tv13fm893MagazineEducationShopSupport WQEDSearch

Neighborhood Channel
WQED On Demand
Download and print this month's issue of OnAir

Television: Local Series

Rick 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, 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.

Rick's 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.

Prior 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 personalities.

In 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 audiences.

Rick's 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.

Rick 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 narrative style.

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 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.

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 Slighly Wacky Aussie Doco, a travelogue about Australia.

Many 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.

The Word on Rick Sebak

The New York
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."

The 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..."

USA Today: "Serving as his own narrator, Sebak is an enthusiastic, affectionate collector of American eccentricities."

The 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."

Current, 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 mean."



to support


DTV Answers


Vote 2008


A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway

Follow Rick Sebak and the crew as they travel across the country on the Lincoln Highway to make a new documentary. VISIT HIS BLOG!

Rick Sebak's New Documentary:
Invented, Engineered & Pioneered in Pittsburgh

Thursday, 4/10 at 8pm
Sunday, 4/13, 12 noon

See the Preview.

©1999-2009 WQED Multimedia