Billy the Exterminator pretty much shot his wad - eugenol oils, mainly - during his reality show's first season. Leather-clad, spiky-haired and gregarious Billy Bretherton and his colorful family of Louisiana-based pest control experts are back for another round of gator-baiting and wasp eradicating, but the bloom is off the rose, in a garden ravaged by armadillos scrounging for grubs.
A&E's Billy the Exterminator - Season Two is more of the same and then some. While I wasn't expecting Billy and his gang to battle killer ostriches or swarms of blood-sucking locusts, or that the producers would ship Billy off to the Himalayas in search of fresh game, a la Ice Road Truckers, the extreme repetition of these local pest infestations and Billy's descriptions of the problems/solutions are devoid of any freshness. The show feels more scripted than before, and Billy himself appears to have lost some enthusiasm; he seems on autopilot much of the time. It's still a moderately interesting show - each situation presents its own unique challenges - but after only a few episodes I began to feel a bit like a Vexcon employee myself, dragging my butt into work. ("What's that? Not another German cockroaches job!")
Billy the Exterminator - Season Two includes all 21 episodes (eight more than Season One) on three single-sided DVDs. 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.
Some notes from Season One: 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.
Regarding Season Two: We've seen almost all of it before - the mahogany wasps, the gators in the pond threatening beloved pets and even small children, snakes in the gardens, raccoons in attics. It's become the same show week-after-week, and its producers struggle to inject a little life into it. One thing they resort to way too much this season is to suggest real danger right at the commercial breaks, like the cliffhanger endings of the old-time movie serials. Not only are Billy & Co. rarely in anything like the life-threatening danger the editing and ominous music suggests, but the editing further cheats by constantly recapping/repeating the moments just prior to the supposedly dangerous incident, often using alternate angles. It's a cheap trick, a way to burn running time while deterring viewers from switching channels during the break. On DVD this repetition becomes quite annoying.
There's also less behind-the-scenes family drama at the Bretherton home than Season One. Perhaps this comes as no surprise given the unflattering portrait of Ricky's ex-wife the previous year. Here Billy's extended family is more guarded, all business, making the show less entertaining.
The producers show little imagination attempting to counter this, adhering to Billy the Exterminator's rigid format: each half-hour show usually consists of two pest jobs, the first involving laying traps and/or capturing an animal later happily relocated in the closing scenes; the second job typically involves swarms of insects: cockroaches, wasps, etc., that Billy and sometimes Ricky wipe out as the relieved family watch from a safe distance. There's precious little variation of the format; as likeable as Billy and his family are, perhaps it would be better to relocate the show itself each season, to different parts of the country (or different countries) that have their own unique pest problems. (Here in Japan we have the dreaded mukade, as horrifying a bug as you'll ever see.)
Video & Audio
As noted above, Billy the Exterminator - Season Two is 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.
As with Season One, included are some amusing behind-the-scenes featurettes, all lightweight but entertaining stuff that play like mini-episodes.
Reasonably entertaining but like day-old bread (overrun with fire-ants), Billy the Exterminator - Season Two is a decent time-killer but not much more. Mildly recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Musashi Miyamoto DVD boxed set, is on sale now.