“I Love You, You Hate Me” Review

On October 12th, I Love You, You Hate Me premiered on Peacock. This two-part docu-series directed by Tommy Avollone talks about the dark side of the loveable children’s TV icon Barney. As a kid who watched Barney when I was younger, this documentary sparked my interest. So I decided to take a watch, and what I learned was both interesting and shocking.


The series starts out by explaining the origins of Barney. Barney was created by Sheryl Leach, a mother in Dallas, Texas trying to find a VHS for her young son Patrick Leach to watch. Since she couldn’t find one suitable for her son, she thought “Why don’t I make one on my own?”. She had many ideas about what she wanted to make, but she settled on a big loveable purple dinosaur, because of her son’s love of dinosaurs at the time. She soon started to create these tapes and asked the moms around her neighborhood to go door to door to sell the tapes. One of these moms, Sloan Coleman, became the SVP for Barney events. 


The documentary continues by introducing the cast and crew members that worked on Barney. Bob West was picked as the voice of Barney in 1988. David Voss was originally the costume actor for Barney, but was replaced by David Joyner after leaving to join the military. Joyner especially enjoyed playing the character of Barney. We also get to see Bob Singleton, who was the head music writer, and Stephen White, the head writer of the show. I personally like this introduction of everyone, as we get to see how this show was created and meet the cast and crew.


There were lots of different people interviewed for this documentary; from members of the cast and crew to TV personalities like Al Roker and Bill Nye, and even court officials and lawyers, proving it to be a very big project. They also got an interview from Steve Burns, former host of Blue’s Clues!


We also see the first live show with Joyner as he jumps around like crazy in the Barney costume. Larry Rifkin, who at the time was a Connecticut TV Executive said “In my mind, Barney was like Fred Rogers going electric”, which motivated him to air the Barney tapes on the state’s broadcast. 


After the origins of the show are discussed, we get to hear differing opinions about the show. One side presented is the grownups watching the show at the time. As Bill Nye said, “It was hard for many grownups to watch because it was continually upbeat, it was, in a sense, unrealistic.” Barney was also popular in the same era as more sarcastic and edgy entertainment like Nirvana and Pulp Fiction. As Al Roker said, “…was a time when people would be suspicious when it was not snarky.” This part I actually like because it gives a little context to what might’ve sparked the hate for Barney, with college students and especially teens growing up around this time and being influenced by “snarky” content.


The main idea of this documentary is the hate the show garnered. For example, there was the “I Hate Barney Secret Society ”, a website created by Robert Kern, which was intended for parents of kids who watched Barney to express their hate towards the show. There was also a Barney Bashing event created by Travis Fox in his college, where people would come to hurt Barney in different ways. There was even a Dungeons and Dragons type role-playing game called The Jihad to Destroy Barney the Purple Dinasour which was led by Sean Breen. 

Fred the Chicken, a.k.a the San Diego chicken, was in hot water when he got a cease and desist letter from the Barney executives because of a skit involving him tackling a guy in a Barney costume. 


Viewers also get to hear Sheryl’s son, Patrick’s point of view on Barney’s success. The crew, family, and friends mention how it was very hard for Patrick growing up, as his mom was always on tours for Barney, leaving him to feel left out of the picture. As Kim Goad, a Dallas journalist, questioned “Can you imagine having a sibling rivalry with a large purple dinosaur?”


The series also goes on to mention the rumors people spread about the dinosaur including accusations of hiding drugs, pedophilia, and even satanism. 


As this hate kept on growing, it started to affect the cast members of the show. Bob West got death threats in his emails, and Bob Singleton even said “I got death and dismemberment of my family in my emails.”


In the end, the people interviewed look back on Barney, and how much of a cultural impact it had around the world. As Sheryl Leach said, “when I am old and gray, I want to look back and say that Barney made a positive difference in our world.” 


Some looked back on the positive impact, some looked at the hate, and some even thanked Barney for what they have become. The “I Hate Barney Secret Society” creator Rob Curran even said, “I am grateful for what Barney did to me”. 


Steve Burns also said that “These messages for children, when we hear them again as adults, I do think they hit sometimes in a place of cynicism”, which I definitely can agree with.


Overall, I thought that this was a pretty intriguing documentary. I’m not a big documentary watcher in general, but as I said before, this one sparked my interest. There was so much in the film that I couldn’t discuss, or else I would spoil too much. Things including Barney in its later years, the O.G. cast members leaving, and even Patrick Leach getting arrested. So if you want to find out more, I recommend giving it a watch.


I give I Love You, You Hate Me a 7.5/10. I Love You, You Hate is streaming exclusively on Peacock. It is $4.99/month for an add-supported Premium plan or $49.99/year for an annual plan.