If you listed out jobs that seem terribly unpleasant to perform, you’d likely hit upon things like garbage man, porta-potty maintenance, and road-kill remover. I’m not sure you’d think of crime scene cleaner. I’m not even sure that’s a real job. It makes a certain amount of sense as I don’t see that the police are going to clean up after your murders and homeowners aren’t likely to fee like mopping up after Aunt Betty’s decomposed on the living-room couch. But it's not exactly the sort of job you see listed on Monster.com or the local classifieds all too often.
It is, however, the perfect set-up for a movie or television series. With so many crime shows out there, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more dramas depicting that job. There was the rather delightful Amy Adams film Sunshine Cleaners, and the far less interesting Samuel L. Jackson drama Cleaners, but other than that I’ve not heard of any stories depicting this particular job. So it was refreshing to see this German series take up the occupation. Right away its got several things going for it:
- It's short. With an average running time well under 30 minutes, we don’t have to spend too long with the sticky, gooey aftermath of violent crimes.
- It's funny. There is no doubt a lot of drama to be culled from cleaning up after horrific murders, but it's refreshing watching them go for the funny, the hilarious, the absurd and downright silly moments instead.
- It stays away from the gore. While there are a few shots of blood-soaked floors and the like, for the most part it shies away from zooming in on the horror which maintains the show's light-hearted tone.
- It stars Bjarne Mädel. I don’t actually know who he is outside of this show, but he’s absolutely perfect for it.
Mädel stars as Heiko “Schotty” Schotte, a sort of “everyman” who happens to have a rather dirty job. He’s not cultured, sophisticated, or particularly well educated, but he’s good at his work, is kind, and maintains a fairly strict moral code. He handles his rather disgusting and often bizarre duties with a reserved acceptance. “My work starts where others pass in horror,” he likes to say as if what he does is just another day at the office.
Each episode deals with a new job and an escalating-ly strange set of clients and guests. There is the prostitute who was commissioned by the dead before his demise, the little old lady who is more upset by her damaged couch than the dead burglar on her floor, the writer who can only express emotion by writing it down, and many more. The show finds great humor in every encounter, allowing Schotty to play the straight man to the ridiculousness all around him.
One of my favorite bits, just to give you an example, is of the writer who doesn’t mourn the death of his aunt outwardly, but has to save up his emotion for the written word. He is so unable to express himself in the moment that when he stubs his toe he has to quickly find a piece of paper and scratch “ouch” on it.
Behind all of the excessively ludicrous moments lies a deeply felt heart. This elevates the show from merely being quite good to a rarely found greatness. It is a wonderfully hilarious show, but often it finds these little moments of poignancy where the characters touch on some profound human emotion and Schotty is able to help these hopeless characters find meaning.
This set from MHZ contains 10 episodes. Strangely, they come out of order with one episode from Season 3, so if you are looking to watch them in the original order, you will have to wait awhile.
Seriously, I don’t know why more shows haven’t used the crime scene cleaner concept. It seems ripe for the plucking. But good gravy we can be glad the Germans found it and created Crime Scene Cleaner. It's fantastic. If you like quirky comedies with heart, seek this one out right away.