg Davies as Paul "Wicky" Wickstead, a professional crime scene cleaner who works for the Shropshire-based cleaning service Lausen. Each episode is about what happens when he goes to clean up a place where someone has died. While trying to clean up, he encounters people related to the victim — their employers, their neighbours and sometimes even their murderers.

The entire first series was made available at once on BBC iPlayer on 10th September 2021, with a Christmas Special airing on Christmas Eve 2022. A second series followed suit on 24th March 2023, and was once again released all at once.

The show is not to be confused with the 2008 A&E series The Cleaner (2008), or the trope of a similar name that this show uses as its framing device.

The work provides examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho:
    • The plot of "The Widow"; as Wicky is cleaning up the crime scene alone, the murderer comes back and holds him at gunpoint. They seemingly develop a connection and the widow decides to head away with Wicky. However, it's eventually revealed that he used the opportunity to call the police when she wasn't looking.
    • In "The Night Shift" Wicky spends the night cleaning up a crime scene at a home appliance store and has to interact with the night shift restock guy. The guy starts to creep Wicky out and then pulls out a gun. It ends up being a subversion as the gun was fake, and the guy thought that he and Wicky were doing a survival drill. The guy is weird but utterly harmless.
    • In "The Dead End" Wicky is sent out to Wales to clean up a grisly murder scene. However, the killers are still hanging around.
  • Always Murder: Subverted. Even though Wicky is a crime scene cleaner, some episodes have him cleaning up scenes where the death was accidental (albeit rather gory). In "The Statue", there is no death and his job is to clean up a statue covered in goose blood as a form of protest.
  • Bad Influencer: Hosea is a Spoiled Brat influencer who plans to livestream a bloody crime scene for online clout and shows no empathy for the guy who died in his house.
  • Bait-and-Switch:In the first episode, Wicky is introduced walking into a room and taking in the many blood stains like a Hardboiled Detective. Then he sets down his cleaning supplies and moans about how long it'll take for him to get the room clean.
  • Berserk Button: Wicky doesn't like it when people refer to his occupation as "mopping up" because he doesn't use a mop.
  • Black Comedy: A lot of laughs are mined out of death and decay, even in episodes that don't feature blood and gore.
  • Blood Is the New Black: The widow in the first episode (who murdered her husband and at one point holds Wicky at gunpoint) has a blood-covered shirt.
  • Bloody Horror: Since Wicky is a crime scene cleaner, this is a given. Most of the locations that he visits have blood everywhere.
  • British Brevity: The first two series both last 6 episodes (with a Christmas Special wedged in between), which is still longer than the usual amount of episodes in the original German series (usually about 4 episodes).
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Although he's quirky and often surly, Wicky is very good at cleaning up crime scenes and takes pride in his abilities.
  • Christmas Episode: In "A Clean Christmas", Wicky is looking forward to a Christmas raffle, but has to deal with cleaning up an ice cream parlour and a diligent customer first.
  • Cleanup Crew: Wicky is a one-man cleanup crew, making sure no traces of death remain when he's done. In a twist to the trope, he's providing a legitimate service and working on the right side of the law, since he gets called in to clean up after the police have finished with the scene; someone's gotta do it, after all.
  • Cool Old Lady: Vivian from "The Aristocrat", who stood up to a burglar with a very long knife and clubbed him to death with a golf club. Subverted with the reveal of the latter — after the burglar was badly injured, she could have helped him but chose to finish him off because he damaged her sofa, which Wicky rightfully points out is inexcusable.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: A fair amount of the show's humour comes from Wicky's nonchalant reactions to cleaning up blood-doused scenes caused by a murder.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The night shift restock guy in "The Night Shift" insists he isn't one despite professing to believe that the government is planning some kind of big disaster and that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by lizard people.
