Sebak produces, writes and narrates unusual documentaries for public
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, reminding viewers
of people and places in their neighborhoods, explaining the history
and charms of things we take for granted, and inevitably finding
good things to eat along the way.
last special for PBS, A
Flea Market Documentary, was a sort of travelogue and an
extended conversation with people across the country about the joys
of shopping in open-air markets. He's currently putting the finishing
touches on Pittsburgh
A to Z, set to air on October 27, 2001.
to Flea Market, Rick's A
Hot Dog Program (June 1999) and Great
Old Amusement Parks (July 1999), were received with both
critical and popular acclaim. They carried on the style established
in Rick's earlier PBS programs, An Ice Cream Program (May
1996) and Shore Things (July 1996). Now PBS stations around
the country continue to rebroadcast these programs because audiences
respond so favorably to the quirky blend of Americana, places and
addition to his several national programs, Rick has also created
some fourteen documentaries about his hometown of Pittsburgh. Known
collectively as the Pittsburgh History
Series, these "local" programs have also often found national
other Pittsburgh works include a recent portrait of the city's second
center, titled Something About
Oakland (December 2000), and Stuff That's Gone, a "sort
of sequel" to his 1990 program Things That Aren't There Anymore,
which has become a model for similar programs across the country.
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
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 been recognized as 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.
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 Slighly Wacky Aussie Doco,
a travelogue about Australia.
of Rick's Pittsburgh programs are available on home video as part
of WQED's Pittsburgh Home Video Collection, available by
calling 1-800-274-1307. National titles, including A Hot
Dog Program, Shore Things, An Ice Cream Show and Great Old Amusement
Parks are available from PBS Home Video, 1-800-PLAY-PBS or online.
Word on Rick Sebak
Daily News: "Rick Sebak is not a filmmaker. He's a brainwasher.
He's a brainwasher because you can't watch one of his effervescent
films without having a very strong urge to follow in his footsteps
and experience firsthand the place he presents so compellingly."
Washington Post: "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..."
Today: "Serving as his own narrator, Sebak is an enthusiastic,
affectionate collector of American eccentricities."
Pittsburgh Press: "As usual, it's virtually impossible to find
fault with Sebak's work, which has his signature stamps of warmth
and enthusiastic discovery."
The Public Communications Newspaper: "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