The Cleaner: 3 reasons to watch the Greg Davies comedy

The comedian writes and stars in a new BBC One series about the misadventures of a crime scene cleaner alongside guest stars including Helena Bonham Carter and David Mitchell.

By Becky Gamester-Newton Published: 31 August 2021 - 12.53pm
Comedy

Helena Bonham Carter

Greg Davies

BBC/Studio Hamburg UK Greg Davies writes and stars in the Cleaner on BBC One

Greg Davies has an impressive TV comedy CV, with The Inbetweeners, Cuckoo and Man Down among his acting credits.

And as the writer of Man Down, he’s no stranger to translating his comedic talents to script – and fans are in for a treat with new series The Cleaner.

The show is based on a long-running German sitcom, but as Greg explained in a Q&A with BT.com and other press, he’s taken his own direction with it.

Find out what he had to say with our three reasons to watch the show.

1. The impressive guest stars

Each episode of the show features a different person that the main character – crime scene cleaner Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead – stumbles across while going about his work.

Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown), David Mitchell (Peep Show, Back), Stephanie Cole (Still Open All Hours), Donald Sumpter (Game Of Thrones), Shobu Kapoor (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Ruth Madeley (Years And Years), Layton Williams (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie musical), Zita Sattar (Casualty), Georgie Glen (The Crown, Call The Midwife), Bill Skinner (Ted Lasso), and Esmonde Cole (Still So Awkward) make up the impressive cameo list.

David Mitchell and Greg Davies in The Cleaner BBC/Studio Hamburg UK

Greg admitted that he wrote the episode starring David Mitchell with the actor in mind.

“I'm very much a glass-half-empty man, and I presume that no-one's going to say yes,” he said.

“The only one I had really in mind was David Mitchell for the writer [episode]. And that's because when I watched the German original, I thought, ‘God, David Mitchell would be good in this part’.

"Then when I subsequently rewrote it, I had him in mind throughout. So it would have been a bit of a blow if David had said no.”

Greg Davies and Helena Bonham Carter in The Cleaner BBC/Studio Hamburg UK

He added that he was thrilled when Helena Bonham Carter agreed to take on her role – and that the surreal nature of one of her scenes was the selling point.

“All I can tell you is that when she said yes, I squealed with joy. I didn't for a second think she would say yes.

“I'm sure Helena wouldn't mind me saying that that toilet scene, complete with the surreal nonsense that goes on after it, is what drew her to the project. That's what she was excited about.

“She's got a healthily oblique sense of humour and it was that that made her give it a second read. She was great fun.”

2. The ‘Play for Today’ format

Helena Bonham Carter and Greg Davies in The Cleaner BBC/Studio Hamburg UK

Each episode tells its own story, and is essentially a two-hander between Wicky and the guest star – a format that Greg loves.

“It’s quite old fashioned. It puts me in mind of Play for Today [the BBC's long-running strand of one-off dramas] sometimes. There's something reassuringly old fashioned about it, while at the same time it's quite a modern show,” he mused.

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“Each one felt like an entirely separate adventure because you've got an open character who by the nature of his job is not surprised by encountering shocking situations. In the German one, he deals with some fairly shocking subject matters as it goes on.

“The episodic nature... it put me in the mind of Mr Benn, the children's programme. Mr Benn used to get dropped into a different adventure every week and respond.

“To some extent, Wicky has to be a simple enough person in order to almost wander into the situations he gets himself in a childlike way. There needs to be a wide-eyed innocence of sorts to him, even though he does this gruesome job.”

3. The genius of Wicky

Greg Davies stars as Wicky in The Cleaner BBC/Studio Hamburg UK

Wicky is a character like no other. A state-certified cleaning technician, he has a very special field of work: as a crime scene dealer who is responsible for the removal of any signs of death.

As he gets to work using chemicals, scrubbing brushes and cleaning rags, he comes across a variety of people and as a sociable person, he sometimes gossips more than he cleans.

“It's a tricky character in a way. He's quite an everyman,"Davies explains.

"His interests are not spectacular outside of his job. He's a creature of habit. He has the same small group of friends that he's had for for his for his whole adult life. And he goes to the same place every weekend for a pint.”

He adds that he made some changes from the original character in the long-running German version of the show, Der Tatortreiniger (Crime Scene Cleaner), but his principles are still the same.

“I made changes from the German original [character], Schotty. The character is football-obsessed and his social life revolves around football. I changed that to music just because it's easier for me because I am a lifelong music fan. I'm not a lifelong football fan. It didn't seem like it would matter, giving him a different obsession.

“It is just another day for him, but he's a strangely moral man. That's something that I was very aware of in the original. He's unsentimental, but he is moral. He does have a code of what he thinks is right and wrong.

“I like the motivation for his job because I imagine his home to be fairly grim. I don't think he especially looks after himself particularly well. The thing that I was very keen to get across is the pride that he takes in his job.

"There is a moral element to that because he does like to return things. He says in one of the episodes, 'I like to make things the way that they were before whatever happened, in honour of the person who's lost their life'.”

The Cleaner airs on Friday, September 10, at 9.30pm on BBC One, with the full series available on BBC iPlayer from 10pm.