'Power Rangers' save the world and GMTV ratings

THEY have saved GMTV from the ratings dung heap, will prove a more tempting stocking filler than either Cliff Richard or the Ronco Record Selector, and are apparently responsible for a four-year-old boy suffering kidney damage this week.

Christopher Randall was taken to hospital with a split and bruised kidney and spent two days under treatment after being karate- kicked by a friend as the pair copied the antics of their television cartoon heroes, The Power Rangers. A Scandinavian network dropped the show after a five-year-old girl allegedly died after being stoned and kicked by three six-year-old boys last Saturday.

Shown each Saturday morning by the breakfast station GMTV, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are by day Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Zack - Californian high school pupils who metamorphose into Day-glo, Lycra-clad, Ninja superheroes on speed, for no obvious reason other than to save the world from Rita Repulsa, an evil witch living on the moon. And, of course, they facilitate the merchandising spin offs.

The programme-makers have assembled a line-up to calm the most sensitive of politically correct souls. There are three boys, two girls. One is black, another is Asian. As soon as they morphe, however, the guard drops. The leader, Billy, wears blue, while Kimberley, a follower, is in pink.

According to the injured boy's mother, Heather: 'Christopher is Power Rangers mad.' He is not the only one. Power Rangers is knocking the likes of Sega and Nintendo out of the toy Top 10. Hamley's, the London toyshop, confidently expects Power Rangers merchandise, which extends to anything from four-inch high replica figures to duvets, to be its Christmas best-seller. Other retailers such as Toymaster and Toys'R'Us have reported queues of parents outside stores at 5.30am, desperate to pick up new stocks.

Following the weekend's kidney bashing, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has called on programme-makers to tone down violence 'before there is a real tragedy'. But a GMTV spokeswoman insisted a warning was given before each show urging children not to copy dangerous stunts. 'It is good clean fun with good morals.'

The show has helped GMTV honour its franchise obligations for children's programming and edge ahead in the ratings war. It has topped the children's programme charts since its introduction this summer, regularly attracting 2 million viewers - 68 per cent of the children audience.

GMTV's golden goose is Channel 4's ugly duckling. The latter turned down Power Rangers because it 'carries over cartoon violence into real life'.

(Photograph omitted)