'The Notorious Life of Biggie Smalls'

Cable Nets Go Back to the Future

Networks are resurrecting high-profile unscripted series franchises this fall

Several Cable Networks are going back to the future this fall by resurrecting high-profile, unscripted series franchises in an effort to lure back old fans as well as to bring in a new generation of viewers.

On Labor Day (Sept. 4), A&E will bring back its Emmy-winning Biography series after a five-year hiatus. The series, which aired in syndication before debuting on A&E in 1987 and ran on FYI (formerly Bio) through 2012, will again profile the lives of marquee entertainers and their impact on culture, executive VP and head of programming Elaine Frontain Bryant said.

The first installment of the new series, The Notorious Life of Biggie Smalls, chronicles the slain hip-hop pioneer.

“Bringing back the Biography brand is so important for us,” Bryant said.

Also returning to the television stage in September is MTV’s Unplugged. The series, which first debuted in 1989, features musical acts playing their most popular songs on acoustic instruments and bows Sept. 8 with pop music star Shawn Mendes.

Later this year, Discovery Channel will offer a revival of game show Cash Cab, starring Ben Bailey, who originally drove the New York taxi that gave unwitting passengers an opportunity to win prizes during the show’s first run on the network from 2005-12.

Discovery Group president Rich Ross said the familiarity of reboots like Cash Cab gives such shows a leg up. “When you don’t have to resell a premise, it’s much easier to break through in a crowded environment,” he said.