Biography (TV series)

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Biography tv series logo.png
Genre Documentary
Created by David L. Wolper
Presented by
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Running time 30/60/120 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor A&E Networks
20th Television (Fox-produced episodes)
Original network
Original release
  • Original series: 1961-1963
  • Revived series: 1979
  • 1990-2013
External links

Biography is a documentary television series that aired on CBS, A&E, and the Biography Channel. Each episode depicts the life of a specific person with narration, on-camera interviews, photographs, and stock footage. The show originally ran from 1961 to 1963 in syndication on CBS, which briefly revived it in 1979. In 1987, the series was revived again on A&E. It aired on the network until 2006 when it was moved to A&E's Biography Channel (now known as FYI) where it aired until 2013. In 2017, Biography was expanded into a franchise, employing the previously used logotype for multiple mini-series and the Biography Movies on A&E Networks.


The original 1961–63 version consisted of half-hour filmed segments produced for syndication by David Wolper. It was hosted by Mike Wallace and featured historical figures such as Helen Keller and Mark Twain.

In 1979, under new host David Janssen, Biography covered more recent subjects including Idi Amin and Walt Disney.


In the fall of 1987, A&E began showing the original 1960s series once a week in prime time, which led the network to purchase the Biography trademark and library and order the commissioning of new Biography episodes beginning in 1990.[1]

The 1987-2013 A&E series placed the emphasis on popular celebrities and more recent historical figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Queen Elizabeth II. The show but also included fictional characters such as Superman, Betty Boop, and Santa Claus. In 2000, the NBC series, Just Shoot Me!, did an episode called "A&E Biography: Nina Van Horn, which had been mentioned in previous episodes of Season 4. The episode featured interviews multiple special guest stars and the cast of the show in character to talk about the life of Nina Van Horn. The episode was also included an introduction, conclusion and voice over provided by then host, Harry Smith.

Biography became a five-night weekly series in 1994[1] while adding entertainment figures to the mix of people featured.[2] Several Biography specials were produced in 1994 and 1995. The History Channel U.K. was started on November 1, 1995, as a weekday three-hour block (4 to 7 PM) with British revamp Biography one of the three shows. A sixth night was added for the 1995–96 season called "Biography This Week" which was a profile of a news-maker during the last week either by updating an existing episode or a rushed to production episode; Biography This Week would last until 1999.

A&E expanded the "Biography" brand into a franchise with a website in July 1996, and a children's version launched in fall 1996.[1]

In 1998, A&E created a spin-off network called The Biography Channel featuring historical figures or (then) current political or social leaders. Subjects included William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Enrico Caruso, and Eva Perón. The occasional focus on pop culture figures such as Britney Spears, Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, and Marilyn Manson attracted criticism from television watchdog groups.[3] Subjects from business and technology included Sam Walton, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, J. C. Penney, Dave Thomas, Colonel Sanders, Bernie Marcus, and Arthur Blank.

At one point, the show aired up to six times weekly in prime time but cut back as A&E added a reality show to appeal to a younger crowd. In April 2006, A&E was telecasting the show only once a week, usually on Friday nights with three back-to-back episodes. A&E canceled Biography after August 2006, making new episodes of the show exclusively available on The Biography Channel. 64 more hours of the show was ordered also for its first year only on the Bio Channel.[2] The show ended its run in 2012.[4]


The original Biography host was Mike Wallace, who hosted the show from 1961 to 1963, when he left for CBS News.[5] The 1990 version of Biography was hosted by Peter Graves,[2] Jack Perkins, Bill Mumy[6] and Harry Smith.[2] Joan Lunden was also a regular guest host.


Created by David L. Wolper
Original work TV series
Owner A&E Networks
Print publications
Book(s) Crown Publishing Group-published line
Magazine(s) Biography
Films and television
Television series
  • Biography
  • Biography This Week
  • Biography: American Justice
Television film(s)
  • Biography Movies series
  • The Notorious Life of Biggie Smalls
  • The End of America: Putin’s Master Plan
  • Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography
  • Mike Tyson: Autobiography
  • David Koresh And The Siege Of Waco
TV mini-series Who Killed Tupac?
Gotti & Son
Cable channel

Biography is a documentary franchise focusing on biographies owned by A&E Networks. The franchise began as a syndicated TV series created and produced by David L. Wolper with an initial run from 1961 to 1964.

