As a TV critic, you watch some shows because you love them, some because you don't and some because it's the day after Christmas, you're fighting a cookie coma and when you turned on the TV, it was on a channel featuring a mini-marathon of a show about a guy who kills pests for a living and you're too lazy to turn the channel.
As a TV critic, you watch some shows because you love them, some because you don't and some because it's the day after Christmas, you're fighting a cookie coma and when you turned on the TV, it was on a channel featuring a mini-marathon of a show about a guy who kills pests for a living and you're too lazy to turn the channel. This is how I ended up watching more episodes than anyone needs to of “Billy the Exterminator,” a series that, you guessed it, features a guy named Billy who gets rid of bugs. He also deals with rats, snakes, raccoons, wasps the size of your hand and the occasional alligator.
Billy, along with his mother Donnie, his father Bill Sr. and his brother Ricky run VexCon, an extermination business in Louisiana. The show follows Billy as he tackles various work orders. To break up the action, episodes also feature scenes with Donnie and Bill Sr. having lighthearted arguments. Donnie is feisty and Bill Sr.’s slow southern drawl makes him sound like he's either just waking up from a nap or on the verge of taking one. Their scenes aren't that funny but they emphasize the family part of the family business and I'm guessing, provide some much needed filler material for the show's editors.
The show, however, is about Billy because he's a natural for reality TV, meaning he is visually interesting and generally entertaining. His fashion sense is Goth meets Ozzy Osbourne — think all black clothes with studded shoulders and/or chain mail, fingerless gloves, boots, a giant cross necklace, a black hat. He has what I can only describe as a spiked mullet haircut and a slice of a goatee. His appearance is often a point of conversation for his bemused clients but he's as far from threatening as you can get so they quickly realize he's just a guy who likes his studs. Unlike his family and his customers, he doesn't have a southern accent but speaks in a slightly nasal, kind of whiney tone. When he isn't giving fun facts about the life expectancy of rats or the many diseases a cockroach carries, he is polite and enthusiastic. He loves his job and you have to like him for that.
And what's not to love about a job tackling infestations of gross bugs and fighting off scary, stinging things? In one episode, he lays traps that catch 31 rats on one property. He gathers them into a trash bag, hoists the bag over his shoulder and makes a joke about being the “anti-Santa Claus.” In the same episode, he is sent to a trailer home that cockroaches have literally taken over from top to bottom in horror movie proportions. It was enough to make me want to turn the channel, even in my post-holiday induced state of inertia. But I didn't because there's something watchable about Billy. He has a child-like excitement for what he does, coupled with an adult professionalism to get the job done. He took care of those roaches and was genuinely moved that he could make a difference in his client's life.
Page 2 of 2 - Reality TV now seems to cover every job you never thought about so it's not surprising that the work life of an exterminator makes the cut. While I'm not sure I would watch this show in different, non-holiday times, I'm glad to have seen a few episodes, if for no other reason than to watch a nice guy do an honest day's work.
‘Billy the Exterminator’ is on A&E.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.