Whither Darnell? A mystery about A&E’s “The Cleaner” is resolved!

Given that the A&E drama “The Cleaner” only lasted for two seasons, it’s probable that there aren’t a great number of people who are clamoring for the answer to this question, but for those of you who did watch the series throughout its run, I’d like a show of hands if you wondered what happened to the character of Darnell McDowell – played by Kevin Michael Richardson – after the first season.

Not that Richardson hasn’t got more than enough work to keep himself busy: he’s one of the most prolific voice actors in the animation business. At present, you probably know him best as the voice of Cleveland, Jr. on Fox’s “The Cleveland Show,” but he’s also the voice of Maurice on “The Penguins of Madagascar,” turns up with some regularity on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (he voices Black Manta, B’Wana Beast, and – yes! – Detective Chimp), and, on a related note, did an admirable job of stepping into Mark Hamill’s shoes as The Joker on “The Batman.” But, still, I love the guy, I thought his character on “The Cleaner” was interesting, and when Season 2 of the series premiered and he wasn’t on it, I noticed.

I ran into Richardson briefly last year at the TCA Press Tour, and I asked him what happened. In truth, he seemed pleased that someone had even noticed his absence, but as far as the reason why he’d been written out of the show, he didn’t really have much of an answer, short of saying that he’d gotten the impression that the writers had kind of hit a brick wall as far as knowing what to do with the character of Darnell.

Okay, fair enough: I understand how the business works, and I also understand that shows evolve and characters originally intended to be series mainstays unexpectedly become superfluous. While screening “The Cleaner: The Final Season” in order to write my review of the DVD set, however, I remembered the biggest reason why I’d been so annoyed with Darnell’s departure: not only was he written out of the show, but there wasn’t even so much as a mention of Darnell, let alone any sort of clarification as to his ultimate fate. Given everything that he went through with the team during the course of Season 1, this seemed like the kind of oversight that would really irk fans of the show…like, say, me…so I did what any self-respecting journalist would do: I went on Facebook, found the page for the show’s head writer, Jonathan Prince, and asked A) why Darnell was written out of the show, and B) why there was no reference to his departure from the show.

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Season 1 of “Steven Seagal: Lawman” prepares to wrap up

When I first heard that A&E was offering up a reality series which focused on Steven Seagal’s heretofore-unknown life as a Reserve Deputy Chief of the Sheriff’s Office in Jefferson Parish, LA, I thought, “Okay, this is either going to be really awesome or really terrible.” In the end, it flew right down the middle, proving to be so terrible that it was legitimately awesome, offering the opportunity to get rip-roaring drunk simply by taking a shot every time he references his movie career or anything relating to his knowledge of Zen or martial arts. Still, the first episode kicked ass in the ratings, and it’s become a staple of “The Soup,” with Joel McHale relishing the chance to incorporate a less-than-heartfelt plug for Seagal’s energy drink into the intro for that week’s clip, so I’m guessing that there’s a very real possibility that “Lawman” could well be back for a second season.

I’ve just gotten a clip of the first-season finale, so I thought I’d share it with you:

But, look, here’s the thing: as I read the summary for the first-season finale, it became clear to me just what a tightrope A&E must have to walk to promote this show as a serious reality series to the general public while still acknowledging to critics that they know how ridiculous the whole thing is. The description of the episode starts seriously enough…

The night starts off badly as Deputy Chief Steven Seagal and his team rush to the scene of a man killed in a drive-by. Minutes later they race to another shooting: a man found dead in his car. Two homicides in less than an hour puts the unit on high alert and when they catch four young men out late, Steven has some stern words, but he gets downright harsh the next night when he finds two of them carrying drugs.

…but dig this final line:

But Steven has to get back to Hollywood, it’s time to make his next movie.

Steven knew he’d get stuck taking the anger management class, but when your fellow officer eats the last doughnut…

Oh, well, clearly, a film like “Born to Raise Hell” is far more important that dealing with drive-by shootings and drugged-up punks, based on its IMDb description: “A hard core Interpol agent is assigned to an Eastern European task force to target gun trafficking and dope running throughout the Balkans. While investigating a Russian gun dealer, his team is caught in a bloody street war between a Gypsy gang and the Russians, leaving one task force member dead. Fueled with vengeance, he leads us on an action packed thrill ride while avenging his friend’s death.”

Steven Seagal: saving the world one straight-to-DVD action flick at a time.

  

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2009 Winter Press Tour Recap

Wait, didn’t I just go to one of these press tours…?

Actually, that was back in July, when the networks were busy pimping their new fall schedules; this time, they were presenting us with an idea of what we can expect to see on our favorite broadcast and cable channels from now until they premiere their next fall schedule.

