"It felt like the time is right," said Jeff Olde, VH1 executive vp original programming. "There's all sorts of new artists on the scene who have emerged and have these great stories. And there's other artists that we always wanted to do the first time around."
VH1 had a reminder of the show's popularity last fall when it aired a well-received 90-minute live New Kids on the Block "Behind the Music" special. The event showed the group's first public performance in more than a decade along with a "BTM" retrospective.
"We always hear about the show, even now," Olde said. "It's amazing how much affection viewers have for it."
VH1 stopped airing regular episodes of "BTM" in 2002, then aired only a few a year until 2006. In focus groups, VH1 found "BTM" is so deeply associated with the channel, some viewers assumed the series never left the air. The show's storytelling model of the meteoric rise, tragic fall and sober rebirth of an artist was so distinctive that "The Simpsons" devoted a 2000 episode to parodying the show. There was also a short-lived spinoff titled "Behind the Music 2" that looked at the careers of younger favorites.
VH1 will update the show's format for 2009, but not too much. Jim Forbes is back as the show's narrator, though the new episodes will add more current footage to anchor the story in the present day – like the way the New Kids special intercut with a live event.
"I'm leery about changing certain elements," Olde said. "I think the audience will be mad if we mess with it too much."