Consumerist readers are divided on the subject of hardcore couponing: some are dedicated practitioners, and everyone else seems to think that couponers disrupt commerce and are poisoning their families with transfats, high fructose corn syrup, and greed. Last year, TLC made a one-off documentary, Extreme Couponing, that was such a hit that it is now becoming a reality series in its own right. Should you watch?
Washington Post television critic Hank Steuver found the show disturbing. Apart from the surface benefits of either picking up shopping tips or gawking in horror (depending on your opinion of coupons and the people who love them) the show is also useful for people who enjoy armchair psychiatry or sociology. He notes:
Repulsion may or may not be the show’s ultimate intent, but it stirs up unsettling and complex thoughts, not only about the sins of gluttony and pride, but also about the production and consumption of cheap, processed food. There’s also something to snack on for those of us fretting over an ever-widening wealth gap amid dwindling resources. “Extreme Couponing” — which has become a series after a successful special aired late last year — is a modern Cassandra’s sociological fever dream, a harbinger of how closely we teeter on the edge of economic anarchy.
Or it’s just another weird reality show about the freak next door!
Everybody wins! Or, well, nobody wins. One thing that stuck out for Steuver was that the stars of this version of “Extreme Couponing” aren’t all that interested in harnessing their skills for the less fortunate, but prefer to fill their homes with massive stockpiles of pickles and toilet paper. To really turn the series into an inspiring recession tale, we need to see the crazed couponers lining the shelves of a food bank.
“Extreme Couponing” airs on TLC at 9 p.m. tonight (8 p.m. Central.) I’ll be live-complaining about this frugality trainwreck on Twitter @Consumerist during the Eastern airing. Because I can’t not watch.