Five years after largely disappearing from the air, “Biography” will return later this spring as a regular TV series. A&E, its home for many years, announced that up to 40 hours of new episodes will be produced as part of a relaunch.
Without offering a specific airdate, A&E said the franchise would be “re-imagined” and “focus on meaningful events or personalities and their impact on our culture,” including editions on The Notorious B.I.G., Vladimir Putin, the Gottis, Elizabeth Smart, Tupac Shakur and Mike Tyson.
The return of “Biography” as a regular TV series — episodes and clips are still available on biography.com — is a back-to-the-future move for A&E, which was once so closely identified with the program that it even spun off an entire network called “Biography,” which has since been rebranded as the lifestyle network FYI.
As Newsday reported in 1996, “in the fragmented world of cable TV, where audiences are usually measured in the hundreds of thousands rather than in the millions, ‘Biography’ is an undisputed phenom. So far this year, its ratings are up nearly 20 percent, and 1.5 million faithful tune in each week night at 8 to catch a portrait of some heralded — or not so heralded — individual.”
As a program franchise, “Biography” dates back to the early ’60s, when it launched as a syndicated series hosted — memorably — by Mike Wallace. The show was later revived in the late ’60s, then hosted by David Janssen, and once again in 1987 at A&E, with a succession of hosts (Jack Perkins, Harry Smith and Peter Graves). A&E later dropped hosts from the program, and none are expected to be appointed for the new episodes.