The demo reel for my reality TV show (and how to turn a failure into a success)

For those of you who don’t remember, a film crew came for three days to make a demo reel for a reality show based on my family.

Here is the problem: we are too normal. I’m not kidding. That’s what the TV people ultimately concluded. But I take being too normal for reality TV as new-millennium Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

The other thing the TV people said was that listening to my coaching sessions was magical. Really. They said that. So I’m writing it for you again: magical. They filmed at our house for three days, which means they heard my side of a dozen calls, and in each case, they couldn’t believe how fast I could figure out the person’s problems and solve them. (And then, of course, I started doing that for the producer of the demo reel. That was a big hit.)

So there is probably not going to be a reality show based on my family. But the good news is that I’m going to focus on doing my own video podcast/reality show where I coach people. I am not totally sure how I’m going to execute that, so if you have ideas, please let me know.

And if you want to know how to specialize, this is the process. You think you’ll be great at one thing, but people tell you you’re great at something else, so do what people tell you you’re great at. Don’t fight it.

So somehow I’m going to be great at reality TV coaching. In the meantime, here is a peek into my too-normal-for-TV family.

96 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Senai
    Senai says:

    Wow! I loved the video.

    I love your fridge! The chalkboard/handles are so beautiful.

    Look forward to seeing more!

  2. Rebeca
    Rebeca says:

    I would have loved to watch that show. But, like Irv above, I’m not sure it would have been good for your family.

  3. Jen
    Jen says:

    There was something missing here. There was no transcendence. They never revealed all the parts of you that keep us coming back to the blog. They probably read seven years worth of posts, but they didn’t know you, they didn’t know themselves It was forced and you are too magical to be forced; too magical to be reduced to a parody of yourself. Also, your sons are pure in heart, aren’t they? Absolutely precious boys who will always be there for you. The antithesis to the thesis of your life. Love you, PT.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Aw. That’s so nice about my boys. Thanks, Jen.

      And I think you’re right about what’s missing.


  4. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    We do like to make things hard for ourselves…other people can sometimes know instantly what we should be doing, while we struggle for years trying to “figure it out.”

    My friend Therese at The Unlost had a great post about finding your true career path:

    Mark Twain once described a man who died and met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates…
    Knowing that Saint Peter was very wise, the man asked a question that he had wondered about throughout his life.

    He said, “Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Who was the greatest general of all time?”

    Saint Peter quickly responded, “Oh that’s a simple question. It’s that man right over there.”

    “You must be mistaken,” responded the man, now very perplexed. “I knew that man on earth, and he was just a common laborer.”

    “That’s right my friend,” assured Saint Peter. “He would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general.”

  5. Donita
    Donita says:

    I do not watch reality shows but I would watch The Trunk Show! Maybe because I’ve been following Penelope for several years now and at times she is really good and at times ok but mostly pretty good advise. And I like the Farmer and her kids also. Good job guys!

  6. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Loved all of this, but I can’t help but ask…happy in Wisconsin? How in the world do you manage through the winters coupled with the small town factor? I’m in WI now caregiving for my dad and snow is forecast for tomorrow. I find it challenging.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, of course they snipped out the other stuff I said, which is that everyone in Wisconsin is happy because they are content. They look at what they have and they say fine, I’ll take that. And I’m not happy in Wisconsin because I’m not the fine-I’ll-take-that type. I always want something more, something different. And the state you live in doesn’t change that about you.


  7. Greg
    Greg says:

    Excellent idea! It’s one of those that seems so obvious once you think about it. Looking forward to seeing your series.

  8. Jill
    Jill says:

    If I watched TV programs, I would totally watch this. If you actually want to do this, I hope you find a way to make it work out. I have benefitted from your advice numerous times in my career. Thank you!

  9. fred doe
    fred doe says:

    Good video. Nice colors in your home,very bright and warm. The chalkboard fridge is nice, maybe better then magnets? Your boy dose play a mean cello for six. The part where your other boy was in the tree and you wanted him to get down and he said blah,blah,blah was classic. With your eye for color why don’t you paint the barn? Why do they have to be red,I mean who makes these rules? There’s no friggin rule.

  10. janine dunmyre
    janine dunmyre says:


    btw, getting rejected for a reality show is the surest diagnosis you’ll ever receive that you DON’T have a personality disorder. lol.

  11. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Totally weird question, but outside of my own children, I have never heard another kid draw out the last syllable of their words like your younger son was doing. For example, your son said “It’s a good place to be – e.” I’ve tried to figure out what this is for years. Have you wondered and/or found out about it? Am I making any sense? Interestingly, my son does this and he is also a musician.

  12. Anna
    Anna says:

    I took your “how to get your dream job” webinar a couple weeks ago, and you went over my resume live, and I can concur that what you did was magical. You looked at my resume for 4 seconds and then spit out an on-the-money summary of where I am in my career and what I’m struggling with and what I should do next. It literally made my jaw drop.

    It was especially surprising to me since I’m an ISTJ – so I was naturally frustrated at the disorganized format of your webinars in general. But that 30 seconds of feedback was worth the whole thing.

    Webinars? Not really your thing. Giving direct, live feedback to people? Totally your game.

    So I think really you should have a show like Suze Orman where people call in and you’re like *blam* here’s what your problem is and here’s what you should do. All anonymous-like so the caller doesn’t get fired from their current job.

    But since being on TV is sort of lame, and internet stuff is often more accessible, holy shit yes you should do some sort of podcast/videocast/whatever cast.

