The show is criticized as being excessively sappy and optimistic with its song lyrics like, "With a big great hug and a kiss from me to you/Won't you say you love me too?", as well as the often overexaggerated delivery of its young actors, which have sometimes made it the target of parody. The show became a megahit after debuting on PBS in 1993, whereafter vicious song parodies and editorial cartoons showing Barney getting killed soon broke out. Despite this criticism and ridicule, the show is still one of the most popular young children's television shows.
In the many episodes, Barney's human friends bring him to life and play many games with him. Aside from many human actors of a highly diverse ethnic mix, Barney's friends include other plush dinosaurs, such as Baby Bop and her brother, B.J. They sing songs with simple lyrics and typically repetitive melodies that teach the alphabet, counting, etiquette, colors, good friendship, and the value of imagination. Unlike the previous crownholder of children's television, Sesame Street, every word spoken in "Barney & Friends" is completely accessible to kids and the writers do not throw in witty lines and sophisticated cultural references to amuse the adults in the audience. Every episode begins with its opener sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" and ends with a rendition of "I Love You", the song that has become a signature of the show. Trademark sayings associated with the show include Barney's "Super-dee-duper!" and Tina (played by child actor Jessica Zucha)'s overdramatized "That's greaaat, Barney!"
After the Iraq war of 2003, American interrogators reportedly used Barney's theme song, "I Love You," to break the resistance of high-ranking Iraqi captives, playing the tune over and over to disorient and demoralize the prisoners.