After his breakthrough exposure on a few episodes of the reality series Dirty Jobs, exterminator Billy Bretherton was soon approached by A&E to have a show centered around him and his pest control business. Initially called The Exterminators-- a strangely generic name given that Billy himself is the obvious star attraction-- producers smartly changed the title to the more fitting Billy the Exterminator following the first season.
Like any compelling reality show, Billy the Exterminator isn't just about its lead character but the people around him, in this case his colleagues-- who just happen to consist largely of his own family. Billy's partner in rodent removal is his brother Ricky, whose ex-wife Pam was briefly still part of the company and the show despite their already being divorced (she didn't last beyond season one). Billy's parents, Bill Sr.-- aka "Big Bill"-- and Donnie are a frequent source of comic relief. And in keeping with the tradition of spouses making an early appearance and then quickly exiting, Billy's wife, Mary, also left after the first season under somewhat contested circumstances-- more on that later-- though the pair remain married.
Getting rid of roaches, rats, and other rodents is a dirty job— and not surprisingly, a show focusing on such a trade is bound to have some dirty secrets.
Here are 16 Dark Secrets Behind Billy The Exterminator.
16 Billy's sunglasses aren't just for looking cool
Billy's whole MO is that he's a rocker dude-- he is constantly decked out in leather jackets, t-shirts featuring metal bands, and chunky jewelry, as well as being one of the proud torch-bearers of keeping the mullet alive well into the 21st century.
Given Billy's stylistic choices, it's easy to assume that his ever-present sunglasses are just another component of his rock-n-roll ensemble. In reality, there is a functional purposes for his shades-- to combat the bright lights of the camera crew. Billy has said that the "hot lights" behind the cameras irritate his eyes, and he started wearing sunglasses all the time as a result.
At A&E's insistence, he even had to custom-make his own glasses that wouldn't constantly reflect the lights and the camera crew.
15 Billy's secret ex-wife?
For a reality star, Billy is famously guarded about his personal life. It proved tough to even confirm whether or not he was still married to Mary following her departure from the show-- and asking him such questions point-blank doesn't get anyone very far.
With that in mind, we may never get confirmation on this rumor that has been making the rounds online for a couple of years now, but it's so juicy that it's worth bringing up. Reports have circulated that Mary isn't actually Billy's first wife, and that the hornet-killer was briefly married in the '80s following his time in the military.
As long as Billy isn't willing to officially deny that particular rumor-- and he hasn't-- it will likely continue to be one of many mysterious aspects of his private life.
14 Billy only saves the cute animals
Much has been made of the lengths Billy is willing to go to in order to save some of the animals he "exterminates," humanely catching and relocating them whenever possible. He has also been an outspoken supporter of natural methods of pest and rodent control.
However, as many viewers have noticed, Billy can be a bit inconsistent in his supposed love for living things. He doesn't think twice about lethally gassing insects and cockroaches -- few would fault him for the latter but some have an issue with him not trying harder to rescue bees and wasps, as they can be essential components of local ecosystems.
When it comes to pests of the furry kind, Billy definitely seems to favor the cuter critters. He once told an interviewer, "I'll never love a rat," despite his insistence that he doesn't show preference to one animal over another.
13 Over-Explaining for the audience
Even reality shows need to have a little bit of exposition in order to get the audience up to speed on certain things, and various shows have different ways of dealing with this problem-- most commonly via a narrator or on-screen text that relays the essential information that audiences need to know. On Billy the Exterminator, that exposition comes from those chats between Billy and Ricky on the way to each job.
The brothers Bretherton are skilled veterans of the pest control field, and they probably don't still need to go into great detail with each other about how to lure a raccoon out of a crawlspace or why a fox would take up residence in someone's attic. But they do so during the show, and that's entirely for the audience's benefit so that we know all of the relevant information before they arrive at their destination and the fun starts.
12 Scenes are cleverly edit-proofed
In addition to the pre-job oversharing, the ins and outs of filming a television show also make the duo repeat themselves a whole lot more than they normally would.
