Biography is a documentary television series with three separate original broadcast runs; in syndication, on network, CBS, and the current one on cable, A&E, The Biography Channel, and then FYI.
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. 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, and Queen Elizabeth II, and fictional characters like The Phantom, Superman, Hamlet, Betty Boop, and Santa Claus. 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. With this large back catalog of profiled figures, A&E, in 1999, 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.
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.