Successful runs on A&E led the network to purchase the Biography trademark and library and order the commissioning of new Biography episodes beginning in 1990.[1] Several Biography specials were produced in 1994 and 1995. A&E expanded the brand into a franchise with a website in July 1996, a children's version launched in the fall of 1996. Formerly only direct sales, A&E Home Video initiated a six-month trial in which Barnes & Noble would sell the Biography line in stores; this became permanent in 1996. In 1997, the franchise was further expanded with an audio tape line, telefilm development, and a Crown Publishing Group-published short biography line. The franchise also debuted its magazine, which replaced A&E Monthly. With the 1998–99 season, Biography: American Justice and Biography Movies debuted.[1]

A&E spun out its first two digital cable channels in November 1998 with The Biography Channel from A&E. A&E was spending $10 million per year to convert to the digital format and for digital distribution.[1] On October 1, 2000, A&E Networks expanded its British partnership with British Sky Broadcasting with the launch of a UK market Biography Channel.[7]

The Bio Channel was replaced by the FYI channel on July 7, 2014, as it had been under-performing. However, the Bio brand continued in all markets in line with the markets' preferences.[8]

In the second quarter of 2017, A&E Networks relaunched the franchise with a set of two-hour specials and a mini-series for three of its channels, A&E, History and Lifetime.[9] The franchise's TV programming will be recurring, multi-formatted and tie into important anniversaries, newly found information about notables and current news. The initial set has the commonality of being crime-centered, with at least one future set to focus on notable women.[4] Biography returned to A&E on June 28, 2017 with The Notorious Life of Biggie Smalls.[10]

TV shows[edit]

  • The Notorious Life of Biggie Smalls (A&E, June 28, 2017),[10] two-hour telefilm, A&E with Creature Films in association with Entertainment One
  • The End of America: Putin’s Master Plan, working title (History), two-hour telefilm by Lincoln Square Productions
  • Who Killed Tupac? (A&E), six-episode mini-series, A&E with Renegade 83 in association with FGW Productions
  • Gotti & Son working title (A&E), four-episode mini-series by Kaufman Films for A&E
  • Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography working title (A&E), two-hour telefilm, A&E and Asylum Entertainment in association with Marwar Junction Productions
  • Mike Tyson: Autobiography working title (A&E), two-hour telefilm by A&E, Asylum Entertainment in association with Marwar Junction Productions
  • David Koresh And The Siege Of Waco working title (A&E), two-hour telefilm by Raw TV for A&E[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "A & E Television Networks History". International Directory of Company Histories. 32. St. James Press. 2000. Retrieved December 4, 2013 – via Funding
  2. ^ a b c d Dempsey, John (June 5, 2006). "'Biography' rewrite". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Gildemeister, Christopher (2006-10-16). "What Your Kids are Discovering on Discovery Channel". Parents Television Council. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
  4. ^ a b Littleton, Cynthia (March 21, 2017). "'Biography' Franchise Returns as Event Programming Across A+E Networks Channels". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  5. ^ Bernstein, Adam (April 8, 2012). "Mike Wallace dies; veteran journalist and former '60 Minutes' correspondent was 93". Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  6. ^ Tony Sokol (March 21 2017). "Biography Coming Back to A&E After Five Years".
  7. ^ Wilkes, Neil (September 22, 2000). "Sky confirms Biography Channel". Digital Spy. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (December 11, 2013). "A+E Rebrands Bio as Lifestyle Network FYI". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Petski, Denise (March 21, 2017). "'Biography' Franchise Returns To A+E Networks". Deadline. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (April 27, 2017). "A&E Doubles Down On Nonfiction, Exits Scripted In Programming Strategy Shift". Deadline. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved December 5, 2017.

External links[edit]