December 13, 1997

Top Gift Picks For The Television Set You Don’t Have To Take Out A New Mortgage To Have Home-Viewing, Game, Memorabilia And Learning Fun

Rick Kushman Sacramento Bee

Here’s one gift philosophy that sort of matches what we know of TV: It’s not the size of the gift that counts, it’s the size of the loan it requires.

If that rings a bell with you, however, we’re not going to be much help. All we can say is, go out and get a top-of-the-line, 60-inch, loaded-with-everything TV for, oh, $3,500 and have a great holiday season.

If you don’t need another mortgage, however, here are some more-realistic TV-related suggestions. If not otherwise noted, the gifts are generally available in the usual retail outlets.

Our top choices

Two very cool, and possibly annoying, gifts:

A Beavis and Butt-head model that sits on your TV. Then, when you use a remote control, the boys speak out with their usual finesse, offering comments such as “This rules” and “This show sucks.” ($20 at specialty toy stores)

A foot-tall “Lost in Space” Robot model that’s also a motion detector. When someone comes near, it waves its arms and says, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger.” ($29 at specialty toy stores)

Where’s the remote?

There are all kinds of remote controls out there, but we suggest an 8-1/2-by-5-1/2-inch jumbo remote from Hammacher and Schlemmer ($40, 800-543-3366), a “Star Trek” phaser weapon remote ($30), a “Star Wars” light-saber remote ($40) and a handy little remote control finder ($10 at Brookstone). Attach it to a remote, then to activate it, clap three times, and it’ll sing for you.

It’s all a game

Among the new board games this year are a “Home Improvement” game ($29.95, available at Ace Hardware Stores), “The Wonderful World of Disney Trivia Game” ($34) and “Alien Autopsy Game” ($25).

The class of the field may be the “Star Trek: The Next Generation Collectible Dice Game” ($14).

Players buy either a Federation or a Borg set, then control their ship’s warp core, shield strength, weapons systems, impulse power, damage control and more using various intergalactic-looking dice with from six to 20 sides.

Living long and prospering

Speaking of “Star Trek,” the ruler of the TV merchandising universe, there’s the usual galaxy of offerings including T-shirts, hats, fanny packs, models, telephones, ornaments, cups, books and episode and movie tapes.

This year, we suggest the book “Klingon for the Galactic Traveler” (Pocket Books, $12), or you can bone up for your travels with the tape “Conversational Klingon” ($5) read by Michael Dorn. Speaking of tapes, there’s also “Mosaic: The Life Story of Kathryn Janeway” ($18), read by Kate Mulgrew.

For the trekie techie, “The Star Trek Encyclopedia: Reference Guide to the Future” (Pocket Books, $50) includes blueprints to the Enterprise NCC-1701-D, and if you don’t know which ship that is, believe me, you don’t want the blueprints.

High-tech and other toys

A Picture-in-a Picture kit allows you to split a cable signal and watch two shows on one TV ($80). There’s also a range of cordless headphones (from $75 to $150) and tiny-picture TVs (a good set is the 2-inch Sony Watchman for $149).

And then there’s the Truth Seeker ($149 from Sharper Image). Really. It’s a 1-foot-tall set of lights and gizmos that Sharper Image swears can measure the sound from people speaking - even on TV - to see if they’re telling the truth. Unfortunately, there’s no way to use it on the Sharper Image catalog.

Christmas classics for kids

Piles of TV holiday specials are available on video again, including “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Or for a very ironic season, there’s “The Simpsons Christmas Special.” Most sell for about $10.

We warned you

The hot kids-TV shows in the gift market this year are “Arthur,” the PBS aardvark; “Rugrats,” those Nickelodeon, uh, rugrats; and good old purple you-know-who.

There are educational books, tapes and puzzles ranging from $4 to $20, plus dolls of Arthur and the Rugrats costing from $10 to $40. Barney is another story.

We bring you ActiMate Barney, a computer-run, moving, talking dinosaur that costs around $100. If that isn’t bad enough, he has a 2,000-word vocabulary with upgrades available (from $35 to $65) that can bring him up to 14,000 words, and, ironically, none of them are “stop singing this horrible song.”

The classy stuff

There’s a variety of tapes and books available connected to higher-echelon TV. Tape sets include A&E;’s six-hour “Pride and Prejudice” ($100), PBS’ eight-hour art tour “American Visions” ($150), a five-tape set of PBS’ “Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting” ($100), the History Channel’s “The Crusades” (four-tape set, $60), A&E; biographies ($20), and “Nova” and “National Geographic” programs and “Walter Cronkite Remembers” ($13 to $20) PBS-related books include: “Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery” (Alfred A. Knopf, $40), from the Ken Burns series, and “Undaunted Courage” (Simon and Schuster, $16), the Stephen Ambrose book that inspired the series; “Liberty: The American Revolution” (Viking, $39,95); and “Stephen Hawkings’ Universe” (Basic Books, $30).

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