“As an exterminator I’m called upon to curb the destruction by beasts both great and small, be it eliminating a deadly menace or safeguarding a lake from ruin. But sometimes one wrong turn on the job can become a question of life or death.”
Billy Bretherton is the owner of Vex Con Pest Control in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s a family run business. Mom is the office manager and takes all of the service calls and then dispatches the technicians to their various jobs. Dad is the office mascot. He’s had a heart attack along with a few other medical scares, so he’s not really very hands-on. You might say his main job is to worry and complain. Mary is Billy’s wife. She quits halfway through the first season, appearing only a couple of brief moments in the second season. Still, she’s a part of the opening credits. Ricky is Billy’s brother and often his partner on many of his two-man jobs. It’s interesting that we’re constantly told that Ricky is deathly allergic to wasp stings. One sting and it’s an airlift ride to the ER, Billy is always reminding us. But when a wasp call comes in, who do you think Billy takes along to help? Of course, it’s Ricky. Mom always reminds us of the allergy and admonishes Billy to be sure his brother doesn’t get stung. It’s things like this that make this the most frustrating A&E series I’ve ever watched.
A&E has been one of the front-runners in quality programming when it comes to the recent trend of reality-job-style shows. Every time I’ve gotten a new release like Ice Road Truckers or Hoarders, I roll my eyes wondering how the heck this is going to be sustainable for an entire season of shows. Most of the time I end up sucked in without ever completely understanding why. The network has just done an incredible job of keeping your interest level high on what should be routine or repetitive in nature. Once you start watching these things, you find you have a hard time stopping. With Billy the opposite happened. I looked at the release with some hope for one of the more exciting shows to come down the A&E grapevine. I am a reptile breeder myself and have always had a huge interest in animals. This was going to be great fun…Not!
Perhaps it is my own above-average knowledge of reptiles in particular which caused me the most trouble. Billy constantly calls himself an expert. He speaks about the animals he captures and removes with complete authority. You’re inclined to accept him at his word. I don’t know much about the other animals, but Billy’s knowledge of snakes is dreadful. He has misidentified several snakes in these first two seasons. One of the most grievous was the initial identification of a corn snake as a copperhead. He did eventually correct himself at least on that one. He captures a ball python and remarks that it was a good thing he got it as a baby, because in a couple of years the children and dogs were in danger. Ball pythons just don’t reach anywhere near the sizes he proclaims. I’ve rarely seen one over 4 feet. When going after a water moccasin, he tells us that one bite and Vex Con is looking for a new exterminator. He adds that tens of thousands die from snake bites each year. That’s what he gets for relying on Wikipedia for his “expert” knowledge. In the United States an average of 15 people die each year from snake bite. Half of those are an allergic reaction to the treatment. The average number of bites is under 7,000 out of over 300 million people. You can see that the survival rate is quite high. These statistics come from the CDC, not Wikipedia. You have a better chance of dying on the way to the ER in a car accident than from the actual snake bite. Sorry, Billy. A bite will most likely not result in Vex Con needing another exterminator. More likely your lack of knowledge is better reason for them to be seeking someone new. In fact, how about Gino The Exterminator. That has a nice ring to hit, doesn’t it? Give me a call, A&E. We’ll talk.
Billy also helps to propagate the common myths about how you distinguish venomous from nonvenemous species. Rely on his advice and it’s a sure-fire way to get a trip to the ER. His generalizations are simply not true and quickly disproved. This misinformation makes me highly skeptical of Billy’s knowledge on the other animals he talks about. Of course, even when his information is somewhat accurate, he hypes it beyond the limit. He hypes the diseases you can get from roaches and raccoon feces to the point that we’re staring at an epidemic of the plague before he’s done talking.
I’ve also caught Billy in a little revised history. There’s a scene where he wrestles a gator. Once the gator is brought under control, of course its mouth is taped shut. Except I happened to do a little freeze frame work and found a frame where the mouth was already taped while Billy was wrestling with those jaws. If you pause it at just the right moment, you can see the tape show between Billy’s gloves.
Then there’s the family drama. The mom is a mom from Hell. She’s got an opinion about everything. She hates Ricky’s ex-wife and will do anything to force him to move on. She puts an ad in a dating service for a girl and then she and Dad audition the respondents like some American Idol panel. They do all of this without even telling him until they’ve narrowed the field to two. I really feel bad for Ricky. Mom’s the worst pest he has to deal with in that job. Of course, the family drama is part of the shtick, and the family was selected because of these over-the-top traits.
Finally, there’s Billy’s look. He dresses like a Goth death-metal musician. He wears tons of black and spikes. He has somewhat spiked hair. He certainly doesn’t look like your average exterminator. That might be the coolest part of the show. He is a dynamic character and acts like a redneck version of Steve Irwin. I’ll also give him credit for knowing the truth behind one myth. Squirrels do not transmit rabies to humans. There has never been a recorded case of squirrel-to-human rabies transmission. He did know that, although he didn’t explain why. It has a lot to do with the lack of saliva transmission. Credit Billy as well for trying his best not to kill the animals he’s hired to remove. He releases them in a nature preserve whenever possible. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t exhibit a huge amount of glee when he’s killing off wasps or roaches.
Each episode is presented in a somewhat disappointing non-anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s rare to find this kind of image presentation these days. I’m not really sure why the discs are released this way. This is all shot out in the field, so expect frantic camera work at times and documentary-style quality. Black levels are fair with some compression artifact. If you’ve seen the show on the air, you can expect pretty much a comparable image presentation here.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation. The sound design folks add in heightened hisses and sounds that are obviously not from the field. It’s another example of too much hype.
The shows often feel like infomercials. There’s always the footage of clients raving about Billy’s service. Now, I don’t have a ton of trouble with the concept. Of course we want to see the client’s reaction. But the words just sound scripted. One lady had Billy remove a dead cat under their dentist office. She gushed amazement that Billy was able to accomplish such an incredible feat. Come on, lady. He crawled under the house and put the cat in a plastic bag. Not much fight in a dead cat. I believe the client reactions were scripted. They were coached, at the very least likely in return for the network picking up the tab on the job. It’s too much for me. The next Billy release goes straight to another reviewer. If you should find a copy of either of these DVD’s in your home, seek professional help. These discs are quite dangerous and could lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. Watching an entire season of Billy, The Exterminator? “That’s a recipe for disaster, right there.”