A&E orders 'Scared Straight!' sequel

EXCLUSIVE: Producer Arnold Shapiro returning for specials

A&E has ordered a sequel to the hugely influential and Oscar-winning 1978 documentary "Scared Straight!"

Teaming with the documentary's original producer, Arnold Shapiro, the cable network has ordered four one-hour specials of "Beyond Scared Straight!" that will chronicle modern confrontational approaches to juvenile crime prevention.

The original version of "Scared Straight!" showed a then-radical inmate-led intervention program for young offenders at a New Jersey prison. Teens ages 12-18 were subjected to a brutal reality check from hardcore prisoners about what it's like to spend time behind bars.

The resulting documentary won an Academy Award for best documentary feature and, after airing on TV, won two Emmys in documentary categories. The film spawned similar programs across and the country, was shown in school classrooms for years afterward and was even spoofed on NBC's "The Office."

For a generation, "Scared Straight!" was the first glimpse of "reality TV."

"Beyond Scared Straight!" will once again show young offender intervention programs, only these have evolved since "scaring teens is no longer as easy of a task." Each of the four episodes will focus on a different prison program, following a group of at-risk teens and preteens going through the program and then catching up with them two months later.

"I have seen so many teenagers turn their lives around after experiencing inmate-run prison programs like 'Scared Straight' that I am grateful for the opportunity to bring more of these programs and stories of transformation to television," executive producer Shapiro said.

Since the original, there's been occasional follow-ups on the "Scared Straight" brand, including two specials that looked at the original group of people from the 1978 program.

"Beyond Scared Straight!" is a fine match for A&E, whose "Intervention" launched a popular reality sub-genre that's since spawned several shows where experts attempt to cure a wide range of self-destructive tendencies. "Beyond Scared Straight!" will air on A&E in winter 2011.