Do you find “Extreme Couponing” a little too – extreme? (read: “Extreme Couponing Pays Off, For Producers”). Can’t get into watching people cram their carts with candy bars or condiments just because they can get them for free? Don’t find alleged coupon fraud entertaining? Well, then Oprah Winfrey has something for you – if she can convince you to tune in to her cable network. Or at least notice that it’s actually on your channel guide. That would be a start.

Oprah’s ratings-challenged OWN premiered its own couponing show last week, which seems designed to be the anti-“Extreme Couponing”. “Super Saver Showdown” is actually less a show about couponing than it is an odd mashup of “Extreme Couponing”, “Supermarket Sweep” and “Design on a Dime”. Two shoppers are sent to a supermarket to buy their groceries at the lowest price possible. Oh, and they only have 20 minutes to do it. And they have to use the things they buy to throw a party. For someone they don’t know. And the winner is the one who saves the most – and the one who throws the best party on a budget – or some combination of those two.

If you can’t follow all that, it doesn’t really matter, because the program hits all the themes you might expect in an Oprah show – shopping, saving, entertaining, helping others – and none of the themes that a more extreme couponing show might display, like greed, obsessiveness or hoarding. Emphasizing those points, the OWN fansite “The Daily OWN” describes the show as being about “two normal people” engaged in a “friendly competition”.


Another difference is that, because the shoppers are timed, and shopping for a specific purpose, they actually buy what they need and don’t just load up on whatever they can get for free with a coupon. And their savings are actually fairly modest when compared to their extreme counterparts – the contestants in the premiere show each saved just under 30%.

Though one can only hope that the pesky problem of coupon fraud doesn’t rear its ugly head in this otherwise cheerful couponing world. One contestant is shown using a stack of what appear to be printable coupons for $0.55 off Mueller’s pasta, which for at least the past year and a half have included the small print “limit one coupon per person”. Oops.

“The show isn’t a total waste of time,” is the tepid praise offered in a Media Life Magazine review. OWN can only hope that producing it wasn’t a waste of time either. While “Extreme Couponing” attracted 2.1 million viewers to its premiere in 2010, “Super Saver Showdown” attracted a paltry 71,000 viewers – officially a 0.0 rating, according to Nielsen – a shockingly low figure, even by dead-of-summer, Friday night, airing-against-the-Olympics standards. But then it’s hardly the only OWN program to experience ratings problems, further tarnishing Oprah Winfrey’s once-golden touch. So if you’re interested in watching, better tune in this week. Otherwise, Oprah herself may be the one clipping coupons soon.

August 13 update: The show is toast.

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