Crazy things that really happened on the sets of children's TV shows

You really have to hand it to the people who put on live-action kid's TV shows for a living: it's a crazy amount of work. Day after day, week after week, these people have got to come up with new ideas, hammer out scripts, film the whole shebang, and all the while make sure everything they're putting out there is appropriate and at least somewhat educational for the millions of kids watching.

But sometimes, things go horribly wrong. Actors say the wrong lines, somebody slips on a banana peel, animals act up, someone behind the scenes does something really weird — there are all kinds of accidents that can happen. Here are some of the most bizarre things that have really occurred behind the scenes of some of your favorite children's TV shows from back in the day.

Sesame Street

Everyone loves Julia Louis-Dreyfus. How could anyone not? Between her classic performance as Elaine Benes in Seinfeld and her more presidential term as Selina Meyer in Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has proven herself to be one of the funniest, most successful comedic actresses out there. In her real life, she's always been bold, candid, and relatable, particularly as she has documented her fight against breast cancer.

One of the Veep star's most relatable moments of all time, however, happened when she was filming an episode of Sesame Street, and she slipped out the S-word. It's a total accident, exactly the kind that could happen to anyone, but it happened while the cameras were rolling, resulting in the clip above.

To Louis-Dreyfus's credit, she immediately caught herself right after saying it — but so did Elmo, and the little red furry guy responded to her blooper by turning to the camera and exclaiming, "She said a bad word!" Elmo seemed fine with this mistake, though, provided that she at least put a fiver in the swear jar. She responded to Elmo's pushiness by remarking, "You're gonna be a rich Muppet at the end of this day." 

Barney

We all remember Barney, the purple dinosaur who just wanted to give everyone a hug. However, not everyone knows the secret identity of the man in the costume: David Joyner, the spiritual actor/engineer/musician/massage therapist who brought Barney to life. In October 2017, Joyner gave an interview to Grunge and told the story of a crazy accident that once happened while he was in the suit.

Every year, the Barney production would put on a big show at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Joyner says that one year, the city got badly rained on before the performance. Luckily, the rain cleared up right as Joyner was getting ready to perform. The crew wiped off the stage and figured the coast was clear, Joyner suited up, and production moved forward as usual. However, everyone made one oversight: the carpeted ramp leading up to the stage was still soaking wet. Because the show was prerecorded, Joyner had a limited time to run onto the stage before Barney's voice greeted the giant audience of kids. So the show began, Barney raced up the wet ramp … and his feet slipped out from underneath him. 

"It was a Monty Python fall," Joyner said. "Barney's fully in the air, feet are up, then it's like BAM, right to the ground." The audience gasped. Despite the colossal fall, Joyner managed to spring back to his feet right before Barney's voice started blasting from the speakers. Now that's dedication.

Rainbow

Rainbow, the show the above innuendo-filled and definitely NSFW clip came from, was a British children's series that ran from 1972 until 1977, set in a "Rainbow House" where puppet characters like a furry brown bear named Bungle and a nervous pink hippo named George got into various hijinks and adventures. Rainbow was a big hit with kids in the U.K. for decades, but the particularly raunchy skit above was definitely never intended to be seen by anyone under 18.

The whole sequence, which is referred to as the "Rainbow Plucking Orgy," is pretty surreal, as it depicts furry puppets talking to each other with one innuendo after another, including such crazy lines as, "Yesterday we played with our balls, didn't we? Are we going to play with our friend's balls today?" and Bungle the Bear saying, "We can play with our twangers as well!" It finishes with everyone playing what they call the Plucking Song. Basically, imagine if there was a secret episode of Sesame Street where Big Bird and Oscar discussed the birds and the bees.

Don't worry, this clip wasn't broadcast to millions of unaware kids. According to DigitalSpy, this whole thing was something the cast and crew of Rainbow put together for laughs, as a special sketch for their annual Christmas party. It was never intended to be released to the public, though decades later, the internet managed to turn it into an infamous urban legend.

Teletubbies

If there's one show destined to go down as the most bizarre kid's show in history, it's Teletubbies. From the laughing baby sun to the storylines, it's as strange as Twin Peaks, though decidedly more colorful. Once you start looking into how the whole production was put together, things get even more David Lynch-esque. Take the fact that the real Teletubbies were not small little innocent creatures, but actually gargantuan giants, with Time magazine pointing out that that the Tinky Winky costume stood at a terrifying 10 feet tall. If these guys all teamed up, they could probably take on King Kong. 

As anyone who has ever watched the show is aware, the rolling green hills of Teletubbyland are populated by lots of cute little bunnies. But because the Teletubbies are so monstrously huge, it meant the rabbits had to be enormous as well, necessitating the casting of a particularly large breed of rabbit, generally agreed to be Flemish giants.  

This particular breed's mating tendencies led to some filming difficulties. The gargantuan rabbits did exactly what rabbits do, and they did it a lot. According to People, the crazed reproductive habits of these rabbits was something that constantly happened in the background of Teletubbyland, to the point where it necessitated reshoots and skillful editing. But hey, at least the rabbits were happy.

Batman (1966)

Though grimmer interpretations of the Dark Knight more faithful to the comics have since supplanted the 1966 Batman show in the public consciousness, the reputation of this gloriously cheesy series has nonetheless filtered down through generations of Bat-fans. Adam West and Burt Ward made Batman and Robin into cultural icons. Even today, every kid knows the classic "Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Batman!" theme, and West's "Batusi" dance is a YouTube legend.

Today, most viewers have some passing familiarity with the show's classic two-episode structure: Part I would end with Robin dangling from some kind of death trap, and Part II would show Batman saving him. Obviously, all those supervillains didn't care about the Boy Wonder's safety. More surprisingly, according to actor Burt Ward when interviewed by USA Today, the Batman producers didn't care much about Ward's safety, either.

