Reality Bites: Treehouse Masters

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Keep it (stained) classy, Ohio.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Why the hell is this show on Animal Planet?

I know - in a larger, nebulous sense - that we're all "animals" (that cretin on Call of the Wildman certainly appears subhuman), but I sat through the entirety of Treehouse Masters and found no compelling reason it should be on AP. Maybe the main characters speak English too articulately to share A&E with Honey Boo Boo and the Duck Dynasty guys.

Never mind: Animal Planet is owned by Discovery. Expecting the same people who created that BS Megalodon documentary to demonstrate coherent programming logic is delusional on the level of watching Dexter and thinking its going to magically become watchable in its last few episodes.

Our host introduces himself at the outset, "I'm Pete Nelson, the Treehouse Man." In the words of Jim Rome -- who is a terrible human being you should never, ever quote -- you don't "gloss" yourself. And yet, despite getting started on the wrong foot, Nelson manages to win me over by the end of the show thanks to his easygoing manner, self-deprecating sense of humor, and fabulous taste in winter vests.

In the episode I watched, Nelson gets a $75,000 contract from the Mooney family to build a "brewhouse treehouse" in Glenmont, Ohio (Nelson's based in Washington State). The Mooneys want a brewery and a bar, 20 feet up a tree. This sounds like a fantastic idea with no downside from a legal liability perspective. They also desire so-called "Gothic" decor, by which the family means "put a stained glass window on there." And here I was hoping for flying buttresses.

First comes the selection of the tree, which takes less time on air than it probably did in reality (the Mooneys' property contains approximately as many trees as a pre-Onceler Lorax). Nelson prefers "adolescent" trees, which is a wholly innocent expression but still creeps me out. Once he's settled on an appropriately mighty oak, Nelson's team comes out and starts building. It's the standard treehouse stuff: 1,000-lb. support beams, massive wooden platforms, steel cables, stanchions, and a bridge.

I don't know about you, but I often find myself cataloging and comparing my own skills and abilities against those of the people featured on reality shows. With something like Operation Bigfoot or Man vs Food, I think I'd hold up pretty well when it came to spouting nonsensical "facts" about Sasquatch or putting the heathen emperors of old to shame by gorging on obscene amounts of food. However, when we're talking about something requiring actual know-how, like construction or saying "yes" to the dress, I come up lacking.

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Your childhood was probably not this awesome.
Could I theoretically build a structure like the dudes in Treehouse Masters? Well, sure: I own a hammer and a drill and have a Home Depot credit card. I don't let the fact I *haven't* built one yet get me too down, considering the only trees on my property are either 90-foot pines or a sickly magnolia I'd be afraid to lean on too heavily, much less drive nails into.

Anyway, the Mooneys show up, "completely unexpected." Because when a family is dropping 75 large for a treetop rumpus room, it's inconceivable they might want to check your progress. To be fair, Nelson seems to have taken the obvious concerns into account: namely, placing intoxicated people in elevated areas. The railing is higher than normal, and the ladder at a somewhat shallower angle than usual. Plumbing isn't mentioned, which may be an issue for the ladies (I assume every dude who goes up there is positively itching to whizz off the side of that thing).

Then, because this is Ohio, the Amish show up. It's a barn raisin', only for a treehouse. And for beer. Nelson's trusty mini backhoe breaks down mid-build, so naturally he avails himself of the indigenous resources. He also finds a convenient loophole around the Amish prohibition on using electricity: as long as the tools aren't theirs, they can use them. Sounds like a raw deal, especially since the dudes can't even have a beer when they're finished.

And out of nowhere - or maybe to demonstrate how boring Ohio is - Nelson has to head out to Greenwich Village for a quick fix on one of his previous jobs. I guess his exorbitant builder's fee includes house calls.

Treehouse Masters had to be one of the lowest-impact reality shows I've ever seen: no client conflicts, no intrapersonal issues, and aside from the backhoe thing, no real technical glitches. The only moment of slight discomfort came when the Amish carpenters finished up and were forced to hang around for some mindless chit-chat when all they obviously wanted to do was flee Animal Planet's soul-stealing cameras. But sometimes unexciting is good, and I was happy to bask in arboreal torpor after spending the last few weeks wrestling with Miley Cyrus and giant scrotums.

Not "literally" wrestling with. Eww.

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2 comments
Bryant Revels
Bryant Revels

I personally enjoy the show...it's cool to see how creative tree house designs can be. Can't be worse than most of the other garbage on TV these days...

Kyle King
Kyle King

If the development of television programs were based on "need", there would be no such thing as "reality" tv. And if the programming on a tv network were determined by the name of the network, Fox News Channel wouldn't exist.

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