#13 Rick Sebak TV Specials on WQED

Amongst leading experts, it is widely acknowledged that education must take place both inside and outside of the classroom. The role of the local school system is to teach children critical historical facts, such as the time George Washington lured enemy Frenchmen and Native Americans to an arts festival at the Point on a particularly rainy day during the French and Indian War. However, it is left to Yinzer parents to teach more recent history, including subjects like Pittsburgh’s bridge to “nowhere” and the mysterious sinking and disappearance of a B25 Bomber in the Monogahela River. Fortunately, Yinzer parents have a superior teaching tool for these lessons — Rick Sebak TV Specials on WQED.

The local expert on temporally-displaced things is Rick Sebak, who produces “scrapbook documentaries.”  In these specials, Yinzers are given the opportunity to wax nostalgic about things that are either not there any more, or are very different today. With old photos, film clips, and a player-piano soundtrack, people recall the time that the they met girls during Italian days or ate a very unusual sandwich.

Rick Sebak’s most-beloved special is Kennywood Memories, a 20-year old film that looks back at the local amusement park’s growth from a small park at the end of a commuter rail line to the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” that filled the park with Yinzers in cut-off shorts and AC/DC t-shirts. The documentary provides Yinzers the opportunity to reflect on the good old days of their childhood and to tell their children just how much better Potato Patch fries were “back in the day.”

Other Rick Sebak blockbusters include the obviously-titled Things that Aren’t There Anymore, the not-what-you-think-it-is The Strip Show, the creepy A Cemetery Special, and the only-Yinzers-need-this-to-be-pointed-out What Makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh. While it is quite impressive that Rick Sebak has produced twenty-three documentaries through 2008, it might be an even greater Pittsburgh media achievement that none of his films are exclusively focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 70s.

The Pittsburgh PBS station, WQED, almost completely relies on Rick Sebak’s work for its funding. A totally fictional analysis of the PBS station’s books shows that sales of his specials alone account for 83% of the station’s budget each year. Further invented analysis shows that Kennywood Memories is responsible for about 46% of that total.

So, if you happen to run across a Yinzer, thank him for helping to finance your child’s obsession with Elmo through his purchase of another Sebak classic, A Program About Unusual Buildings & Other Roadside Stuff. Remember folks, he’s just doing it for the children.

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23 Responses to “#13 Rick Sebak TV Specials on WQED”

  1. Mr. Sebak did the intro to my documentary in college. I about died when he agreed to do it.

  2. I love every documentary he’s made for WQED! Now there’s this channel on digital cable that plays them for a month at a time 2 or 3 times a day.
    The Oakland one is my favorite.

  3. I very shamelessly adore Rick Sebak’s PBS specials. Kennywood Memories… holler!

  4. [...] There are 5 readers:  a poet named Toi Derricotte who teaches at Pitt, Sally Wiggin who’s a TV news anchor at Channel 4, Marty McGuinn who used to be chairman and CEO of Mellon Financial, Franco Harris who’s the legendary Steeler who made that Immaculate Reception, and me. [...]

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