Going out to L.A. in January was a new thing for me, though. It was my first winter tour since becoming a member of the Television Critics Association in 2007 – last year’s was canceled due to the writers’ strike – and, if the rumblings throughout the ballrooms at the Universal Hilton were any indication, it may well prove to be my last January tour. I’m hopeful that this presumption turns out to be inaccurate, but given the current economic climate and an increasing tendency for newspapers and publications to only send their TV critics out for one tour per year, there’s every reason to suspect that the networks will join suit and only be willing to pamper those critics once per year.

Sorry, did I say “pamper”? Of course, I meant, “Treat with the utmost respect.”

It feels a bit odd to be doing a wrap-up of my experiences at the tour before I’ve even had a chance to write up all of the panels I attended while I was out there, but, hey, when you get a good spot on the calendar, you make it work however you can. So still keep your eyes open for my ongoing pieces on the various shows you can expect to find on the broadcast networks during the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s a look at some of the best and worst bits from the January ’09 tour as a whole.

Most enjoyable panel by a cable network: “Rescue Me,” FX.

I’ve been a big Denis Leary fan every since No Cure for Cancer, so I knew the guy was inevitably going to go off on a profanity-filled rant before the end of the panel. What I didn’t expect, however, was that Peter Tolan – who co-created the show with Leary – would start the proceedings by telling Leary to watch his mouth, adding, “If you were going to say ‘cunt,’ don’t.”

From there, the two of them seemingly battled each other in an attempt to offer up the most memorable line. Leary complained about his salary. (“I had a crazy idea of getting paid, like, $250,000 an episode. They put limits on that, let me tell you. That’s Kiefer Sutherland money right there.”) Then Tolan claimed that he was at fault for the show’s fourth-season slump, blaming it on a drug problem and that “I was heavy into a kazillion hookers that year.” Then Leary bitched about how Michael J. Fox was going to guest on “Rescue Me” and get the Emmy that Leary himself has yet to earn. (“Five fucking episodes, he comes in. God damn, $700 million from ‘Spin City.’ He never asked me to do the show. He’s going to walk away with the fucking Emmy. That son of a bitch.”) Then Tolan started mocking Hugh Laurie’s American accent by talking about how he could do a British accent. (“Aye, pip, pip, mate, aye! ‘Allo, Mary Poppins!”) And…well, as you can see, there was really no contest: this may well have been the greatest panel ever.

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The Beast”

You need to watch “The Beast” on Thursday night. Seriously, you really do. It’s awesome. If you’ve ever been a bit iffy about Patrick Swayze’s acting chops, you won’t be by the end of the first episode. Whether it’s because he felt an affinity for the part of an undercover FBI agent who may or may not be corrupt or because he knew he was sick and wanted to offer up the strongest possible final performance, I’ll say this for his work on the show: if it isn’t the best acting job he’s ever turned in, it’s damned close. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to score a proper one-on-one with him during his time at the TCA tour (though I did submit a series of questions to him via E-mail, which I’m still hoping to get answered), I was still very excited about the prospect of being able to see him at the panel for “The Beast” and maybe get the opportunity to ask him *a* question in person.

Of course, that opportunity didn’t present itself. As we sat in the ballroom, awaiting the beginning of the panel, Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Television Networks, approached the podium and broke the disconcerting news that Swayze had checked himself into the hospital. From there, Bob DeBitetto, President of A&E Network, clarified the situation more specifically: Swayze had checked himself into the hospital this morning for observation after coming down with pneumonia. He did not make this decision, however, without making sure that certain announcements were made on his behalf.

“Patrick did want me to tell you that he is very sorry for being unable to attend this morning, but he plans to get back to promoting ‘The Beast’ as soon as he is back on his feet and feeling well again,” said DeBitetto. “Patrick also asked me to tell you that he is unbelievably proud of the work that he and the entire ‘Beast’ team have done, and he wanted you to have an opportunity to speak to the creative team behind this great show and his costar. He thanks everybody for all the outpouring of support that he has been receiving recently.”

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Patrick Swayze checks into the hospital

I don’t generally get to be present for breaking news, but this time I was. I turned up for A&E’s panel about Patrick Swayze’s new series, “The Beast,” only to be apologetically informed that Swayze was not in attendance, having checked himself into the hospital for observation after having contracted pneumonia. It’s the price of chemotherapy, of course, to find one’s self in a weakened state and prone to becoming further ill as a result, but Swayze personally requested that the panel go out without him, so that we could speak with the creative team as well as his co-star, Travis Fimmel.

I won’t lie to you: I’m both disappointed by Swayze’s absence and totally sympathetic for his situation. Here’s hoping he’s able to get back on his feet.

  

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