The  Exterminators -- TV Review

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"The Exterminators" supplies incontrovertible evidence that certain networks not only are continuing to scrape the barrel's bottom to mine the next semi-viable reality-show idea; they've actually worked past the bottom, into the wood itself. A&E has done some things right in terms of unscripted (semi-scripted?) product -- "Intervention" and "Dog the Bounty Hunter" come to mind -- but this is destined to be a short-lived, musty blip on its radar.

What we get here is a "docusoap" about a dysfunctional family working the pest-control business on the Louisiana bayou, and at the outset it's nearly impossible to tell the pesky varmints from the intellectually challenged humans. If the idea is to inspire us to care about them as people, then consider the mission a profound failure in the show's first two installments.

Not that this is a surprise. Did anyone expect "Exterminators" to give "Masterpiece Theatre" a run for its money?

Billy Bretherton is the leather-clad, can-do center of a company called Vexcon. He's a former Air Force sergeant who works to rid homes and businesses of unwanted raccoons, bees and other undesirables along with his overbearing mother Donnie, silent father Big Bill, humorless brother Ricky, demure wife Mary and pain-in-the-ass quasi-sister-in-law Pam.

Seems Pam ditched husband Ricky some time back and returned to help only when business picked up, and Ricky alone seems to have a problem understanding her gold-digger M.O. This divisive issue dominates the early "Exterminators" episodes at least as much as the elimination of bees, 'coons and snakes, and as it's being blown into a full-on family flap, it's simply not possible for the audience to be made to care less.

Cloying, bayou-style music backs this staged stupidity, as if we weren't quite sure we were watching kinfolk play out a resentment-based version of "Deliverance" in primetime and needed to be reminded constantly.

Of this group, the only one who is even mildly interesting is Billy, who appears to have been gifted an unfair quantity of the family's functioning neurons. But he's not nearly enough to keep us from wishing his show back to the swamp, or wherever it is from which these dippy derivatives spring.

Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4 (A&E)
Production: September Films USA for A&E Networks
Executive producers: Jeff Collins, Sheldon Lazarus, Elaine Frontain Bryant, Robert Sharenow
Co-executive producers: Drew H. Lesser, Harlan Freedman
Line producer: Arletta Amos
Coordinating producer: Ann Plyley
Supervising story producer: Darby Symons
Director of photography: David Farkas
Editor: Jonathan J. Moore
Cast: Billy Bretherton and family
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