hide captionRat Busters NYC on Animal Planet follows the adventures of a couple of hardy exterminators.
Mat Szwajkos/Animal Planet
Here is what I would tell you about Animal Planet's new series, Rat Busters NYC: It is almost exactly 50 percent genuinely interesting occupational documentary and 50 percent "Hey, whoa, get a load of that rat."
Or, in many cases, "all those rats."
Rat Busters NYC is about Magic Exterminating (which has also appeared in the channel's special, Bedbug Apocalypse) (hee), a company that goes around to homes and businesses in New York that are rat-infested and tries to clean them out. Seriously. That is the show.
In the first episode, which aired last Friday — the second airs tonight — Magic's two guys, Mike and Jimmy, headed out to the home of a woman who was basically considering moving because she could not get rid of the rats. They also visited a motorcycle shop (I think that's what it was) owned by a lady who decided that it's not a great idea to have rats running around in front of the customers at her place of business.
Part of what makes the show kind of fun is that you learn how the job of exterminating rodents, which still has a lot of pretty low-tech elements, gets done. The guys have to figure out where the rats are and where they're coming from. Then they have to get rid of the ones you have and stop more from coming in.
Oh, and in that first episode, they stopped in the middle to give some advice to a restaurant where a lady found a rat in her salad. They concluded that it wasn't a local New York rat, so they figured it rode in with the lettuce, and they advised the restaurant to change suppliers.
The residential infestation was much more difficult. The poor lady kept a clean house and was utterly mortified that it was overrun with rats, and nobody had been able to figure out where her rats were coming from. The investigation ultimately took them all the way into her bathroom, through her floor, and into her sewer line, which turned out to be broken in a bunch of places. So the rats were coming in the sewer line and escaping up into the house. It was kind of an intriguing mystery, and the technology they used, like a camera on the end of a plumber's snake that lets them see inside walls, was fun to watch.
But let's not be overly fancy, here. I think we know each other too well.
Part of the fascination of a show called Rat Busters NYC is the cheap thrill of jumping out of your seat at the sight of lots and lots of rats. Big rats, small rats, and yes, dead rats. The business owner Magic visited in the first episode wanted to know whether they could trap the rats in a garbage can and set them free, but when you see the scope of the problem, you can kind of understand why the guys told her, in effect, that it doesn't really work that way. One of them stressed that it's not great to have to kill animals, but the infestation means that you have a huge number of overbred rats, and if you just push them out of your house, they keep breeding and show up eventually again, so he argues that killing a certain number of them is a necessary evil.
And then it does kind of become ... man versus rat, for all the marbles.
At one point, one of Mike and Jimmy's customers claims that the rats are laughing at them. And she means it, too. She thinks the rats are taunting the exterminators. But Mike and Jimmy have a plan, you see. They're going to lull the rats into a false sense of security. That's step one. And I am not even kidding.
Of all the little slice-of-life shows you can see that will also completely give you the willies, this one is pretty harmless. (Yes, not to the rats, but that's because of exterminators, not television.) I departed full of rat facts, exterminator facts, and a very high level of gratitude that all we have in my house is crickets.