Saturday 31 August 2013

It would be easy to flick the TV channel TLC on and fall to your knees and strike the ground with your fists while screaming, “is this it? Is this the world we live in? Is this the horrible voyeuristic way we spend our lives gawping at grotesque Americans?”

Or you can just switch it on and watch it, watch like five or six straight episodes of whatever is being shown. Today I stumbled upon Extreme Cheapskates. The concept of the show is unfathomable from the title, so I’ll give a brief description: The half hour show is split into two halves. Each half profiles one of life’s characters, in each case a skinflint, someone living his (they all seem to be men – go figure) life by the simple principle of spending as little money as possible is the best way to live your life.

One man dried out paper towels for crying it loud! There was generally one of two ways the person would portray their tightfisted persona. Some would earn a decent living and be piling money in the bank a la Ebeneezer Scrooge. The others would be more likely to be self-sustaining – a la homeless people.

One of the latter group showed that he didn’t need hotels to travel and stayed on the sofa of some people from the internet. The oddest thing about it was that he didn’t seem to be there for any other reason. He travelled across the country to stay on their sofa, cook them tea (boiled fish scraps, $10 for him and the family) and then go home. The teenage daughter of the family wasn’t complaining that they’d let a practical stranger, mid-50s man stay in their house – she got a free handbag out of it. A free handbag made from a milk carton and string.

The best Scrooge type was a bit fat man who kept all his money secret from his family who he made live like they were on the bread line. The culmination of his profile was going for a thanksgiving meal at a very cheap restaurant, making the 6 people share only three meals and then paying in pennies.

Their frugality was always portrayed somewhat affectionately. And of course being tight is not a crime. It is just stupid when done to excess, like most things. A little part of me thinks the American production company responsible for making the show might have encouraged the people being profiled to exaggerate their actions (eg man watering down box of red wine with stream water to serve to people visiting an art show).

I dismissed those thoughts. I mean would a person so deranged/fame-hungry that they were happy to star in a TV series where they had to proclaim themselves as a person whose reluctance to spend money was such that they thought it noteworthy be the kind of person to play up to the attention of a camera crew?

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