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THE TV COLUMN

Animal Planet has designs for Treehouse Masters

By Michael Storey

This article was published June 27, 2013 at 3:19 a.m.

Pete Nelson (right) and his son, Charlie, finish up a treehouse on Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters. The series airs at 9 p.m. Friday.

Who doesn’t love a treehouse?

Animal Planet has tapped into that childhood fascination with Treehouse Masters. The series airs at 9 p.m. Friday.

What, exactly, do treehouses have to do with Animal Planet? If Pawn Stars can be on the History Channel, they’ll make it work.

I first got hooked on treehouses when I was was 11 and saw Disney’s The Swiss Family Robinson. The shipwrecked Robinsons salvaged their boat and turned it into the world’s coolest treehouse. With its many levels and clever conveniences, it was a sight to behold.

Twenty years ago when our son was little, I built him a rudimentary treehouse in the side yard. It even had a trapdoor. I ended up spending more time in the thing than he did.

Pete Nelson has that same fascination with treehouses and has made a creative living out of it. The so-called “tree whisperer,” along with his wife, Judy, and daughter, Emily, owns and operates TreeHouse Point, a bed and breakfast in Fall City, Wash., 22 miles east of Seattle. He also runs the family business,Nelson Treehouse and Supply, on the property.

Nelson designs and builds private treehouses “for those with a passion to reconnect with nature.”

“We awaken that inner child who dreams of living among the trees,” Nelson says. “My passion is bridging the spiritual connection between man and nature. We’re in the arms of these trees and trees have personalities. Treehouses are the ultimate return to nature.”

Nelson’s creations run the arboreal gamut from multi-bedroom dream homes, complete with plumbing and electricity, to simple one room lofts with a view.

How is this a “reality” show? TV can make reality show drama out of anything.

Nelson and his crew, including son Charlie, “must endure Mother Nature’s shifty antics, dangerous construction equipment and dizzy heights in order to build these sanctuaries.”

Dang that Mother Nature and her shifty antics.

There’s always a bit of deadline drama that comes across as padding in each episode, but we know the crew will be finished in time for the big reveal at the end of the hour.

That’s when the clients get misty-eyed and say, “Oh, my God,” a lot.

For me, the most fascinating aspect is simply watching the things go up. From seeing Nelson get inspiration from the tree itself, to designing the treehouse to fit in the space, the exuberant Nelson is a hoot to watch. If he’s occasionally over the top, we’ll blame that on the producers’ attempt to make him even more colorful.

The series has been on several weeks, so be sure to pick up past episodes On Demand or at the website, animal.discovery.com.

Treehouses in this first season include a 20-ton monster in Texas; a spa treehouse on a Texas ranch; a treehouse that doubles as a home brewery in Ohio; an Irish cottage squeezed into an olive tree in suburban California; a secluded “spirit house retreat” for a writer in New York; and a honeymoon suite for a couple who are tying the knot at the Treehouse Point resort.

Anna Nicole. Well, it’s finally here. The Lifetime bio-pic on the tragic life of Anna Nicole Smith (born Vickie Lynn Hogan) staggers in at 7 p.m. Saturday. Watch it like you’d watch a train wreck, because that’s pretty much what her life turned out to be.

Agnes Bruckner (Private Practice) portrays the ill-fated small-town Texas gal who became a Playboy Playmate and married an ossified buhzillionaire. Then he died and she got hooked on booze and pills and fell prey to the parasites that tend to attach themselves to such people.

I had my own close encounter with Smith on a TV critics press tour in 2002. She was on hand to publicize her forthcoming E! reality series, The Anna Nicole Show, and ate lunch at our table following a Q&A.

I sat next to her and couldn’t escape the bedazzled deer-in-the-headlights look as she fed bits of chicken from her salad to her miniature poodle, Sugar Pie. She tried to answer our questions, but her answers were rambling and sometimes incoherent.

When someone mentioned her dead husband, Texas oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II, Smith lapsed into a five-minute silent weeping jag and had to be rescued by her attorney/confidant, the vulpine Howard K. Stern.

It was a surreal half hour and the consensus after she and Sugar Pie departed was that she was being manipulated and we all felt very, very sorry for her.

Smith died at age 39 five years later in 2007. It was an accidental overdose from at least nine prescription drugs. All that will be covered in the Lifetime movie.

Adam Goldberg portrays Stern. Martin Landau portrays Marshall. Cary Elwes plays his son, E. Pierce Marshall, and Virginia Madsen is Smith’s mom, Virgie Arthur.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. E-mail:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 32 on 06/27/2013

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