Extreme Couponing: Yes. Really.

Last night in a vain attempt to find something to watch that didn’t involve plastic-looking forensic detectives solving crimes through a microscope, or a cookery programme featuring recipes that no one in my household would even look at let alone eat (we  Sky+ the good shows and save them for the weekend), I scrolled through the hundreds of channels provided by those wonderful people at Sky.  And I came across a programme that literally made my jaw drop. Extreme Couponing.

Yes, there is a reality TV show out there that tells us the story of women who collect coupons in their thousands, and go to the supermarket and spend them against their shopping. These women spend hours every day searching for coupons on the internet, in newspapers (one woman even climbed into dumpsters to collect discarded coupons) then go to the supermarket for their weekly shop.  With nine shopping trolleys loaded with food, cleaning products, cosmetics, pet food and toilet roll, Amanda (who describes herself as “crazy about coupons” – no way?)  started to put all her shopping through the checkout. $1,175 (yes, it’s American) later and out come the coupons. The checkout man had the patience of a saint, putting each coupon through as eagle-eyed Amanda watched the total of her shopping bill go down and down. Until… disaster struck and the till crashed under the sheer pressure of so many items being put through in one transaction, at which point Amanda practically hyperventilated. The shopping had to be split between three different tills and all put through again. Eventually all 1,000 coupons were entered and the total balance of her shopping came to $2. For nine trollies-worth of food etc. Not bad, I hear you groan? Certainly better than the measly Clubcard points I manage to acquire over several shopping trips, and my husband cringes with embarrassment when I use them to pay for a bottle of milk.

With two cars full of shopping  at a cost of $2, and an extremely understanding husband, I begin to think collecting coupons is not such a bad idea, until we see the inside of Amanda’s house. Shelves and shelves and box upon box of pasta, washing powder, cat food, tins in rows and thousands of tubes of toothpaste clutter every single bit of space in her house. She has more stock than the supermarket she has just shopped in. You realise this is more than just saving a few quid every week, this is an obsession – and a really boring one at that. As Amanda describes “When I have done a whole shop using my thousands of coupons I feel like I have climbed a mountain.” Well love, save yourself some time, give your poor husband a day off  and just climb up that mountain of loo roll you have stashed in your back bedroom instead.      

As I watched in disbelief that someone could actually make a programme based on crazy coupon ladies, I wondered what on earth reality TV had come to. I confess to watching the last four series of Big Brother, enjoying being able to share an utter dislike for someone, to be able to laugh and make fun of another person and not feel bad about it. These people were in my  life for an hour every night during the summer evenings, baring their souls and making complete prats out of themselves, giving me and the rest of the country permission to love them or loathe them and I enjoyed being the fly on that wall.

Who knew just how far reality TV would go though? It has taken over every channel and is the subject of conversation amongst friends far too often for my liking. I don’t want to know about people’s Embarrassing Bodies or The 50lb Tumour they survived, or see a 30 stone man in his boxer shorts being weighed on the telly by a patronizing Davina McCall, after watching him be brutally bullied by a motivational keep fit instructor. How clean is your house?  Do we care? If people want to live in filth and have rubbish down the back of their sofa then that’s up to them. Or here’s a suggestion:  why not bring in the environmental health instead of a cameraman?.  We have people dating in the dark and fighting brides scrapping to win their dream wedding, people swapping wives or declaring “It’s me or the Dog.”

Is there anything that these people won’t make a  show out of?  Do they really think we are so obsessed with other peoples’ lives that we will literally sit through any old tripe as long as it makes us feel better about ourselves and our own lives? Or does Joe Public have such a reputation for nosiness that programme makers will quite literally make any show to satisfy our need for a glimpse into the lives of strangers?

As we watch the poor chap on Embarrassing Bodies with a carbuncle on his backside the size of a small car we can sit there and sympathize in a smug way because unlike him we can actually sit down. I do acknowledge that some of these shows may actually be of help to  people, be it with medical issues or weight problems and I do think those who appear on shows like Embarrassing Bodies are brave to let us see them in such a personal and, as the title suggests, embarrassing way. There wouldn’t be enough money in the world to make me appear on telly showing off my carbuncle (not that I have one). However,  a show about spoilt kids at boot camp, women addicted to having boob jobs or  a dysfunctional family screaming at each other?  Not for me. I watched Extreme Couponing for research purposes only, and also because the remote fell down the back of the sofa and I couldn’t be bothered to get up and retrieve it (maybe there’s a show in that?).

Anyway, it’s not something I’ll be putting on series link; I think I would rather wrap myself in barbed wire and roll down a very large hill than sit through that again thank you. Anyway, I’m off to the supermarket… Nectar points are burning a hole…

Posted by The Lovely Nicola

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