As I've noted in past reviews, I think it's terrific to give people who work hard and do difficult and dirty jobs credit. That's what "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel was all about: highlighting people who get up in the morning and do tough gigs every day. However, since then a number of tough job shows have popped up, focusing on loggers, ice road drivers, gold miners, oil rig workers, pawn shop workers (who have to make sure Chumlee doesn't break something on "Pawn Stars") and now exterminators. While it's great to see these shows and have audiences get to go behind the scenes at these jobs, one wonders at what point this trend gets to be overdone.
"Billy the Exterminator", which runs on A & E, actually started on "Dirty Jobs", when Mike Rowe went along on two of the extermination jobs. Billy Bretherton runs Vexcon (which sounds like a convention instead of an extermination business, but that's neither here nor there), an animal and pest control service HQ'd in Louisiana. While technically an exterminator, Billy prefers natural methods or outright relocating an animal whenever possible.
Oh, and there's one other difference between Billy and most exterminators. He dresses like he's a roadie for Bret Michaels - rather than venture into a bee situation with the traditional bee suit, he gets dressed up all in black leather, which not only happens to go with his general clothing style, but apparently has the bonus of being less easy to sting than the traditional cloth. Bretherton is an interesting character and has a lot of personality, providing a decent anchor for the series.
The first season introduced us to Billy, Billy's wife Mary, mother Donnie, father Bill and co-workers, such as Ricky's brother, Ricky (and Ricky's ex-wife, Pam.) Maybe sensing that the animal situations were not enough to fill out the half hour time-frame, the series tries to create drama between the various characters at the office, which quickly grew a little tiresome. On a positive note, Billy's wife Mary is out of the series for the second season, as is Pam. The series tried to create family drama with the portion of the series that followed Billy around after work was done, but it felt shrill and like the series was trying to create filler.
While it's nice to turn the drama between Billy and his wife - who never seemed to get along during the first season of the series - the show is left with the core concept. While it's nice that the series has found an audience devoted enough to follow it into season four, even in season two it's surprising to me that the show has gotten that far. There's certainly some drama with Billy and his attempts to catch some dangerous animals, but he seems so unconcerned by most encounters - while there are certainly some exceptions, one does feel at times as if Billy's "been there and seen that" when it comes to the business - that the series never quite ramps up the tension in a manner similar to other comparable shows. In the first season, Billy had a gator lock onto his hand, and reacted in a way that seemed almost low-key, given what happened.
I'd love to see Billy go outside his comfort zone somehow - something that could switch the show up a bit rather than having Billy head throughout Louisiana and finding himself in the midst of similar situations. We get another beaver (must be a lot of beaver in the area) situation - this time, at a Summer camp. There's also a number of gator episodes, a couple of squirrel episodes and the standard raccoon moments. While there's a wide variety - everything from tiny and very angry insects to large and very angry gators - a good deal of the assortment of creatures are the same as those seen in season one. Additionally, do we really need two "squirrel-centric" episodes? That's just...nuts. While Billy doesn't stop to give any sort of tips, occasionally one can pick up some interesting tips about keeping one's home free of insects and other pests.
Again, it's not that this show isn't likable or a bad way to pass an afternoon. Billy and most of his family are enjoyable characters (and thankfully the drama is now only in smaller doses), but as I noted regarding the first season, this series really feels more like a multi-part special or "Dirty Jobs" segment rather than a series that needs a 21-episode season.
VIDEO: The series is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen by A & E. Presentation quality is certainly not terrific, but not unwatchable and okay for the material. The overall impression is sort of like a very good VHS. Sharpness and detail vary, but the picture generally has a slightly soft look. Some minor shimmering and a couple of traces of pixelation are also spotted on a handful of occasions. Colors look well-saturated and generally clean, although like the rest of the transfer, not noteworthy in any way.
SOUND: Clear, easily understood Dolby Stereo presentation.
EXTRAS: A series of short promo/EPK featurettes, including: "About Billy" and "Billy's Tips".
Final Thoughts: Overall, I'm not sure how long "Billy the Exterminator" can draw out the repetitive core concept, but it's still a mildly entertaining way to pass the time that looks into a unique job and cast of characters. The DVD offers average audio/video quality and a few minor extras. A rental for those interested in the subject matter.