As reality TV continues its inexorable dominance of the schedules, the whiff of desperation is becoming more and more noxious, like walking past The Perfume Shop during the January sales. When the boom first began, we questioned who in their right mind would want to watch a weekly documentary series about ordinary people doing their tedious, everyday jobs. Since we all have to contend with the daily rigours of our own aimless existences, where's the fun in watching someone else do the same thing?
Traffic wardens, baggage handlers, driving instructors - there's no profession that hasn't seen some of its least photogenic candidates going through the motions in front of an eager camera crew. Now that we all understand the intricacies of every job we'd never want to do, the genre has turned its attention to pretty much everyone else, and with it, thrown any sense of narrative or coherence out the nearest window.
Filling a slot in the TLC schedule that may have been created by the premature cancellation of 'Paint Drying Challenge', 'Extreme Couponing' marks a new low-point for a genre that's already subterranean. Sounds exciting right? After all, the word 'extreme' implies some kind of fast-paced, high-octane action that'll keep viewers gripped enough to want to come back for the whole season.
Always wanted to stock up on enough toilet paper to stuff every bra Aretha Franklin ever wore? Then you need to watch 'Extreme Couponing'.
That's twelve half-hour episodes about women who cut out and save discount vouchers from their local free papers. As the title suggests, apparently, 'couponing' is now a thing. So much so, that people have even been identified as 'super couponers'. And 2.1 million people with nothing better to do, tuned in to watch the hour long pilot last year.
There's now a whole lexicon of 'couponing' terminology, including 'rainchecking', 'overages' and 'dumpster diving'. I'd simply assumed that the latter term applied to guys with a fetish for fat women. Oh well, you live and learn.
Always wanted to stock up on enough toilet paper to stuff every bra Aretha Franklin ever wore? Then you need to watch 'Extreme Couponing'. You'll discover how you can score remarkable discounts on a wide range of household goods, although some of those savings may get eaten up by the repository you'll need to construct, to house all your purchases. It's a mindset that any Costco shopper will be familiar with.
Imagine all the times you've lost precious minutes of your life, waiting at the checkout as an arthritic-fingered pensioner fumbles through her purse and slowly sifts through a wad of discount vouchers. Now imagine watching that for six straight hours. It's what Tivo and Sky + were invented for.
Of course, TLC is keen to ramp up the excitement, promising "shocking stockpiles of merchandise... dramatic shopping skills... and their amazing couponing ways". But all the superlatives in the world can't disguise the fact that this is a show about people with obsessive compulsive disorder, panic-buying enough laundry detergent to last them well into the Rapture.
As well as seeing the inside of their stock-room/fallout-shelters, you'll hear them proudly stating that they spend up to "30 hours a week couponing". Just picture how much richer they'd be if they'd actually spent that time working, rather than buying a metric tonne of handwash. It's called a false economy.
But in a culture where consumption is king, it's only natural that some people would see it as their patriotic duty to take the concept to its illogical conclusion. On a totally unrelated note, does anyone want to buy a shipping container full of table salt?
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