The star of the popular children's home video series "Barney & the Backyard Gang" now has his own PBS television series. "Barney & Friends" premieres Tuesday and will continue to air weekdays at 7 a.m. on KCET Channel 28.
In case 5-year-olds of your acquaintance haven't introduced you, Barney is a big, clunky, spongy-looking dinosaur body puppet. A purple, touchy-feely, goggly, giggly reptile with yellow toenails and game-show host teeth.
His clumsy appeal often mystifies adults. Kids, however, have no such hang-ups, judging from their enthusiasm at concerts and their desire to sit through the videos over and over and over.
If you watch the show closely, though, you'll spot the gold in the goofiness. In a Mr. Rogers-ish way, Barney creates a safe, snug world for young children--ages 2 to 6--and reassures them that they are special and capable people.
On a tidy little schoolyard/preschool-room set, Barney romps with a rotating ensemble of real kids of different ages, singing, dancing, making things out of found objects in the "Barney Bag" and teaching "imagination exercises." No one argues, older kids willingly play little kids' games, and everyone is always ready for a group hug. Underlying the play are lessons in creativity, shapes, words, numbers and friendship.
Barney ends each show with a review of the day's episode and an emphatic "I love you." Maybe he's not so hard to understand, after all.