Couch Potato Club revels in relaxation

MILFORD – Dave Alcox is a pretty creative guy.

Here’s how the Milford High School teacher explains the origins of his Couch Potato Club 12 years ago:

“I had just shown a clip about the witch from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ to my western civilization class to add to the Age of Reason lecture … the scene was a great example of deductive thinking.”

The students loved the scene and wanted to see the whole movie, but he couldn’t justify taking up class time to show an entire movie for just one scene, but if the kids wished, they could come to his room the next Thursday after school to watch the entire film.

But, like the equally creative Victor Frankenstein, Alcox had created a monster: The kids wanted more.

“The next thing I knew, people were coming in Wednesday and Thursday and saying, ‘You’re showing a movie after school? Can we come?’” Alcox recalled.

His western civ class had only 16 kids, but 35 students ended up coming to the next film, “cramming into the room to watch the movie.”

It was obvious he had a hit and that the show must go on.

“Back then, we had the main group of about 10 kids and, depending on the movie, anywhere from 15 to 40 kids coming in to watch,” he said in an email to The Cabinet.

An “anonymous donor” put up money for snacks and drinks “and things were great,” Alcox said.

But when the main group of kids graduated, Alcox wound down the screenings.

“We were never really recognized as a group, because then we’d have to have an ‘advisor’ and all that, so it was better to be more of an ‘underground’ group of spuds, which added to the allure of being a CPC member,” he said.

But then, perhaps taking a page from “Dracula” (back from the dead? Get it?), he mentioned the former club to his students not long ago and then he spoke with a mother who said that her teenager didn’t really fit in with the athletic or academic teams offered by the high school.

Raise the curtain, dim the lights, start the projector: Alcox was ready for his close up, Mr. DeMille.

“That’s exactly what the Couch Potato Club does,” he said. “It reaches out to people who are in between. It also reaches out to people who are after school for one reason or another, as well as kids who want to hang out with friends and do something as a group.”

This time, though, he got an official OK from the school administration, and he made sure that the club would not be just a place to veg out or waste time. Alcox, who coaches the school’s We the People U.S. Constitution team, wanted it to also be about thought, even learning.

“I think there’s such a need for kids to be able to congregate and do something with their peers,” he said. “It also gives kids a sense of belonging. Many kids really take pride in being a Milford Spartan and being involved, but there is a group of people at this school that have school pride but no real outlet to show that.”

The Couch Potato Club gives kids that sense of pride, along with a fun movie and a fun time.

“Now obviously you can tell by our name that there’s a lot of tongue and cheek and silliness involved, but we do that to keep it light and non-threatening,” he said. “For example, before each movie, we take an oath to our couch potato (a mascot his mom made 12 years ago) along the lines of, ‘We believe that all couch potato kids are created equal, they have to right to leisure, laziness and the pursuit of a good movie.’”

At a recent showing of “Goonies,” from the 1980s, it was clear that the more than 20 teens were enjoying it.

Of course, the film was made before any of the Spuds were born, so now and then, Alcox would shout out an explanation about a reference they might not get. He apparently didn’t have to tell them which kid was Sean Astin. Fortunately, for the one old reporter in the audience, he did, because Astin looked about 12 and, with the possible exception of his hair, looked nothing like the actor who played Samwise Gamgee in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of movies.

Usually, the films are shown in the big theater-like space across from the Guidance Office, but because it was in use, “Goonies” was shown in Alcox’s room, a smaller space but one that worked fine.

Alcox set out the snacks – pepperoni, cheese, baked chips, popcorn and even six bananas – and encouraged the Spuds to grab a snack and a Coke before the film started.

When it ended, the kids helped clean up and Alcox called for comments. Several were shouted out as the kids headed for the door:

“It’s an amazing movie. Everybody should see it.”

“It brings back the childhood adventure in all of us.”

Oh, but first they had to elect their Spud of the Week. The honor went to a girl named Candy, nominated by one of her friends, because “she made me feed her all during the movie and didn’t get up at all until she had to leave.”

Her election was unanimous.