While a job is being filmed, nobody has any way of knowing for sure which shots will and won't make it to air. It can prove tricky trying to edit together shots that may be slightly out of sequence because it makes a scene flow better-- and it's risky cutting a shot out entirely as it may omit essential info.
As a way around this, producers of Billy the Exterminator have Billy and Ricky continually re-explain what they're doing, the facts of the creatures at hand, and so on as a way to ensure that no key information is lost no matter what shots or scenes end up being cut.
11 The blow-up over pregnancy rumors
The closest thing to an official explanation of Mary Bretherton's departure from the show is that she just wasn't a big fan of being on television. An entirely believable excuse, as not everyone is built to be a reality TV star. But some buzz has suggested that Mary's departure from both the the series and Vexcon-- the company at the heart of the show-- was at Billy's insistence, and that it was all due to a major fight between him and Mary over (false) rumors around the office that she was pregnant.
That she was punished for rumors about herself seems strange, though the theory is that Billy has zero tolerance for office gossip and Mary just ended up being the fall guy for that particular round of rumor mongering.
10 Billy's "Dirty Jobs" haircut
Billy Bretherton's television debut came by way of his appearance on the TV series Dirty Jobs, which follows a variety of people with tough and/or unorthodox professions. While a lot of the style and persona that came to define Billy as a reality TV star was intact from the moment he was on camera, there was one noticeable difference: the length of his hair.
As Billy would later explain, his mother insisted he cut his long rocker locks in order to have a more clean-cut appearance on television. Billy says that Donnie also tried to talk him into toning down his edgy look even further by wearing a polo and khakis instead of his trademark uniform of leather and zippers, but he wasn't budging on that. The haircut was as far as he was willing to go to placate his mom.
9 Ricky's mom may have caused his divorce with Pam
Speaking of Donnie, it would seem that meddling in her children's lives goes beyond just trying to ensure they look handsome on television. She also doesn't mind making it known when she isn't fond of her boys' choice in women.
A lot of reports have indicated that Donnie would frequently butt heads with Ricky's wife, Pam, even while they were married. Ricky has been known to play that down as the pair just being too much alike and the bickering having been mostly good-natured, but some sources close to the clan have claimed that Donnie's disdain for Pam-- and her refusal to hide it-- was a major factor in Ricky and Pam's eventual divorce.
Donnie trying to control Billy's hair and wardrobe suddenly doesn't seem nearly as overbearing by comparison.
8 Billy has a tendency to push women off the show
Poor Pam. First she marries a guy who let his mother push him away from her, and then she is cast on a hit reality TV show only to be booted off before the end of the first season.
The reason for Pam's departure is reportedly due, once again, to Billy's seemingly low patience for drama involving women.
There was obviously a point in time where all parties involved had decided that Pam could keep working for Vexcon even after her divorce from Ricky, up to and including being cast on the show. It was definitely a fun source of dramatic tension to have a pair of ex-spouses working together.
Just like that, Pam was gone, and some have claimed that she was forced to resign by Billy, who just wasn't fond of her personally and didn't want to deal with her anymore.
7 Billy and Ricky's fake "shock"
It probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone that the producers of Billy the Exterminator cherry-pick which jobs are TV-worthy and which ones aren't. After all, it wouldn't be all that interesting to watch a fairly routine cockroach fumigation or a quick, incident-free rodent removal.
The jobs that are chosen to be featured on the show are naturally going to be a but more interesting/dangerous than the average extermination job.
Still, the fact that Billy and Ricky-- who have been doing this for years and look as though they love what they do-- seem to have a "What have we gotten ourselves into!?" attitude before and/or during basically every job on the show starts to feel a little disingenuous.
That's because it is, with their supposed shock at the twists and turns of each job played up for dramatic tension.
6 Billy is freaked out by crowds
Often times, people who are way into animals aren't particularly fond of their fellow humans. That is somewhat the case with Billy, as he revealed to an interviewer that he isn't a big fan of large gatherings of people.
