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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Downtown Pittsburgh (WQED Multimedia)

Downtown Pittsburgh (WQED Multimedia – Pittsburgh)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Main Program: B+



With Pittsburgh being one of the most successful modern cities of all time, the corporate, capitalist and power elite made some of the most interesting, complex, innovative, important and influential buildings and structures around.  In the case of Pittsburgh, there are several generations of such construction and use.  After two rebuildings and a third wave on the way, the WQED program Downtown Pittsburgh (1992) is already becoming a record of the area’s past, even though most of the structures covered are still standing.


The program starts with a shot of the then-current skyline and answering some questions about what anyone would first see upon visiting.  Then it goes to the older buildings and starts to slowly peel away facts and items about some of them you would never know, even if you lived there all your life.  Architecture is a major theme, but how it was populated, affected the populators is as important and this show holds some great surprises we will not ruin, but is typical of how good these Rick Sebak/WQED specials have constantly been.


The 1.33 X 1 image is nice shot in professional analog NTSC video and looks pretty good and the transfer is about as good as it is going to get.  There are some color and definition limits, plus the stock footage is going to cause variance, but it is pleasant enough to enjoy.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has no surrounds, but is nicely recorded and Sebak’s narration is never too forward while interviews are clean.


Extras include promos for this and dozens of other great programs from this and related series WQED has produced, extended interviews with three key architects from the show, a barbershop in The Frick Building no longer used, an innovative restroom in The Arrott Building connected to the roof, a piece on The Blockhouse (the oldest structure there) and the holiday windows of the flagship location of Kaufmann’s, which just recently became a Macy’s.  At least they continue the windows tradition.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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