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 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
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, GREAT
OLD AMUSEMENT PARKS, is national in scope and celebrates
some of the pre-Disney parks that are still thriving as well
as a few of the classic parks that are gone. 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 and appreciation.
Rick is no stranger to amusement
parks, 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
Earlier this summer, Rick's A
HOT DOG PROGRAM aired nationwide to critical acclaim.
The special is a fun look at some hot dog history, a guide
to some of the finest hot dog houses in the country, and
an unabashedly friendly look at these finely ground sausages
and their fans.
In December 1996, Rick's
program titled THE STRIP SHOW, about Pittsburgh's wholesale
market district called 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. 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 on NBC.
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.
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 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, are available
from PBS video, 1-800-828-4PBS.