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
Original network
Original release
  • Original series: 1961-1963
  • Revived series: 1979
  • 1990-2012
External links
[ Website]

Biography is a documentary television series with three separate original broadcast runs; in syndication (1961-1964), a short return to syndication (1979), and the current run on cable television (A&E (1987-2006), moved to A&E's Biography Channel/FYI (2006 to 2012)). Each episode was accompanied by a narration, using stock footage, on-camera interviews, and photographs of the people's lives, who grew up. Biography was expanded into a franchise with a revival 2017 on TV as a banner for mini-series and movies (Biography Movies series) across A&E Networks's channels.

The original 1961–63 version was a half-hour filmed series produced for Syndication by David Wolper and hosted by Mike Wallace, the A&E Network repeated these films prior to producing new episodes beginning in 1987. The older version featured historical figures such as Helen Keller and Mark Twain, or deceased entertainers and actors such as Will Rogers and John Barrymore. A 1979 revival of Biography aired briefly on CBS covering a more recent collection of celebrities ranging from Idi Amin to Walt Disney, which was then narrated by David Janssen. The A&E series placed the emphasis on show business personalities and popular newsmakers, such as Marilyn Monroe, Carmen Miranda, Elvis Presley, Plácido Domingo, Freddie Mercury, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Eric Clapton, Pope John Paul II, Gene Tierney, Selena, Diego Rivera, Mao Zedong, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Errol Flynn, John Gotti, Judy Garland, and Queen Elizabeth II, and fictional characters like The Phantom, Superman, Hamlet, Betty Boop, and Santa Claus. With this large back catalog of profiled figures, A&E, in 1998, spun off a separate network, The Biography Channel.

Initially, most of the episodes featured the life stories of historical figures (similar to the original version) or present political or social leaders. People such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Enrico Caruso, and Eva Perón were profiled. After a few years, however, the show began producing episodes on figures from pop culture, including Britney Spears, Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, and Marilyn Manson. This move away from purely intellectual subject matter has been criticized by some.[1]

Figures covered from the business and technology world include Sam Walton, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, J. C. Penney, Dave Thomas, Colonel Sanders, Bernie Marcus, and Arthur Blank.


Biography original was shown on TV in the early 1960s. The host was Mike Wallace[2] until 1963, the show was produced by David L. Wolper.[3] The series was on from 1961 to 1964 and revived in 1979.[4]


In fall 1987, A&E began showing the 1960s series, Biography 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.[2]

Biography became a 5 night a week series in 1994[2] while adding entertainment figures to the mix of persons featured.[5] Several Biography specials were produced in 1994 and 1995, the History Channel U.K. was started on November 1, 1995 as a week day 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, a children's version launched in fall 1996.[2]

At one point, the show aired up to six times weekly in prime time, but cut back as A&E added 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 order also for its first year only on the Bio Channel.[5] The show ended its run in 2012.[6]


The original Biography host was Mike Wallace who hosted the show from 1961 to 1963 when left for CBS News,[3] the 1990 version of Biography has been hosted by Peter Graves,[5] Jack Perkins, Bill Mumy[citation needed] and Harry Smith.[5] Joan Lunden was 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.

After a success full 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.[2] Several Biography specials were produced in 1994 and 1995. A&E expanded the "Biography" brand into a franchise with a website in July 1996, a children's version launched in fall 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 and becoming permanent in 1996. In 1997, the franchise was further expanded with an audio tape line, telefilm development, a Crown Publishing Group published short biography line and debuted its magazine which replace A&E Monthly. With the 1998–99 season, "Biography: American Justice" and "Biography Movies" debut.[2]

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.[2] 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 will continue in all market 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 would focus on notable women.[6] 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] 2 hours telefilm, A&E with Creature Films in association with Entertainment One
  • The End of America: Putin’s Master Plan working title (History) 2 hours 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) 4 episode mini-series by Kaufman Films for A&E
  • Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography working title (A&E) 2 hours telefilm, A&E and Asylum Entertainment in association with Marwar Junction Productions
  • Mike Tyson: Autobiography working title (A&E) 2 hours telefilm by A&E, Asylum Entertainment in association with Marwar Junction Productions
  • David Koresh And The Siege Of Waco working title (A&E) 2 hours telefilm by Raw TV for A&E[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "A & E Television Networks History". International Directory of Company Histories. 32. St. James Press. 2000. Retrieved December 4, 2013 – via Funding 
  3. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (April 8, 2012). "Mike Wallace dies; veteran journalist and former '60 Minutes' correspondent was 93". Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  4. ^ Sternberg, Joel. "Wolper, David L". Encyclopedia of Television. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d Dempsey, John (June 5, 2006). "'Biography' rewrite". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Littleton, Cynthia (March 21, 2017). "'Biography' Franchise Returns as Event Programming Across A+E Networks Channels". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  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]