Picks and Pans Review: Yo-Yo Man

updated 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's just as well that Tom Smothers, now 52, doesn't have a late-life obsession with, say, worm farming or Parcheesi. At least yo-yoing, which he and his brother Dick have turned into a minor industry, has its entertaining moments. But the brothers might have satirized the obsession's merchandising aspects if somebody else were involved. They have featured yo-yo segments in their TV shows, marketed a line of yo-yos (with such peripherals as Yo-Yo Man suspenders) and put out this half-hour tape. It's mostly instruction, with a few tame jokes, such as Tom showing how the yoyo was invented: by someone swinging a frog by its tongue. The instruction, from the basics to such tricks as "walk the dog" and "rocking the baby," is easy to follow, though guest expert Daniel Volk maintains such a solemn expression that he seems to think he's teaching brain surgery rather than yo-yoing. Kids can get some fun and learn something from the tape, even if their parents might find it sad that two such insightful humorists are wasting their time in the "Mystic State of Yo." (Kodak, $12.95, including yo-yo; 800-331-6839)

PAT PAULSEN ON WINE

Former Secretary of Defense-designee John Tower established that drinking and politics are not an amusing combination. Comedian Pat Paulsen emphasizes the point. Paulsen has been running for the Presidency—or threatening to do so—since 1968, a notably bad year for the electorate. This video attempts to combine his passion for political jokes with his interest in wine. Paulsen's timing could not be worse. The 1992 presidential campaign is too far away to interest anyone except him, and he recently sold his Sonoma winery (the wines made there will continue to be bottled under his name).

This overlong and repetitive 40-minute tape is a great big jug of generic jokes, most of them old and oxidized. For one, Paulsen prances through the vineyards in a crisp white suit, then falls facedown in the mud. The only corker among the skits is a Western duel in which pretentious wine talk replaces bullets. When Paulsen gets serious, it's a mistake, for he is no wine encyclopedia: At one point he misstates the percentage of a grape variety that must be in a wine for that variety to be named on the label.

One unanswered question: If Paulsen should win the Presidency, what wine will he serve his Secretaries—Cabinet Sauvignon? (New Star, $19.95; 800-523-0823)

STEFANIE POWERS: INTRODUCTION TO HORSEBACK RIDING AND HORSE CARE

Watching this tape is like going for a first riding lesson: You want the instructor to get past the care-and-maintenance portion and let you get on the horse. But Powers, actress and animal lover (she is president of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation), seems more at ease discussing horse care-grooming, saddling, tacking—than with actual riding. In fact, the only riding on the 54-minute tape is a five-minute segment showing the varying gaits of English (walk, trot, canter) and Western (walk, jog, lope) styles.

Powers's tips are useful (don't stand at a horse's back flank facing forward since a horse can kick sideways). They're amusing too (a horse's eyes work independently of each other, so it can "see Channel 2 and Channel 11 at the same time with the same understanding"). It's just that the love of horses needs to be fueled by thighs-on experience. Where, for example, is a discussion of posting technique?

Powers, co-host Art Gaytan (a trainer) and producer Mickey Shapiro might have thought it hard to convey such information to viewers riding armchairs. And maybe they're right. An equestrian-to-be would be smarter to spend his first $39.95 on private instruction so he won't champ at the bit while watching this tape. (M.R.S., 800-451-0303)

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