1 August 2010 | WeatherViolet
All-in-All Often Enjoyable, Entertaining and Informative
During the heyday of the "Biography" series, from its onset through about 2004, A&E would usually present five Prime Time episodes weekly, and often a sixth.
Afterward, a "Biography Network" was then formed, purporting to air the series 24 hours per day, but, alas, that network has not appeared in every region, such as here, for it's never been available for one and all to experience, but yet A&E then discontinued the series from its regular line-up except for showings at rather odd hours.
Primary Hosts, Jack Perkins and Peter Graves and, later, Harry Smith introduce episodes during these early decades, often narrating, as well.
During its first 12 or 15 years, Peter Graves specializes in his field of Entertainment, including subjects famous for film and television acting and directing, as well as music performing.
Jack Perkins, meanwhile, introduces subjects famous in fields of History and World Leadership, Arts and Literature, Science and Invention, Sports, Business and Industry, as well as Newsmakers of notoriety.
Harry Smith handles each category with equal aplomb amid his very busy schedule of hosting and narrating.
In addition to the three principle narrators, others famous as news reporters also handle those reigns, as Bob Brown, Hugh Downs, Bill Kurtis or Mike Wallace.
Often, famous celebrities in their own right narrate episodes, such as Shelley Fabares, Jodie Foster, Kevin Bacon, Eric Braeden, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Edward Herrmann, Hal Linden, Richard Kiley, Monte Markham, Bill Mumy or Tom Selleck, usually to spotlight other entertainers.
Russell Buchanan specializes in narrating episodes featuring Country music stars, while others who often narrate include Zach Fine, Dave Hoffman, Thomas Miller, Don Morrow and Larry Robinson.
Famous Guest Hosts also occasionally appear to introduce episodes during a theme week, such as Jerry Orbach or Kevin Bacon.
At its very best, the series is thoroughly researched and well-produced, labeling captions for archive film clips and performers, and adding interesting trivia regarding the lives and careers of its subjects.
But then a large production staff displays a great deal of inconsistency, often from one episode to the next, as one star may have his or her film and television clips well-documented, and the next may be deprived this privilege for some strange reason.
Well, I suppose that studios may hold a portion of the responsibility for not issuing adequate film clips or television or song clips to the "Biography" production staff, but the graphics also vary from one episode to the next, as well as the ending credits if you could manage to catch a glimpse of those as they roll by on those split-screen credits with promotional gimmicks overtaking the balance of the screen.
And, of course, fans often know a great deal more about the lives and careers of their stars than any given episode may present for want of time and research.
But, all-in-all, the series does offer a great number of episodes from various categories which you may wish to see and to revisit, so this is a good idea for a series, and often enjoyable, entertaining and informative to study although some subjects from its "Newsworthy" category may not qualify as deserving in everyone's better judgment.