Casting Call for ‘Extreme Cheapskates’

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Do you go dumpster-diving for your wife’s anniversary gift? Do you dine on cow’s hearts and goat’s heads, so long as the price is right? When you hear the words “reusable toilet paper,” do you think “Brilliant!” rather than “Yuck!”? If you answer yes to any of the above, then TLC’s latest “extreme” show may be for you.

TLC purportedly stands for The Learning Channel. This is a network whose programming will learn you some pretty odd things. Shows such as “My Crazy Obsession,” “My Strange Addiction,” “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” and “Sister Wives” focus on highly unusual, sometimes disturbing individuals and subcultures. Perhaps most disturbing of all (to some, at least) is “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the one about the little girl beauty pageant circuit.

Somewhere in this oddball niche, there’s “Extreme Couponing,” which is about the mad-scientist coupon-clipping strategists who somehow figure out ways to get $500 worth of cereal, toothbrushes, and hot dogs for like $3.47. On the surface, the show bills itself as something of a how-to, but it often comes across more like another program about hoarders and obsessives.

(MORE: Stores Confront Extreme Couponers Tactics with Policy Changes)

Toward the end of 2011, TLC ran one episode of what might be considered an offshoot of “Extreme Couponing” called “Extreme Cheapskates.” The show featured characters such as the “Ultimate Cheapskate” Jeff Yeager, a friend of this blog, and also someone who apparently likes to eat goat’s head, and not only because it’s the cheapest meat at the butcher.

There was also a fair amount of focus on T.P. One woman cuts up old cloth to create “reusable toilet paper,” which she runs through the wash after each wipe. Another gentleman demonstrates his technique of splitting inexpensive double-ply toilet paper in half—to get double the usage, naturally—while doling out cheapskate wisdom such as:

“Toilet paper is a lot like life in general. The closer you get to the end, the faster it seems to go.”

That may have been an alternate to Tom Hanks’ line in “Forrest Gump” about life being like a box of chocolates.

(MORE: Extreme Couponing: Never Hotter, Yet Never More Pointless)

Now, TLC has given “Extreme Cheapskates” the green light to expand to an entire season. In recent days, ads have popped up in various Craigslist sites around the country asking for applicants to be featured on the show. The casting call notice lists Michael Petrella as casting director and says:

Just prior to new years [sic], we aired a special that featured a man who washed and reused his paper towels, and another who cooked and ate goat’s head all in the interest of saving a few dollars. Now, we’re excited to say that we’ll be making the topic an eight-episode series, and we’re looking for folks who have unique and smart ways to cut corners and pinch pennies.

At the same time TLC is expanding its “Extreme” programming, more questions are popping up regarding whether all the strategies utilized in “Extreme Couponing” are legit. Last month, it was revealed that coupons used on the show for toilet paper were fake. (Again with the toilet paper!) And now, coupon expert and watchdog Jill Cataldo, who brought the first case of “Extreme Couponing” fraud to light, has unearthed another curious case of coupon counterfeiting.

(MORE: What Counts as Crazy? Mental Illness, Redefined)

Many viewers suspected that 200 coupons used on an episode of “Extreme Couponing” for Tide laundry detergent were counterfeit, and just recently, Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide, confirmed that the coupons were bogus. TLC, meanwhile, hasn’t responded to requests for comment on any of the counterfeit coupon allegations.

Maybe there could be a new show, though: “Extreme Counterfeiting.”

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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