Patricia Handshiegel

Digital Dish covers the ins and outs of an Internet executive moving into the television arena. Disher Patricia Handschiegel is the founder of Stylediary.net, which she sold to Stylehive.com in November 2007. She has a background in Internet infrastructure and technology business, was an advisor to Kaboodle.com (sold to Hearst in 2007), and has contributed as an entertainment/media business writer for Venturebeat.com. She’s also been an early visionary of professional Internet TV content since 2005 and is currently an advisor on several entertainment/Internet projects. Always an entrepreneur, she had a highly profitable babysitting monopoly at 11, lent her writing skill to students at 17 and landed her first published national article at 23.

She has also worked as a ghost writer for a national TV correspondent. At 22, she was recognized nationally for promoting the growth of women’s hockey and advised companies on creating hockey products for women. She’s been quoted and profiled in dozens of media outlets since and is currently developing two book concepts. A serial entrepreneur, she plans to continue to build Internet, entertainment and media companies, with the goal of promoting social change and charities. She is currently involved in the use of technology to help find missing and abused children, and has contributed financially to TheJoyfulChild.org and other organizations. She is the founder of Look|Shop|List.com (in development).


Digital Dish

Reality TV Needs Rethinking

August 25, 2008 10:11 AM

When you think about it, reality programming is kind of a gift. It’s less expensive to produce, can be done fairly efficiently, has nearly endless ideas and subjects and, most important, audiences seem to like it. It can be done in different formats: docu-reality, scripted reality, competitions, etc. If you’re lucky to nail a winning concept, it can spin out ancillary revenue streams and cross-platform capabilities.

Most important, it’s Web TV-friendly. I think it has the potential to help migrate online audiences to adopt small-screen television.

The Amazing Race

But, for all the potential reality programming seems to have, finding and creating winning concepts appears challenging. A recent trade magazine article commented about the redundancy of formats, themes and formulas among networks, and how it ultimately was making things feel stale.

More than once, I’ve heard women viewers complain that all reality seemed to paint women in the same light. Many, male or female, who I’ve tapped about the topic have said they feel shows are too silly and sensationalized.

I think there’s definitely room for a revamp, regardless of whether it’s online or traditional TV. If I were a development executive, I’d consider these things:

Tapping the real thing: With so many different human experiences, I can’t understand the need to fake it. Making a previously unemployed woman an expert, then pushing her into a fabricated life of money, high status, etc., seems kind of dumb. Why not just use somebody who is a real expert, and follow her from there?

Expanding the view: Why are there so many shows about the same thing? Why is every story set in affluence? Fun and fantasy is great, but the same rich-Botoxed-little-dog shtick is getting redundant, and I can’t imagine fashion, music, etc., are the only industries viewers find interesting. It’d be great to see something fresh and, even better, real—even if it combines these concepts.

Switching the game: In a lot of reality shows, it’s the characters that create the drama. Girls who get in fights, girls who get drunk, men who cry, etc. What about situations where the drama creates the characters? It’s common in shows like 'The Amazing Race" and "The Biggest Loser," but I think it could extend into docu-reality stories to make things more interesting.

Changing the aesthetic: Madonna’s feature film "Truth or Dare" was one of the first reality concepts I can recall; it followed her as she was on a worldwide tour. Directed by Alek Keshishian, it was shot well, painted her in the coolest light and was packed with plenty to find interesting. Most of all, it showed her working. What about trying the same with other shows or stars? After all, it’s not Denise Richards’ dogs or pigs that make audiences want to know what she’s about. It’s her career. A dream job can be very sexy.


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Comments (2)



Good points. You have mentioned all very valid conclusions. However the question is would audiences be interested enough to watch the scenarios that you feel would improve reality television? Keep in mind that events within reality television are based on actual real life circumstances - it just so happens that when you are watching a reality show, you are only viewing clever editing to create the elements of a compelling story (The process is rather routine, but the end result is what matters). Lastly, every documentary is a form of reality - some of the facts have to be recreated in which to tell the story.

@VSJ, thank you for commenting! I know that the way reality is produced is as you've mentioned, but I mean in the characters and circumstance. I'm not sure if audiences would bite on things, but it doesn't seem that going outside the box a little would be any different than creating the same thing repeatedly and having it fail, like Denise Richards' show. I'm not sure what the right approach would be for innovation in reality concepts but I think innovation in any industry is important.

It must be so boring for editors to go through hours and hours of footage to find the good stuff. :)

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