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William Shatner invites you into his home

bill and liz: Beyond the remodeling plans, The William Shatner Project, with William Shatner and his wife Liz, offer a glimpse into the lives of a celeb rity and his Southern California mansion.
bill and liz: Beyond the remodeling plans, The William Shatner Project, with William Shatner and his wife Liz, offer a glimpse into the lives of a celeb rity and his Southern California mansion.

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

“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 about his new home renovation show, The William Shatner Project, Thursday nights 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.

Five years ago, 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 in Palm Beach County. 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. 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. 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. The show is just another chance for Shatner to endear himself to a new 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.

As episodes progress, 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.”

Emily Yahr

The Washington Post

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