Ward was only 19 when he was cast as Robin. The actor stated that because Ward's stuntman didn't resemble him enough, he ended up doing most of his own stunts, saying "I was the one going to the emergency room with third-degree burns and 2-by-4s landing on my head." He said he considers himself "very lucky to have survived with so little physical damage." According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ward went to the emergency room on four of his first five days of shooting, with one stunt nearly throwing him out of the Batmobile at 55 mph. Ward survived, and he enjoys telling stories about these crime-fighting accidents to this day.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers, the real-life Mister Rogers, was someone who cared passionately about supporting, educating, and helping children. He invested all of his time and resources into making everything about Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as perfect as possible, and off the set, there are many amazing stories about him: from comforting real-life fans to once defending PBS's funding in front of the U.S. Senate, Rogers definitely threw his heart into everything he did.

Because of Rogers' dedication, he was known to be a total perfectionist on the set, according to CNN. Probably because of this, the crew reportedly loved playing good-natured pranks on him. Beverly Mitzel wrote to NBC News that one of the recurring jokes they loved to play on him was to stuff socks into his famous sneakers so that when filming started, Mr. Rogers would be singing along on camera, then slip his foot into his shoe, only to discover that it wouldn't fit. Another joke that Mitzel mentions is that a crewmember would hide in the closet where Rogers hung his sweater, then jump out and scare him when he opened the closet door.

Though these pranks certainly surprised Rogers, what's not surprising is that it seems he was never mad about them at all. According to Mitzel, "He never swore, but generally would break into laughter."

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

"Go go Power Rangers!" If there's one children's action series that '90s kids just loved, it was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that half-Japanese, half-American show where a giant floating head recruited five "teenagers with attitude" to become superheroes. While the fan-favorite Ranger of all time ended up being Tommy Oliver, the Green-turned-White Ranger, one of the most popular characters was nerdy genius Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger, played by David Yost. Yost stayed onboard for a long time, until the character ended up retiring to have a far-flung romance on an alien planet. Strangely, though, Yost himself didn't appear for Billy's final episode, with stock footage and another actor's voice being used instead. This was a clear sign that Yost didn't leave on the best of terms.

So what happened? As it turns out, the problem was rampant homophobia from the producers. Yost later told NBC News the details. Though in recent years, Yost has felt comfortable with publicly coming out as gay, the prejudice he encountered back in the '90s kept him in the closet, and rumors swirled on set about his sexuality. Producers referred to the actor in derogatory terms, and the homophobia he encountered was severe enough that he reports becoming suicidal during his time on the series. In an interview with No Pink Spandex, Yost explained that this homophobia was what finally led to him walking off the show.

Saved by the Bell

Most sitcoms are aimed at adults, but Saved by the Bell was a show that targeted younger audiences, featuring an array of school-age characters that traded jokes with each other, hung out in the locker room, and sometimes even confronted serious social issues in an educational manner. One of the most beloved characters was Samuel "Screech" Powers, played by Dustin Diamond, the socially awkward geek of the group.

Years later, Dustin Diamond released a memoir about his time on the series, titled Behind the Bell, and made it quite clear that he's definitely no Screech. According to the  A.V. Club, Diamond's memoir shows that he was still bitter about his experiences acting on the show, particularly the fact that most people seem to have preferred costar Mark-Paul Gosselaar over him.

As described on Vulture, Diamond claims to have done truly bizarre and terrible things on the set, with the most notably unpleasant being the time that he responded to an extra being rude to him by literally urinating into her purse. Besides that, he also once slid a picture of his genitals beneath the door of a costar. In recent years, Diamond has faced an array of legal difficulties, as reported by CNN, particularly when he got into a bar fight on Christmas Day 2015 and was jailed for stabbing his opponent. NBC later reported that he was released early due to good behavior.

Hannah Montana

Speaking of sitcoms aimed at kids, it's time to talk about Hannah Montana. Today, Miley Cyrus has successfully made such a huge name for herself that it's almost hard to remember that her original claim to fame was on a Disney series. Cyrus first auditioned for Hannah Montana when she was only 11 years old, so nearly all of her adolescent years were working for Disney.

If you think growing up on a TV set sounds like a traumatic experience, you're right. As an adult, Cyrus told Marie Claire that the intense pressure she received on the show regarding her appearance gave her body dysmorphia. She started suffering from anxiety attacks. She experienced her first period while filming the show. She also states that during filming, she was made to work 12-hour shifts — even though she was only a teenager — and that the overwhelming workload left her so fatigued that "every morning I was getting coffee jammed down my throat to wake me up."

Despite the hardships she endured, Cyrus still holds a lot of love for the cast members she worked with on the series, as well as her millions of fans. In 2016, she shared an Instagram post celebrating the tenth anniversary of the series, writing, "Even though HM is chopped up into little tiny pieces and buried in my backyard she will always hold a very special place in my heart!"

Double Dare

One of the shows that made Nickelodeon into the giant it is today was Double Dare, a children's game show hosted by Marc Summers. The series had a small budget but a lot of energy, and it combined messy kid-friendly physical challenges with trivia questions and — most importantly — the much-anticipated activity of drenching people in an icky green slime called "Gak," a substance with more than a passing resemblance to Dr. Seuss' famous Oobleck. Despite the show's young target audience, inside reports show that behind the scenes, Double Dare was less like an elementary school and more like the world's craziest college party.

In fact, that's pretty much just how host Marc Summers described his Double Dare experience to Vulture, saying, "It was like being in a fraternity. It was a bunch of grown-ups doing a kids' show with zero supervision." Summers also says that between the crew members, "There might have been a little experimentation going on there." That's what you coop up an energetic staff with a small budget — that and a lot of Gak.