For its first scripted drama, Esquire Network has wisely chosen “Spotless,” a drama about two brothers running a crime scene clean-up service.
Be warned: this isn’t like the cheery crime scene clean-up of the 2008 film, “Sunshine Cleaning,” starring Emily Blunt and Amy Adams. “Spotless” is much darker and not afraid of graphic depictions of the gore that Jean Bastiere (Marc-André Grondin) and his previously estranged, screw-up of a brother Martin (Denis Ménochet) meticulously mop up.
The elements of “Spotless” are familiar to those who keep up with today’s hippest shows — irreverent humor, a London setting and a plethora of sex scenes (at least, judging from the first two episodes). You could call it a formula, but it works. The jokes actually land and they deftly cut the tension in scenes that would be otherwise dour.
The clean-up business is owned by Jean, but Martin becomes a de-facto partner when he shows up out of the blue from France, bringing with him some drug-related baggage (literal and figurative). Eventually this leads to the siblings working for Nelson Clay, a dangerous and demanding mob boss played by Brendan Coyle (“Downton Abbey’s” beloved Mr. Bates).
Jean has a beautiful wife (Miranda Raison) and two children, but also a beautiful mistress (Tanya Fear). He appears to achieve a certain Zen from cleaning up blood, brain matter and various bodily fluids. He’s also really good at it, which makes him an invaluable asset for Clay.
In flashbacks, we see a possible impetus for Jean’s odd career choice. A childhood event, involving at least one criminal act, bonds the brothers. Even as Martin upends his brother’s life, there’s a sense of relief in their reunion after seven years of being apart.
Martin is self-destructive and crass, but also confident in a way that his brother isn’t. Ménochet, who offered a powerful performance in the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” portrays him in a way that makes you want him to stick around, even though he looks bad on paper.
“Spotless” has already had a European run on Canal+, the same channel that brought us “Les Revenants,” which is currently airing under its English title,“The Returned,”on Sundance TV. Much of the 10-episode series’ success depends on what will be revealed about Jean and Martin’s mysterious past and how they manage their lives under Nelson’s thumb.
So far, it appears that with this smart series, Esquire Network — known primarily for its mix of luxury bar, food and car-related content — cleans up well.
Spotless (1 hour) airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Esquire Network
Bethonie Butler writes about television for The Post.