The title says it all: Billy the Exterminator is a moderately enjoyable reality series following the adventures of Billy Bretherton, pest control expert, who with his northwestern Louisiana family operate Vexcon, an animal and pest control business. This being rural and suburban Louisiana, in addition to the usual rats, wasps, and cockroaches Billy and his family must contend with, there are also wayward alligators, menacing bobcats, and occasional oddities like a comedy club full of defecating turkeys.
A&E's Billy the Exterminator - Season One includes all 13 half-hour shows on two single-sided. As usual for A&E, though it was apparently shot in high-definition, the shows are needlessly formatted for 4:3 matted widescreen and are not 16:9 enhanced. Amusing bonus featurettes are included.
The show is appealing for several reasons: despite Billy's intimidating appearance - he tends to dress in heavy metal apparel, i.e., studded black leather and silver jewelry with omnipresent wrap-around shades, with Vexcon's skull & crossbones logo prominently featured - in fact he's extremely friendly and like many from that area generally known as "the South," unfailingly polite with old-fashioned good manners. Similarly, younger brother Ricky, who suggests a street hood with a short fuse, is revealed as extremely sensitive, struggling to cope with the dissolution of an unhappy marriage.
Indeed, the entire family comes off as extremely likeable: Billy and Ricky's mother, Donnie, who acts as Vexcon's dispatcher, is like a 21st century Ma Kettle; in one unexpectedly sweet episode she takes it upon herself to set her Ricky up with a new girl, placing a personals ad and screening candidates. Donnie's husband, Big Bill, is sidelined by a heart attack (and a horrific facial injury) just prior to the start of the show; his efforts to take a more active role in the company lead to other behind-the-scenes drama. Adding to the soap opera "B-stories" that run in tandem with the pest-control adventures, Ricky's ex-wife is painted as a classical Jezebel trying to muscle in on the family business.
Another appealing aspect of the show is that Billy and his family are animal-friendly and environmentally conscious. Most of the captured animals are relocated, and Billy even gently pries mice free from those sticky mousetraps, though Billy and Ricky don't hesitate in pounding nasty wasps and cockroaches with their leather-clad fists. In one episode Billy leaves traps out hoping to catch a killer bobcat but the first night only lands a hapless armadillo that dies in the stifling Louisiana heat. This genuinely saddens Billy, and like other collateral damage he has the poor beast buried - complete with makeshift headstone - behind Vexcon's headquarters.
Episode titles aren't just descriptive, they're funny all by themselves: "Kitty Corpse Clean-Up," "Possums in the Wall," "Llama-Eating Gators," etc. Though highly repetitive - Is the show really in its fourth year? - I confess to learning a lot about how to keep pests out of my home, and what measures can be taken to get rid of them without exposing one's family to toxic chemicals.
Video & Audio
As noted above, Billy the Exterminator - Season One is rather pointlessly offered in 4:3 matted widescreen rather than 16:9 enhanced. The zoomed image looks okay but could be better. The 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo is fine and the series is closed-captioned.
Included are some amusing behind-the-scenes featurettes: "About Billy," "Billy's Words of Wisdom," "Billy's Crib" (check out his all-wrought-iron furniture!), "Billy the Storyteller," "Meet the Family," "Dangers on the Job," and "Donnie."
Lightweight but highly watchable, Billy the Exterminator - Season One, despite the lackluster presentation, is recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Musashi Miyamoto DVD boxed set, is on sale now.