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Cable Networks Go Back to the Future

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.

RELATED: A&E 's Elaine Frontain Bryant discusses 'Biography' and the network's Emmy-nominted unscripted shows (VIDEO)
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.

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.