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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Food > History > TV > Pennsylvania Diners (WQED Multimedia)

Pennsylvania Diners (WQED Multimedia)


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



You hear people complain about restaurant chains al the time, but never hear about the alternatives aside from restaurants (often somewhat expensive) that still exist and then there is the new cooking wave from cable networks, to books and fancy supermarkets.  One phenomenon still with us is the diner, often referred to as a “greasy spoon” (corporate propaganda now?) for decades, they survive and thrive.  So many exist that Pennsylvania Diners (1993) shows some of the best anywhere in a state that has more than their share.


Though there is this myth (more propaganda?) that diners are just cheapo places made from converted from old trolleys, it turns out the post-WWII era led to a giant wave of them that could be made pre-fabricated from certain factories.  Along with the drive-in theater (an obvious favorite of this site), it became an icon of the 1950s, though they began before that.  Seen any real Film Noirs lately?


It also shows something else the chains can never produce, a unique social atmosphere that is totally original, communal and makes going out to eat fun instead of a possible series of confrontations with strangers who need to get a life.  Not that we blame chains for such behavior, but why does this seem so likely at fast food places and not as much at diners?  Maybe it is because the food is much better and the customers don’t have to spend so much money to avoid putting up with second-best.  Maybe that is a standard more people need to rediscover.


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, the launch of the show at the great Ritter’s Diner (try their Banana Cream Pie if you ever go there) and a trip to Lee’s Diner in York, PA.  That is not as many supplements as you will find in the many DVDs in this series, but the main program is more than enough to justify getting this disc.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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