Tube Boobs of the World, Unite! The Couch Potatoes Are a Cult That Really Bears Watching

updated 12/12/1983 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/1983 01:00AM

It's time for someone to stand up and defend TV. The Couch Potatoes would, only it would take too much effort. Besides, they're too busy sitting and watching TV to be counted.

The Couch Potatoes are a fraternity devoted to a cause previously unsung—excessive, slothful and guilt-free video viewing. The 5,000 rather inactive members of the Potatoes and the ladies' auxiliary, the Couch Tomatoes, have a simple credo: "I'm a TV viewer and I'm proud of it." The cult was founded in Pasadena eight years ago by nine TV addicts, including Robert Armstrong, 33, a comics illustrator who draws during commercials and boasts that his three-year-old TV has never been off; Jack Mingo, 31, a freelance writer and author of The Official Couch Potato Handbook (Capra, $4.95), and Allan ("Chef Aldo") Dodge, 38, a jack-of-all-trades who specializes in junk food for the viewer (such as Cheese Chocdogs—hot dogs hollowed out by an electric drill, filled with an aerosol cheese product, covered with chocolate and toasted). A good Potato, Mingo says, can sing the entire Gilligan's Island theme and watch 10 hours a day. A superspud watches five or more sets at once, as Armstrong does at home in rural, cable-less Dixon, Calif.

The cult stayed small for quite a while—no time to proselytize with all those Ozzie & Harriet reruns—but last year it started growing. There are now 100 Potato lodges on three continents. ("We're forfeiting viewing time to spread the word," Armstrong laments.) Mingo's handbook divides the membership into subgroups—"Spec-Taters" like sports, "Spud 'n' Guts Viewers" love violence—and pays tribute to such Potato heroes as C.A. Swanson and Sons Co., inventors of the TV dinner. There's a list of the Potatoes' 100 all-time favorite shows—Top 10: The Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H, Star Trek, Leave It to Beaver, Saturday Night Live (the original, of course), I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Bob Newhart Show and Green Acres. Their all-time worst? "There is," the handbook notes stiffly, "no such thing as a bad television show."

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