  • Doomed Autographed Item: Wicky accidentally destroys the Writer's autographed book of Dylan Thomas's collection of poetry by dropping it into cleaning liquid in "The Writer". At the end, the Writer confesses that he doesn't actually like Thomas's poetry all that much.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: This turns out to be the reason the Widow finally snapped and killed her husband. She wanted to go to Italy on vacation to visit the Dolomite mountains, something she dreamed of since she was a child. She gave her husband plenty of hints of what she wanted, and felt that he owed it to her for all the years of going to modelling conventions for their vacations. Her husband got her hints but decided that instead of a vacation he would build her a large model of the location. This finally broke the woman, and she stabbed the husband to death for being so self-absorbed and blind to her needs.
  • Drunk Driver: Helena in "The Neighbour" is wheelchair-bound as a result of self-inflicted drunk driving.
  • Fan of the Past: Hosea in "The Influencer" is a big fan of the 1980s and has merchandise from that decade all around his room.
  • The Ghost: Wicky's friend Weasel. Even though he's apparently one of Wicky's best mates, it's hinted that he is actually an example of The Friend Nobody Likes.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episode names use the subtle theme of using "The ______", ie. "The Widow", "The Influencer", etc.
  • Informed Ability: Averted. Although events usually conspire to sidetrack Wicky from doing his job, we do get to see him clean up, and he's actually pretty good at it. Dialogue with other characters shows that he's highly knowledgeable about his job too, impressing the neighbour in "The Widow" by stating in some detail what will get beetroot stains out of white clothing.
  • Insistent Terminology: Wicky insists he's a crime scene cleaner. He also dislikes the term "mopping up" to describe what he does, as he never uses a mop.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Wicky comes off as a bit of a grumpy, lazy, self-centered, emotionally-stunted, and unambitious jerk at times, but he's quite friendly, kind-hearted, and empathetic deep down. The episodes generally revolve around him developing a bit of a bond with the person that the episode title refers to.
  • Job Title
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • In "The Aristocrat", a robber supposedly tripped and fell down the stairs in a rich old lady's house. Wicky soon finds out that the old lady actually smashed his head in with a golf club. At the end of the episode, the lady herself trips and falls down the stairs completely by accident.
    • In "The Neighbour", the moment Wicky breaks his promise to not eat meat for a day he gets caught standing up by an old woman who he made push him to the park in a wheelchair and has to do the same for her to make it up to her.
  • Manchild: "The Widow" features a character played by Paul Chowdhry (47 at the time of filming) who dresses and acts like a child despite having a full beard and greying hair. He's credited, appropriately enough, as "Man Boy".
  • Minimalist Cast: Wicky is the only regular character, and each episode only has one major guest role — the one named in the episode title. Other guest characters are very limited supporting roles.
  • Musical Episode: "The Widow" suddenly segues into a song-and-dance number between Wicky and the episode's titular character.
  • The Nicknamer: Wicky himself, who refers to most of his friends by nickname only and his himself usually referred to by his nickname.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Hosea's parents wanted to move to another country, but he refused to leave. They decided that he was old enough to live on his own, so they gave him the house and plenty of money and left the country without him.
    • Robert's father in "A Clean Christmas" claimed to be busy at a job, so ditched him at a placement home. Despite this, Robert still believes that his father will come back to him, although Wicky is sceptical.
  • Ship Tease: It's gradually implied that Wicky has developed feelings for Ruth, a police officer who we see at several scenes who appears to be a friend of his.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: Discussed by The Widow. By the time she realized that she was married to a boring selfish man, she had committed decades of her life to the marriage. She felt that if she left her husband it would render a good portion of her life a waste and she could not deal with that.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: The crime scene in "The Widow" is a result of a woman finally flipping after decades of a stifling marriage and stabbing her husband 38 times.
  • There's No Kill like Overkill:
    • The Widow stabbed her husband 38 times. Wicky complains of the mess so many stab wounds make, saying five is plenty to do the job. Interestingly, later in the episode he gets an opportunity to tell The Widow his feelings on the subject after she kidnaps him, and she concedes the point.
    • Although accidental, the death in "The Influencer" resulted in major blood vessels being severed and blood spurting out all over the scene.