Coleco Couch Potato Pals
The Cabbage Patch Kids were a huge hit for Coleco. They hit the toy scene like a tidal wave and reinforced the idea of the “Blockbuster Toy.” One that would fly off shelves and cause sleepless nights for parents who couldn’t find one for Christmas.
Coleco milked the Cabbage Patch franchise as much as they could, but like many “Blockbuster Toys,” a lot of their appeal is based on novelty. So while they continued to find all sorts of other spinoff Cabbage dolls, they also planted some new vegetable seeds in that fertile Coleco soil. In late 1987, those seeds bore fruit and the Couch Potato Pal was born.
Plant one next to your “sweet” potato or plant one next to a “mashed” potato or plant one next to some “homestyle” potatoes!”
Coleco Couch Potato Package (1987)
What is a Couch Potato Pal?
Coleco’s Couch Potato Pals, which are usually just get called “Couch Potatoes,” are stuffed toys that resemble anthropomorphized potatoes. Measuring 13.5 inches tall, each potato looked very similar to any other potato, although the amount of stuffing sometimes gave them a slightly different look. The main characteristic that made a Couch Potato Pal standout was its eye color. You could choose from six eye colors that included blue, green, and brown.
Billed as the “perfect gift for someone who has everything but does nothing, ” each Pal came in their own Burlap tater sack and was “comfortably planted in their own lounge chair package.” This is one of those toys where a surprising amount of the packages survived because the chair package really worked with the toy. I had mine well into the nineties.
The Sweet Couch Potato Gal and Small Fry Pals
The Couch Potato Pal was popular enough that they developed two variants that would get a 1988 release. First, they wanted to give the Couch Potato Pal a companion, so naturally, they came up with the Sweet Couch Potato Gal. With her “feminine a-peel” (their words), the Potato Gal was a fun looking toy, but because she was a thinner shape, the toy didn’t have the same pudgy cute factor as the Pal. She did come with a very nice purple satin tater sack.
The second variation was the Junior version of the Pal and Gal, the Small Fry Pal. The smaller spuds look like a cross between the two larger ones and wear a blue cap or a pink bonnet. They also have a burlap sack, which is being repurposed as a diaper. Instead of a couch, these little guys come with a package that resembles a high chair.
The Gal and Fry Pal were nowhere near as popular as the Original Couch Potato, but they are fun to track down and add to your collection. Especially if your Tater can use some companionship.
Who invented the Couch Potato?
If you scrutinize your Couch Potato Pals packaging, you will see the Coleco name, but you will also see another name, Robert Armstrong. Robert Armstrong is the person who realized the potential of the term “Couch Potato.”
He was not the first first-person to use the term though. While it might have existed before, the term is credited to Tom Iacino. Iacino belonged to a group that ironically opposed the exercise and dieting fads that were gaining popularity. They called themselves “Boob Tubers” because their lifestyle revolved around the TV set.
As the story goes, Iacino made the leap from the word “tuber” to “potato” and the Couch Potato was born. This term would be heard by Armstrong, who instantly took to it. He drew a cartoon of a potato on a couch, started a Couch Potato club, and registered the Trademark. That is why you will see his name on the packaging, just like you would see Xavier Roberts on Cabbage Patch Kids.
The Offical Couch Potato Handbook
In 1982, way before the Couch Potato Pal, Robert Armstrong along with Jack Mingo released a handbook that explained the couch potato concept and humorously illustrated how to live the lifestyle. The Official Couch Potato Handbook is a pretty enjoyable little volume that is packed with potato puns and some pretty great illustrations.
The Couch Potato Commercial
In 1987, they started running a rather memorable commercial for the Couch Potato. It features the potato farmer, Woody Woodruff of Split Creek, Iowa, who shows us how Couch Potatoes are raised. As you might guess, they have to spend a lot of time sitting in front of the television before they are ready to join you on your couch.
As you can see at the end of the commercial, they are targeting sales of the spuds squarely at adults.
Christmas of 1987
By 1987 the hot toys that had dominated much of the Eighties were being outpaced by the juggernaut that was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Still, not every kid wanted a video game, and more importantly, parents didn’t want to just buy them for their kids.
So toys like the Cabbage Patch Kid and Teddy Ruxpin still lingered. But joining them was the must-have Christmas toy of 1987, the Couch Potato.
I had spotted them in my local Toys R Us before Christmas and must have made some comment to my mother because a handsome green-eyed Couch Potato was under my tree that season.
It was speculated by reporter Joyce M. Rosenberg in the article, “1987 disappointment for toy industry,” that the reason the Couch Potato sold so well was that many adults received them as gag gifts.
Whatever the reason, they flew off the shelves. By November of that year, the toy store FAO Schwartz had already sold out of the cuddly starchy pals and had to order new ones.
The Couch Potato Mug
Buoyed by the success of the 1987 release of the Couch Potato Pal, Super Mugs released a licensed Couch Potato plastic mug in 1988. I was so enamored with the Couch Potato concept that my family picked one up for me. I drank a lot of Hawaiian Punch out of this mug.
The Rapid Decline of the Couch Potato
The expanded Couch Potato toys landed in 1988 and while they still sold some of them. They were not able to coast off the Christmas of 1987 sales boom like the Cabbage Patch Kids had been able to do years earlier.
Soon thereafter Couch Potato toys started to get heavily discounted in toy stores. I remember going into a toy store and seeing a huge pile of them sitting on a table. I wanted to scoop them all up and take them home with me.
By 1989, Couch Potatoes were being sold by toy liquidators, and by 1990 they had fallen off of almost everyone’s radar.
My Couch Potato Pal
I received my Couch Potato as a gift from my mother for Christmas of 1987. Now I have not been coddling my pal, nor have I been rough on him. You will see from these images just how well-made these are though. He almost looks like he did the day I received him.
Since 1987, Ol’ Spud has had a pal. The Pound Puppy that I also received that Christmas.
It is time for a Comeback
People are still spending a tremendous amount of time sitting and watching some form of screen-based entertainment. Why should they do it alone? The Couch Potato is a goofy, but dependable friend, that not only snuggles well but in a pinch makes a pretty decent pillow.
It is time for the Couch Potato Pal to make a comeback because even when watching TV, everyone can use a friend.