I like a bargain, but compared to the savers on “Extreme Cheapskates,” I am a complete amateur. And also, I’m not crazy. Yes, it would be nice to save money on toiletries, but I draw the line at sharing my piece of floss with my husband.
This is apparently not a line that extreme cheapskates draw — something I learned after watching a cheap couple’s bathroom routine on this show from TLC. First, they take a two-minute shower together to save money on their water bill. (Not too crazy.) But then they use the same razor to shave, and later, the same toothbrush. The wife also lathers her shampoo first and then throws some suds onto the husband’s head so they collectively use a tiny amount to wash their hair. (Getting a little crazier.) By the time they get to the shared floss, I’ve decided they are full on cray-cray, and I’m completely hooked on this series.
The people on “Extreme Cheapskates” don’t just tell, they show the extremes they will go to save money, and it’s funny, surprising and sometimes kind of gross. There’s the woman who pees in a jar so she doesn’t have to flush her toilet and the guy who reuses paper towels by hanging them on a clothesline to dry inside his house. In what appears to be a recurring theme, this man also reuses his dental floss.
Like most reality series that feature the word extreme in the title, “Extreme Cheapskates” pulls the curtain back on the habits of eccentric characters. What’s missing is a little background information. What compels these people to obsess over every penny they spend? Their back stories would make their over-the-top behavior more relatable. Everyone can appreciate frugality, but really, how much are you actually saving on floss per year? (Just think what the extreme cheapskates could accomplish if they hooked up with the extreme couponers!)
Occasionally, the cheapskates have ideas that on another show would be celebrated as saving the environment. The reusable dental floss man also reuses coffee grounds to create a window cleaner. But then, he takes his wife out for ice cream and instead of buying a cone, he asks for samples until he’s full. It’s mostly a set-up for the cameras, but you have to laugh at the confidence it takes to pull it off with a straight face and seemingly no shame. Finding his behavior funny is the whole point.
Unlike other extreme behaviors featured on reality TV (hoarding, for example), none of the people on this show seem to be in danger of ruining their lives or relationships. Their loved ones accept them as they are and have a laugh. Being cheap, even in the extreme, is pretty harmless. Do I need to know that a dishwasher can be used to wash clothes and my toothbrush? Or a binder clip is useful to cinch a decade-old pair of shorts that have stretched to five times their original size? No. But do I want to know? Well, maybe. ... It could put some extra money in my pocket and make my next bargain that much more satisfying.
Page 2 of 2 - “Extreme Cheapskates” is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on TLC.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.