On the first episode of TLC's latest good-natured freak show, Extreme Cheapskates, we were introduced to Kate Hashimoto, a woman so cheap that she thinks nothing of serving friends food that she picked out of the trash. The premiere's 30 minutes was devoted to Kate's incredibly odd ways, and its format was basically a litany of her lifestyle. Said Kate:

  • "lf I have to spend money, I cannot avoid it, I will try to pay as little as possible."
  • "If I use a paper towel in the public restroom, I'm drying off hands I washed clean, so I keep 'em and reuse them."
  • "I don't believe in paying for furniture."
  • "I don't believe in paying for toiletries."
  • "I don't do laundry."
  • "I don't use toilet paper."
  • "I haven't bought any clothes in probably eight years. The last time I bought underwear was probably 1998."

With those last two items, you can see how the elements of her lifestyle don't always complement each other, and yet she keeps pressing on, determined in her oddity. What I loved about this show, and what keeps me so obsessed with TLC's programming, is its very modern focus on the individual and the importance of his or her story. I see this kind of programming as less mean spirited than reality TV is generally considered, more egalitarian in its ethos. Whatever cultural subset the network attempts to tackle is always boiled down to its constituents, who are given time to articulate exactly what makes them so bizarre, hilarious and worthy of coverage. People are, after all, inherently amusing, and as we know, laughter is free.