TV Cartoon Causes Seizures; May Debut in US

Mother always said TV would rot your brain. Now there's proof.

More than 200 children were hospitalized in Japan early last month after they watched a 30-minute episode of Pokemon, a popular cartoon program. At least 700 people were reported to have suffered convulsions, nausea, and blackouts after watching the show, which featured "intense, rhythmic bursts of blue, red, and white light," according to a Jan. 3 news item by the Associated Press.

4 Kids Entertainment, a children's programming syndication company, is planning to market Pokemon in the States, minus the splashy visual effects that may have sickened Japanese viewers. "We've taken the problem seriously and fixed it," said 4 Kids chief executive Al Kahn. "We're convinced it won't be a problem." The Japanese government asked for a medical investigation to determine if the show caused a disruption of normal brain functions.

TV programming may also cause other, less insidious, but nonetheless damaging effects that have long been theorized but never clinically proven. Perhaps this incident will spur the Clinton administration to launch a similar probe here to discover if viewers of Melrose Place, for example, suffer impaired judgment after several viewings, or whether prolonged exposure to sports-talk programming leads to diminished intellectual capacity. Will the dawning age of improved-definition broadcasting help or hinder the epidemic? Stay tuned.