Documentary & Biography TV Shows

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About Documentary & Biography

The purpose of a TV documentary, as is probably obvious from the genre's name, is to document something. Documentaries are non-fiction programs that examine a subject closely, and the intent of the program may be broadly educational, or it may attempt to make a cultural or political point. Although the earliest TV programming was focused on entertainment, documentaries quickly became a significant part of TV programming overall, and now some of the most popular TV networks concentrate almost exclusively on non-fiction programs.

Documentary TV programming comes in a number of forms. Stand-alone documentary films explore one subject in depth in a single film or in a short series of episodes, while documentary series often look at a different subject in each episode, with no direct connection between the subjects from episode to episode. News-magazine-style shows may group multiple segments within each episode; the segments typically focus on unrelated subjects. Other types of documentary series-crime and paranormal series are currently popular-explore a different specific subject in each episode, but all of the subjects conform to the overall theme of the series.

Biography is a sub-genre of documentary programming that tells the story of a particular individual. Historical figures, political leaders, entertainers, sports figures and other celebrities are, of course, the most popular subjects of TV biographies, and biographical documentaries are consistently popular with TV viewers. In recent years, the series "Biography" was one of the most successful productions on the A&E cable network-so much so that the network spun the series off into its own channel, The Biography Channel, which debuted in 1999.

Much of the programming that fits into the reality TV genre could also fit fairly comfortably into the documentary genre. Reality series that follow characters as they engage in specific occupations or live in unusual contexts educate viewers about those occupations and lifestyles at the same time that they entertain-although the main goal of these series is entertainment, and factual accuracy may suffer as a consequence.

About This Genre
Beyond Scared Straight
Beyond Scared Straight
Dateline
Dateline
60 Minutes
60 Minutes
20/20
20/20
Snapped
Snapped
Intervention
Intervention
48 Hours Mystery
48 Hours Mystery
Eaten Alive
Eaten Alive
Ghost Adventures
Ghost Adventures
Forensic Files
Forensic Files
Hard Knocks
Hard Knocks
Slednecks
Slednecks
My 600-lb Life
My 600-lb Life
Ancient Aliens
Ancient Aliens
I Survived
I Survived
Life Below Zero
Life Below Zero
How It's Made
How It's Made
Polyamory: Married and Dating
Polyamory: Married and Dating
Ice Road Truckers
Ice Road Truckers
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team
Untold Stories of the E.R.
Untold Stories of the E.R.
Killer Kids
Killer Kids
PBS Specials
PBS Specials
The Devils Ride
The Devils Ride
A Football Life
A Football Life
The FBI Files
The FBI Files
Good Eats
Good Eats
Disappeared
Disappeared
Hairy Women
Hairy Women
Nature
Nature
River Monsters
River Monsters
America The Story of Us
America The Story of Us
1000 Ways to Die
1000 Ways to Die
Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters
Cold Case Files
Cold Case Files
American Hoggers
American Hoggers
The Ghost Inside My Child
The Ghost Inside My Child
On The Run Tour: Beyonce and Jay Z
On The Run Tour: Beyonce and Jay Z
Top 100 Hip Hop Hits
Top 100 Hip Hop Hits
Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits
Shark Week
Shark Week
Fight Girls
Fight Girls
White House Christmas
White House Christmas
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
A Chef's Life
A Chef's Life
American Gangster
American Gangster
Taboo
Taboo
Crime 360
Crime 360
Nellyville
Nellyville
Chasing Classic Cars
Chasing Classic Cars
Destination Truth
Destination Truth
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Dirty Jobs
Dirty Jobs
Unusual Suspects
Unusual Suspects
Autopsy
Autopsy
Alaska State Troopers
Alaska State Troopers
Planet Earth
Planet Earth
Motives and Murder
Motives and Murder
Frontline
Frontline
Nightline
Nightline
Mayday
Mayday
NOVA scienceNOW
NOVA scienceNOW
I Shouldn't Be Alive
I Shouldn't Be Alive
Doomsday Preppers
Doomsday Preppers
Extreme Ghost Stories
Extreme Ghost Stories
Human Weapon
Human Weapon
Paranormal State
Paranormal State
Lockdown
Lockdown
How It's Made: Dream Cars
How It's Made: Dream Cars
National Geographic Wild Special
National Geographic Wild Special
Locked Up Abroad
Locked Up Abroad
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Down East Dickering
Down East Dickering
The Story Of The Jews
The Story Of The Jews
One Born Every Minute
One Born Every Minute
Bigfoot: The New Evidence
Bigfoot: The New Evidence
After The First 48
After The First 48
Through the Wormhole
Through the Wormhole
Orangutan Island
Orangutan Island
The Naked Archaeologist
The Naked Archaeologist
Red Rock Serenade
Red Rock Serenade
Vice
Vice
Mugshots
Mugshots
Art in the Twenty-First Century
Art in the Twenty-First Century
Surviving Disaster
Surviving Disaster
Tsunami: Caught on Camera
Tsunami: Caught on Camera
Caught on Camera
Caught on Camera
World War II In Colour
World War II In Colour
Investigation Discovery Specials
Investigation Discovery Specials
American Experience
American Experience
Dogfights
Dogfights
Too Fat For 15: Fighting Back
Too Fat For 15: Fighting Back
Lost Tapes
Lost Tapes
Biography
Biography
Years of Living Dangerously
Years of Living Dangerously
Wives with Knives
Wives with Knives
Capturing the Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup
Capturing the Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup
Surviving Evil
Surviving Evil
Lottery Changed My Life
Lottery Changed My Life