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TV Review: Sebak delights again with 'Things We've Made'

Thursday, December 04, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

While I was visiting friends in Northern Virginia last week, one said, "We saw this great show on PBS called 'Pittsburgh A to Z.' Have you heard of it?"

Of course! WQED's Rick Sebak made that one a few years ago, and his charming storytelling style is now being seen on PBS stations across the country.

But we're fortunate to see his local shows first.

His latest, "Things We've Made," premieres tonight at 8 (and repeats at 9:30) on Channel 13. It's another informative, entertaining love letter to Western Pennsylvania. Sebak subtitles it "Part One," saying he hopes to revisit the subject in a future documentary.

I've quibbled with the length of some of Sebak's past programs, but this one clocks in at an efficient 70 minutes. (VCR alert: It will air as a pledge program tonight in a 90-minute block. Set your VCR accordingly.)

Among the things we've made that Sebak highlights are the obvious: steel, Heinz products, glass and paint and boats. But he also goes off the beaten track to find subjects that are less expected. For some viewers, they may even be unheard of.

Sebak visits All-Clad pots and pans in Canonsburg, Betsy Ann Chocolates in West View, pharmaceutical robots at McKesson Automation on Washington's Landing and Jensen Model Steam Engines in Jeannette.

"Things We've Made" wraps itself in the pride of Western Pennsylvanians' work ethic, but its not heavy-handed.

Whatever the subject, Sebak makes the regular people he interviews the stars, including a chocolate factory worker who declares, "I started here last year and gained 12 pounds." Now she eats one piece of candy a week, on Friday.

The show's end credits include some funny gaffes, but the line that will be most remembered comes from a Sony plant employee who helps build big-screen TVs. She's even bought a 53-inch model: "The bigger the better, I guess. At least that's what my husband says."

Best of all, "Things We've Made" can be added to Sebak's ever-growing roster of culturally enriching things he's made here. It's an impressive portfolio that WQED continues to export with rightful pride to the rest of the country.


TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette. com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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