12/10/2012 09:34 am ET

'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo': TLC's Howard Lee Explains Shows Origins

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has an origin story, just like your typical superhero. After Alana Thompson captured the attention of "Toddlers & Tiaras" producers, Honey Boo Boo created some commotion at the network, according to Howard Lee, senior vice president of production and development at TLC.

"Internally, her single appearance on that episode created an inter-office stir as we passed around snippets and clips well before the episode aired," Lee said, by way of EW. "She made us all laugh, and she had found her first audience. It is as simple as that."

When the "Toddlers & Tiaras" episode aired, Honey Boo Boo became a viral sensation. YouTube clips and GIFs spread like wild fire. Alana, alongside Mama June and her go-go juice, made the talk show rounds, further fueling the public's fascination with the plucky child.

"We knew we had something special, but it was obvious that we couldn’t build an entire series on the shoulders of a young child," Lee said. "We needed to know more about her entire family. What we found was the candor, love, outright comedy, and warmth that surrounded Alana from mom June, dad Sugar Bear, and sisters Pumpkin, Jessica, and Anna. Never had a family been so blunt and honest in how they approach life."

Lee said it's the family's attitude, love for one another and embrace of the reality show process that made "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" the hit it is today. However, he's unsure if viewers have latched on to the show because they love it, or because they hate it.

The series has found itself the center of many conversations amongst the rich and famous. Tina Fey, Bristol Palin and Rosie O'Donnell are among its loyal viewers. "Hunger Games" star and Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence admitted to getting into a car accident because she was distracted by what she thought was Honey Boo Boo. Barbara Walters has named Honey Boo Boo as one of her Most Fascinating People of 2012. However, not every celebrity is a fan. Maroon 5 singer and "The Voice" coach Adam Levine had harsh words for the series.

"Seriously, Honey Boo Boo is the DECAY of Western civilization," Levine told "GQ." "Just because so many people watch the show doesn't mean it's good."

Walters' "View" co-host Joy Behar also criticized the reality star.

“What’s little Honey Boo Boo going to grow up to be? That’s what I want to know," Behar said. “She’s going to be a fat kid; she’s going to grow up to be a big fat woman. She is, I can tell. She’s just a kid, but you see the genetics are right there. She’s going to have large boob boobs -- Honey Boobs Boobs.”

Regardless, the show was a ratings hit for TLC and will be back for more episodes, including special holiday installments featuring the family celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"The criticism of the series (and the appeal) has been polarizing," Lee said. "I’ve asked myself if America seized on loving or hating this series because it was too 'real' for them? Did we go too far? Did these stories and conversations of dieting, child pageants, pet pigs, food auctions, bad plumbing, bad breath contests, deer statues, toilet paper bombing, farting, belching, and sneezing cut too close to reality, and horrify? Or does this make us love them even more?"

For more on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" from Howard Lee, click over to EW.

Celebs Who Love Honey Boo Boo