Oct 14, 2022 - News

Docuseries spills the tea on "Barney & Friends"

Barney arrives at the Golden Globe Awards in 1997 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

A new documentary series is dishing on the behind-the-scenes drama that surrounded "Barney & Friends."

Driving the news: "I Love You, You Hate Me," the two-part series that started streaming on Peacock this week, covers Barney's rise and fall but also touches on the creator's son shooting a neighbor and the fact that one of the actors who played Barney went on to become a tantric sex therapist.

Why it matters: At the height of his fame, Barney was the most ubiquitous — and polarizing — children's show character in America.

  • Because the show was originally recorded in Allen, then at the Studios at Las Colinas, then finally at studios in Carrollton, Barney money supported a lot of the local TV and film industry.

Flashback: The parents of North Texas played an early outsized role in popularizing the insipid purple dino, telling their friends to rent tapes for their kids. The Majestic Theatre hosted the first-ever Barney concert in the early 1990s.

  • Sheryl Leach, an SMU alum who gave up teaching to be a stay-at-home mom, came up with the concept in the 1980s after failing to find any videos that would retain her high-energy 2-year-old's interest.
  • "Can you imagine what the odds were that, not from New York, and not from L.A., but from a little town called Allen, Texas, a group of people came up with an idea that now is the number one most-watched children's television program?" Leach says in a 1993 clip in the first episode.

The intrigue: Grand Prairie native Selena Gomez and Grapevine-raised Demi Lovato also became good friends as cast members on the show, but don't appear in the documentary.

Between the lines: While the doc trailers claim it will expose the dark side of Barney, it actually tries to dispel rumors that Barney was a child predator, that the theme song had hidden messages and that the actor playing the character would hide drugs in his tail.

  • "We all grow up having a special character that we love. … Now imagine a frat party just full of people hating that character," says Steve Burns, who hosted "Blues Clues."

Details: The first episode starts with the show's intended message of love and immediately shifts to its haters.

  • It features clips of someone shooting a stuffed Barney, a parent who created a "support group" for parents to discuss how the show's positivity drove them nuts, and college students who took up "Barney bashing" and beat up purple piñatas and stuffed toys.
  • And it includes commentary on how the show affected Leach's family. Her husband killed himself, and in 2015, her son got a 15-year prison sentence for shooting his neighbor in Malibu. California Gov. Gavin Newsom commuted the sentence, and Leach's son is now married with two children.

The bottom line: The documentary is an example of how violence and hatred have become normalized in our society, leaving little room for love and hope.

  • "Turn on the news and every single day you'll see human beings just being cruel to other human beings," says Hope Cervantes, who was on the show from 1992-1996.

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