Sebak is not a filmmaker. He's a brainwasher. He's a
brainwasher because you can't watch one of his effervescent
having a very strong urge to follow in his footsteps
and experience firsthand the places he presents so compellingly."
The New York Daily News
"Sebak hasn't got as much attention as 'Civil War' and 'Baseball' filmmaker Ken
Burns, but he has produced an impressive array of 'scrapbook documentaries'"
The Washington Post
"The progenitor of the shared-memories genre is the plain-talking but faintly
droll Rick Sebak, WQED's producer/narrator who "sounds like Andy Rooney, but
not as grumpy"...or like Michael Moore, only not mean."
Current - The Public Communications Newspaper
Sebak produces, writes and narrates unusual documentaries
for public television. Whether he's looking at diners in
Pennsylvania, ice cream places across the country, or some
of the wonderful neighborhoods in his hometown of Pittsburgh,
his work is celebratory in nature. He is a friendly guide
to various aspects of American culture, introducing viewers
to their neighborhoods, explaining the history and charms
of things we take for granted, and inevitably finding good
things to eat along the way.
His newest work, A HOT DOG PROGRAM, is national in scope, including
some of the best hot dogs from Macon, Georgia, to Anchorage, Alaska. His love
and enthusiasm for his topic becomes contagious, and the exuberance of the
people he includes in his program is unmistakably a reflection of his own energy
As Rick finished this program, he was editing another new PBS special titled GREAT
OLD AMUSEMENT PARKS that will air on July 21 at 8:00 p.m.
In December 1996, Rick's program titled THE STRIP SHOW, about Pittsburgh's
wholesale market district call the "Strip," first delighted local audiences,
then went on to receive a national airing on PBS in November 1997. Also in
1996, Rick completed two national programs, AN ICE CREAM SHOW and SHORE
THINGS, that aired across the country in May and July. AN ICE CREAM SHOW
was the second-highest-rated program on PBS that May.
Rick's other work includes HOUSES AROUND HERE (December 1994), a documentary
about some old and fascinating places where people live in Southwestern Pennsylvania,
and STUFF THAT'S GONE, a "sort of sequel" to his 1990 program THINGS
THAT AREN'T THERE ANYMORE that has become a model for similar programs
across the country.
His 1993 special titled PENNSYLVANIA DINERS AND OTHER ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS,
a 90-minute documentary about some of the most charming and idiosyncratic restaurants
in the state, aired nationally on PBS on October 5, 1994. The Washington
Post called the program "a tasty documentary."
Rick has produced most of the very popular WQED special programs that are grouped
together as the Pittsburgh History Series. He likes to call his programs "scrapbook
documentaries," incorporating lots of old films, home movies, postcards, old
photos and memorabilia of all sorts. Rick does not appear on-camera in these
programs, but audiences have learned to recognize his voice and distinctive
In November 1992, his hour-long documentary titled DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH about
the city's Golden Triangle, its history, its buildings and some of its unforgettable
people, received the highest ratings for any program in WQED's history. When
it premiered, it earned a higher rating than Seinfeld, playing opposite it
Earlier in 1992, Rick produced, wrote and narrated a statewide special titled THE
PENNSYLVANIA ROAD SHOW, a slightly wacky travelogue about some of the unusual
things to see and do along Pennsylvania's highways.
In 1990, Rick converted one of his local specials into a national program for PBS:
OUR NEIGHBOR FRED ROGERS. A documentary about the life and work of Mister
Rogers, narrated by David Hartman, this program won a 1991 CINE Golden Eagle.
In 1988, he produced and narrated a program titled KENNYWOOD MEMORIES about
the Pittsburgh amusement park that's now a National Historic Landmark. The
program won many awards, including the Ed King Memorial Award for Outstanding
Broadcast Journalism and the Golden Quill for Best Documentary. Although local
in origin, it has been shown in over 100 markets on PBS stations.
Before coming to WQED, Rick worked for 11 years at the South Carolina Educational
Television Network in Columbia, South Carolina. His work there included the
award-winning documentaries SHAG, about the official state dance of
South Carolina, and THE SLIGHTLY WACKY AUSSIE DOCO, a travelogue about
Many of Rick's Pittsburgh programs are available on video at WQED's online
store, Shop WQED.