Billy told the blog Bullz-Eye that he has always been "tripped out in large crowds" and that he tends to avoid going to things like concerts and sporting events because he isn't comfortable being in settings with a lot of other people. He went on to say that his uneasiness with group settings has been exacerbated since becoming famous as he is often mobbed when he's out in public-- though he tries his best to always be patient with his fans, even when he's feeling "tripped out" by them.
5 Billy redirected the show away from family drama
Just because you agree to be on a reality show, doesn't necessarily mean that you want your show to turn into Keeping Up With The Kardashians. That's exactly where Billy was afraid that his show was headed in its early episodes, focusing entirely too much on the interpersonal drama between himself and his family and not enough on rodent removal.
The stubbornly private Billy didn't like how much of his private life-- and the lives of his loved ones-- was on display during The Exterminator's first season, and insisted that the show be retooled going forward to be more about the ins and outs of the extermination business and less about relationships and drama.
While some of that certainly remained in the transition to Billy the Exterminator and beyond, the series has never again been as soapy as it was during season one.
4 Lilith, the mystical fan
A common question for a star of any kind to be asked by an interviewer is whether or not they are aware of any fans that people may find surprising. Typically, this question gives a subject the excuse to name-drop some celebrity who is a fan, or otherwise tell some kind of interesting anecdote.
When you ask a guy like Billy Bretherton if he has any surprising fans, you might get a weird response.
Indeed, when asked that very question by one interviewer, Billy initially replied with, "I'd have to say Lilith." Pressed for clarification-- because of course that needs clarification-- Billy said that there is a woman who goes by Lilith who is a fan of the show, and went on to not only explain the mythological significance of the name, but even claimed that his fan Lilith has "glowing eyes." Huh?
3 Good TV doesn't take a sick day
Being sick is no fun. What's arguably even less fun is watching someone else be sick on TV. Unless, of course, the person on TV being sick is going to make things more interesting for the viewer as a result.
In what surely must not have been Billy's idea, there have been several episodes of Billy the Exterminator in which he is sick or otherwise isn't at his usual physical or mental capacity. Why would anyone want to see that? Well, because it makes Billy mess up and do things that make the job a little more dangerous than it needs to be.
It seems like an unnecessary layer of risk to add to an already risky job, all for the sake of exciting television-- but nobody is lining up to give humanitarian awards to reality TV producers, typically.
2 Ricky's substance charges...
In April 2010, Ricky Bretherton was pulled over for a routine traffic stop in his native Louisiana when the officers found something a bit more interesting than a moving violation. Turns out that Ricky was in possession of illegal substances, and he and the unnamed woman he was traveling with were charged with felony marijuana possession and felony drug paraphernalia possession. Oh, and the arresting officer didn't forget to tack on the original traffic charge, either.
The judge set Ricky's bail at nearly $5,000, which was quickly paid and he was released shortly thereafter on his own recognizance. Nothing is known about whether the female passenger was booked, if she made bail, or any other information. It would be nice to assume that Ricky bailed her out too, but we'll likely never know for sure.
1 ...And so were Billy and Mary
Ricky isn't the only Bretherton to get busted on drug charges. Two years after his brother's run-in with the law, Billy-- along with wife, Mary-- was arrested after a 911 call led police to the couple's hotel room where they found synthetic marijuana as well as a device commonly used to smoke it.
Billy was hit with a $500 fine, a 60-day prison sentence, and ordered to undergo community service and rehab as he served out his probation. Conversely, for reasons not made publicly clear, the drug charge against Mary was dropped, as was the paraphernalia charge for both of them.
It is widely assumed that the arrest and ensuing rehab were at the root of the personal time off that Ricky took from the show in 2015 before returning with the retooled, Canada-based Billy Goes North-- which eventually morphed back into Billy the Exterminator.
Do you have any Billy the Exterminator trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!
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