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Shop, don't drop on 'Extreme Couponing'

SERIES "Extreme Couponing"

WHEN | WHERE New episodes Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on TLC. Marathon this Sunday, 4-9 p.m.

REASON TO WATCH Shopping as sport! Can you relate?

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "I'm like a marksman. Instead of hunting a deer, I'm hunting deodorant," Nathan Engels says on one classic episode. (Watch it on TLC Sunday at 6:30 p.m.) His Kentucky "toothpaste room" holds 1,000 tubes, "all free to me." But that's nothing compared to the 4,000 diapers stockpiled by Chicago's identical twins and "double-saving divas," Tai and Tarin Perry -- who don't have kids ("One day I will, and I'll be prepared").

It's the challenge of the plan, the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of saving that keeps these players in the game. "Extreme Couponing" calls it play-by-play. Watch them clipping newspaper circulars, visiting online coupon databases, maintaining product files and building shopping spreadsheets, and finally hitting the stores with plan in hand.

As on-screen graphics total up the prices/savings, it's a nail-biting finish. Can Nathan buy $882.36 worth of products for less than his self-allotted $50? And the final tally is . . .

MY SAY With two shopping trips in each half-hour, TLC's latest hit is so fast-paced -- and such giddy consumerism -- that it's fairly irresistible. Also educational. Take down the tips, and see if you can buy a $5.49 bottle of antacid for 49 cents. "Even if you don't have heartburn," chirps one of the twins, "who could pass it up?"

But do you really need 20 bottles? Yeah, they're saving money. They're also hoarding stuff they'll likely never use. (At least Nathan donates goody bags to troops overseas.) And they're spending 15 to 20 hours a week doing it.

Me, I'd rather watch hockey.

BOTTOM LINE Gawk if you must, learn if you can. It's all American!


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