  13. Noelle
    Noelle says:

    So good to see Z playing cello – and it was also good to see him and you this past weekend at the reunion. I miss the preschool days!

  14. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    For what it’s worth, I would totally watch The Trunk Show. That was such a great little clip! And it was really endearing to you and your family.

  15. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    This reality tv reel is overload for me. I just found your blog a few months ago and every single day I sit down and read new posts as well as older posts. If you had a show, I would seriously need 2 hour episodes NIGHTLY! Your life is boring, but I love how “off the beaten path” it is. You live on a farm in WISCONSIN. You make me want to move out to the middle of nowhere to escape society. I’m in love with a blogger named Penelope Trunk!!! Your ideas are so cool and I just love your literary voice.

  16. Alli Zadrozny
    Alli Zadrozny says:

    I loved the reel. I would totally watch your show.

    As far as your video podcast, you should just use google voice or skype to do a unedited recording of phone calls with your clients. I think we’d all be crazy interested in how that works on a day-to-day business.

    Alternatively, you could have people submit 1-2 paragraphs that you respond to with audio – unfiltered.

  17. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    Penelope, I LOVED the video, especially when the goats ate the roses. Watching you on that phone call was like watching myself and my own boiling frustration with being social. Calling people makes me want to kill myself. I think you have just diagnosed me with Asperger’s.

    Whatever your choice for continuing this path, I will follow along, be it vlog, podcast, Skype. Your blog always reminds me to choose the more difficult path of being myself, and this video did the same. That is the great advice and gift you give us all.

  18. Dannielle Blumenthal
    Dannielle Blumenthal says:

    OK Penelope I’m not going to lie to you – the video is bad.

    I don’t know what your coaching sessions were like because they aren’t posted here.

    As a brand person and reality show/pop culture freak I would be interested to see you in a socially uncomfortable situation. The first part of the video hints at it. That would be great.

    Like – you are the career coach who can’t get through a business meeting.

    And then intersperse that with your interventions into real people’s lives. Not on the phone, but in person (and then you can’t deal with how crazy they are, so they have to interview Melissa etc.)

    The farmer and the boys are not for TV.

    Also the makeup is washed out – go much more dramatic.


  19. Alessa
    Alessa says:

    First thing that comes to mind is that Celebrity Rehab show with Drew Pinsky…. but of course yours would be Career Rehab with Penelope Trunk (or whatever you want to call it)

    First of all, you’re way more interesting that Dr. Drew, GOD LOVE HIM, and what does everyone need help with always and forever?

    What the hell they want to be when they grow up!

    Amanda de Cadenet went from Lifetime to Google Hangouts for her show THE CONVERSATION. I kind of love it.

    I say go for it… you’re an incredibly talented, brilliant and entertaining rock star :)

  20. Kim Kozak
    Kim Kozak says:

    You’d be an ideal candidate to interview in the fall of this year. I’m working on a business plan for a highlighting the best coaches that the careers industry has to offer.

    I was reading BrazenCareerist years ago. As an older Gen Y, I’ve done my duty in HR and Organizational Development, mainly in the Career Development space. Now, I’m employed consulting B2B, with Career Consultancies.

    This year… I want to change the world by making corporations see careers the right way. More like your way.

    Hopefully we will see each other on the interwebs this before the holidays.

    Kim Kozak

  21. Lady Blue
    Lady Blue says:

    I loved the reel, it was funny, informative and inappropriate at all the right moments. You are always very honest, which is even more refreshing on camera because you know you’re being filmed and don’t soften yourself.

    I think the reality TV coaching idea is a great one, and I would gladly be on it… I have been planning on purchasing a coaching session from you for a while anyway!

  22. Sara
    Sara says:

    I love this. You actually are much more normal than you think, since we’re all crazy, but some people are better at hiding it.

  23. lhamo
    lhamo says:

    I could see you doing the alternative career counselling version of one of those “let’s turn this business around in a week” type shows like Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible, or Tabitha Takes Over. You find somebody who is a complete career mess with no direction but great potential, follow them around while they mess things up for a day, give them a professional makeover, and voila — life remade. If you look at the people who star in these shows, one of the things that is totally common is their bluntness. Perfect fit for your Aspie tendencies.

    If you do this PLEASE make sure it gets picked up by WE TV so I can watch it in Asia!

  24. Bettina
    Bettina says:


    please do reality TV coaching. It’ll be awesome and helpful.

    Check out Marie Forleo’s Q and A videos. The production values are awesome but I think you can do that with a small team:

    I think it would be very useful for your coach-ees to have a follow-up in 3 months or so, but not sure if that’s good tv.


  25. Zee
    Zee says:

    OMG Penelope I have tears from laughing so hard!!!
    “cows…cows..” and The Farmer describing your relationship, and you chasing him around, and the neighbor and her haircut. I mean everything is just so entertaining. The producers need to re-consider this and put you on tv! I’d watch!!


  26. the last word
    the last word says:

    My 7 year old son is similar to yours he is a tad austic. He said his favorite thing to do is climb trees. Finding this out makes me sad. Because after my daughter died I took out the tree in front of our house as I live in the burbs. At the time I thought what if your next kid wants to climb a tree or have a swing. At the time i thought i would plant a new one. But frankly i didnt xare. Now i am considering a tree . I like fruit trees. I really dont want a tree in the yard the roots bug me I like nice flat yards. Ill get over it. Loved the video.

  27. Amber
    Amber says:

    Holy shit, I totally would have watched that reality show. That was a great ab workout you just gave me!

« Older Comments

Comments are closed.