Despite the terminology, Reality television is most definitely scripted programming even if it isn’t the same as a traditionally scripted show. In many cases, each episode of a reality program is like its own miniature self-contained documentary strung together in a series centered on a common theme.
Such is the case with “Treehouse Masters,” a long-running series produced for Animal Planet and its parent network the Discovery Channel. This enjoyable series follows a professional treehouse architecture company traveling across the country and building amazing treehouses.
The primary star of the series is Pete Nelson who heads up the architecture firm. Nelson is a master treehouse builder who began this lifelong career – some might describe as a childhood dream – in 1987.
Treehouses have become a family business. Nelson’s two sons and his daughter work in with him at Nelson Treehouse and Supply which he established in 2011, 30 miles outside of Seattle, Washington.
When the reality series was picked up by Animal Planet in 2013, Nelson and family frequently collaborated together both in the construction of their projects as well as in front of the camera while each episode’s filming took place.
Nelson also reaches out to local craftsmen and women to help join in on the builds. In one episode, he reached out to an Austin, Texas-based woodworker because the client wanted to use reclaimed wood and this craftswoman was an expert. The treehouse ended up looking like a medieval fort.
Watching an episode of the show – which ran from 2013 until it finished its eleventh and final season in 2019 – audiences get to learn some of the intricacies that go into the design, fabrication, and build of a treehouse.
There is a childlike wonder and fascination that viewers get to have while watching; Nelson’s youthful enthusiasm saturates the show. The designs are unique to the needs and ideas of the clients.
While Nelson’s work is prominently showcased in the reality series, so too is his philanthropy. In the season 8 finale, Nelson and his crew participate in a giveaway to a pair of viewers who wanted to renovate existing treehouses but couldn’t afford to do so.
But Nelson and his crew haven’t just worked with longtime fans of the series. In 2016, they collaborated with Country Music star Za Brown to build Camp Southern Ground – a 1,300 square foot treehouse. The purpose of this project was to serve children with neuro-developmental disorders and children from military families dealing with PTSD.
While some of the humor seen on screen definitely falls into the cheesy dad joke range, the awe and artistry on display is worth watching in this family-friendly series. Seasons 8 through 10 can be found streaming on Hulu, and reruns air on both Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.