William Shatner opens home to DIY Network




The Washington Post

William Shatner really hates his ice machine. He may live in an enormous mansion in Southern California, but hey, rich people have problems, too.

shat“The ice maker was a bad character,” he rants. “The ice maker made ice once. Having made ice, it said to us in no uncertain terms, 'See, this is what I can do if I want to. I prefer not to. What I’m going to do is leak a little on the floor.’ It was a hateful appliance.”

That’s Shatner talking on the premiere of his new home renovation show, “The William Shatner Project,” which debuted this month on the DIY Network. The belovedly hammy “Star Trek” icon, 83, is the latest celebrity to offer up his personal life to the cable channel.

In recent years, the network has branched out beyond “do it yourself project” TV series and now features several stars showing off their talents for home renovation.

It all started five years ago when a producer pitched channel executives a crazy idea: Vanilla Ice, the ‘90s flash-in-the-pan rapper, had a little-known passion for renovating and flipping houses. Would they be interested in a show about that? The execs had one response: Um, yeah. They saw the footage. It was gold.

“The Vanilla Ice Project” was a ratings hit for the network; Season 5 airs next year. Turns out, viewers love seeing the heavily-tattooed 40-something drive a forklift and rattle off statistics about Florida palm trees while digging up someone’s front yard. A spin-off, “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” (yep, set in Pennsylvania Dutch country), is currently in its second season.

DIY brass were delighted to find the unexpected value of adding brand-name stars to their programming — especially ones who genuinely loved home improvement.

“That was a pretty good indicator that if you have passion and the enthusiasm was real, that viewers would want to come,” said Allison Page, DIY Network’s senior vice president and general manager for programming.

Other shows followed: “Rev. Run’s Renovation” (Season 2 debuts in January), in which the founding Run-D.M.C. vocalist teams up with his wife and kids to renovate their New Jersey house; and “Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall” (get it?), in which the Hall & Oates crooner spruces up historic homes.

Now, we’ve got “The Shatner Project,” which perfectly illustrates the advantages of one of these series. Of course he doesn’t need the paycheck (the celebs are compensated as if they were show hosts) or even the discount on parts and labor — it’s just another chance for Shatner to endear himself to yet another audience.

And frankly, while it’s vaguely entertaining to watch Shatner and his wife pore over kitchen floor plans with their interior designer, it’s way more fascinating to glean some granular details about how a celebrity lives. Things we picked up between renovation scenes:

• Shatner and Elizabeth (“Bill and Liz” to their friends) have crowds of 30 people over for dinner on a regular basis. Hence the need for four ovens, four refrigerators and three sinks in their new kitchen.

• The couple has an adorable painted nameplate that reads “The Shatners” near their front door.

• Shatner bought the house in 1974 with “Star Trek” money.

• The dog lovers installed in their new kitchen a dishwasher dedicated for canine food dishes.

• Shatner wore a bathrobe as he led the camera crew around the house in the original video pitch for the show. (OK, a DIY exec told us that, but still — ever more intel about Shatner.)

As the kitchen comes together in the debut — and the next episodes focus on the rest of the house — we learn a little more about Shatner’s daily life. If you didn’t already like Shatner from his movies and Internet shenanigans, you’ll probably wish you were one of the people that “Bill and Liz” invite over to their house for get-togethers.

<!--Actually, those events lead to the one disagreement we see between the couple: Shatner doesn’t quite understand his wife’s insistence on four ovens. (“My mother did very well with one oven,” he grumbles.)

“Because I do all the cooking,” Elizabeth wryly reminds the camera,

“Bill isn’t exactly understanding of this request.” Zing! Just like any other bickering married couple contending with home reno.

“Viewers are getting insight into the real lives of these people,” Page said. “We know them in one world, but we don’t know them behind their own walls.” bc-tv-shatner AP-WS-AP-WF-10-24-14 1953GMT

Last modified: October 30, 2014
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