A pre-Super Bowl guide to couch-potato apps

January 25, 2016 

SAN JOSE, Calif. ó Itís that veg-out time of the year. Christmas is in the rearview mirror, the new yearís still trying to get its act together, and the living room couch beckons you to find some time alone and get yourself prone.

Turns out thereís practically a cottage industry of digital tools and apps to help you with that.

I know, because I spent a good part of the day recently just getting all couch-potatoey, curled up with my iPhone, iPad, TV and a stubborn determination to bond with my inner spud. I chose my living room sofa, timeworn and softly pillowed, a darkened cave with a clear line of sight to the TV, and a short crawl to the kitchen in case of emergency. Think of this as my Couch Potato Manifesto, borne of my horizontal warm-up for Super Bowl weekend.

First things first: I search the App Store for "couch potato" and quickly download the $3.99 remote called, yup, CouchPotato MediaPortal Remote. A no-brainer, right? Not so fast. I canít get the thing to work with my TV, so after watching a YouTube video about how cool this app supposedly is, I give up and just use my old-school remote from Xfinity.

App developers arenít stupid; theyíve come up with more sports-fan apps for the laid-back set, it seems, than there are sports fans themselves. I play around with several that offer updates, stats, news and analysis for teams and leagues around the globe, as well as live-streaming of all kinds of sporting events. I spend too much time on theScore, a free app with a cool user-interface that let me quickly start following all my favorite San Francisco Giants.

Next up is an app called CouchPotato Radio, which as far as I can make out is a podcasted gabfest devoted to discussing the "Big Brother" reality game show in all its global incarnations. And just to make sure everyone was clear about their mandate, they recently changed their name to Big Brother Radio. Listening to a podcastís hosts gossiping for hours about the comings and goings of a reality showís cast, it turns out, is an experience custom tailored for the humble sofa. Which got me thinking: Sofa? Hmm.

Googling around on the iPad, I find a review of "The Age of Comfort," a book in which author Joan DeJean plumbs the depths of this paradigm-shifting piece of furniture, much as we might plumb the depths of our own sofa when we canít locate the remote.

"Today," the reviewer writes, "this piece of furniture is ubiquitous in homes. But before its innovation in the late 1680s in France, no such piece existed. People sat on hard, straight-backed chairs (though that changed around this time, too), or on trunks. Padded seating was an utterly unrealized concept."

Quelle horreur, right? To try and assuage that disturbing image of a sofa-less world, I do a bit of channel-surfing ("Maury," "Law & Order," "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?") and then start downloading apps that let you watch a gazillion movies for free. Thereís Flipps HD and Viewster and Hubi and God-knows how many more tools out there, each one designed to help you create the most ambitious time suck imaginable. And while they may not be movies on your to-watch list ("Yo Mama Jokes"? "The Mud Pie Contest"?), they are, well, free ó unless, of course, you pay for the ad-free version.

On my downloaded Crackle app, I quickly get hooked on "Fat City," a 1972 boxing flick by renowned director John Huston. I donít even like boxing. But thatís how "free" and a sofa can conspire against you.

Eventually, I force myself to turn away from washed-up boxer Billy (Stacy Keach) and the teenager Ernie (Jeff Bridges) in whom he sees potential, and return to my "work" at hand. I find a wikiHow article on how to be a couch potato, just to make sure Iím doing this right. From my iPhone, I learn about the art of choosing the best place for reclining, the proper use of pillows and blankets, the secret of having a trash can nearby, and the importance of proper sustenance.

That, of course, gets me thinking about junk food. I search food-delivery apps in my phone, which in the past year have seemingly multiplied exponentially. Thereís GrubHub, Caviar, Munchery, DoorDash and EAT Club, and the list goes on. I go to and see that theyíll deliver me a $5 pizza from a nearby pizza joint and Iíll have the pie in an hour.

But being a couch potato in 2016 is a whole different experience than it was in the past, thanks to the smartphone and its ability to draw you into an endless loop of searching the Internet for something, finding it, then heading off in a new direction on a new search. This has replaced the traditional channel-surfing, TV-focused behavior of the sofa spud.

And so, before I can order that pizza, Iím distracted by a completely random thought: Netflix socks.

I suddenly remember someone telling me about these do-it-yourself stockings, which amazingly can pause your show if the electronic sensors sewn into the socks detect that youíve fallen asleep. I start poking around. But, as the Washington Post points out, I quickly learn that the socks might not be all theyíre cut out to be: "The socks are painfully complicated to assemble, expensive and difficult to use," the article says. Plus, they apparently turn off your show if you stop moving your feet, which means youíd have to keep moving your feet nonstop, which of course is antithetical to the whole couch ethos.

Still, I go to to "DIY" a pair myself. But I see that the second item on the ingredients list is an "Arduino microcontroller" and that I must be "comfortable with a soldering iron," which Iím most certainly not. Forget the socks.

For a brief moment, I ponder the world beyond the sofa. I find a motivational app called C25K, which helps users "Go from Couch Potato to Running the 5K," and I call Bradley Duong, co-founder of Zen Labs Fitness, which makes the thing. Seeking guidance for an eventual exit from my couch, I ask Duong for help.

"Our audience is people literally sitting on couches," he tells me. "These are people who arenít sure if theyíll ever run a 5K, people laying on the couch just wishing and hoping they could make a nice healthy change in their lives."

People, I realize, like me.

"And that," he says, "can be daunting. A lot of people are overwhelmed and just donít know where to begin. Thatís our sweet spot."

Unfortunately, my sweet spotís right here on this sofa. So I start researching all the other stuff besides food I can have delivered to me while I sit. I find a flower-delivery app that will bring me buds from a shop down the street. I can order a $169 gas chain saw from The Home Depot and have it shipped to my house in a week, all without so much as getting vertical. Iím also tempted to order live lady bugs from ("Growing Butterflies since 1969"), where a whole section of their online FAQ is devoted to "Praying Mantis Questions."

I learn that I can order chicken-hatching eggs from Murray McMurray Hatchery, along with guinea-, pheasant- and duck-hatching eggs. There are apps to buy childrenís clothes with same-day delivery, apps to have someone pick up your dirty laundry. I stopped before finding it, but Iím certain thereís an app for delivery-fresh apps to your front door.

After doing more research into apps that help you call in sick to work (donít ask), Iím as spent as a couch potato can be. A drink! Thatís what I need! I download Drizly, which promises one-hour alcohol delivery. Fantastic!

But when I put in my address, I find to my great disappointment that the service isnít yet available in my area.

That does it. This potato is getting up off this couch and walking to the fridge to grab a beer.



CouchPotato MediaPortal Remote: Lets you control your TV from your smartphone

CouchPotato Radio (recently changed to Big Brother Radio): Podcast tracking the "Big Brother" reality TV show

Flipps HD, Viewster, Hubi and Crackle: Apps for watching movies, TV shows or videos on your smartphones or tablets

GrubHub, Caviar, Munchery, DoorDash and EAT Club: Apps that bring food to your home

C25K: Motivational app that helps users "Go from Couch Potato to Running the 5K"

Drizly: App lets you have alcohol delivered to your home

óSource: Mercury News reporting



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