Forgive me for sounding a bit cheesy here but I love a good, nay, a feel-good documentary. As a kid we never had cable television so I would, quite often, watch PBS, as there was almost always something interesting to watch. This mentality stayed with me, even after I did have access to cable or satellite television. Among my favorite programs PBS has brought to my attention are: The Red Green Show, Across Indiana (which was probably only aired locally for obvious reasons), History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, and of course any of the documentaries produced by Rick Sebak.
I can vividly remember having a viral illness in 2004, to the point I felt if I wasn't knocking on death's door it was only because I was too weak to knock. In my illness induced state I was looking for something to watch on television to help get my mind off all the aches and pains, between episodes of being violently ill. It wasn't until I landed on my local PBS that I found something that even remotely caught my interest: A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Stuff. As I was still making trips back and forth to the bathroom I couldn't watch it all, but the parts I did catch were very interesting.
Years later I remembered that documentary and decided to try and find it in its entirety. Oddly enough PBS was going to be showing a re-airing of the program later in the week. I waited impatiently each and every day until I could finally watch it completely, without the being violently ill stuff. In its entirety the program kept me entertained, even the bits I had seen previously. At the end of the program I remember PBS doing their donate to get this program on DVD pitch, at least I think it was DVD, but I also believe they were offering more documentaries from Rick Sebak. This brought my my attention the hot dog documentary, the flea market documentary, the amusement park documentary and so many more.
What I believe sets Rick Sebak apart is the flow of the documentaries, his voice and the fun way things are presented and, well.. documented. There is always something to see, the shots never hang too long on something, but it doesn't flash by either. You get a chance to engage your eyes on the subject and study the whole scene while being informed of what's going on.
I've held a short-lived conversation with the man himself over twitter about my belief his documentaries are blu-ray and even Netflix worthy. I understand they are primarily made for his local PBS station, but I do enjoy his documentaries to the point I will occasionally drop a few titles randomly in a conversation. I couldn't do that with a History Channel documentary about storming the beaches at Normandy, but I can about amusement parks, hot dogs, oddly shaped buildings, flea markets, great pies, great bakeries, great breakfasts and tons of other feel-good subjects that are well documented by Rick Sebak.
I know these documentaries have helped me get through rough times in the past. They always feel like something to brighten your day, or put a little sunshine in your rain soaked afternoon. I wish I had access to all of his documentaries but it seems PBS has kept a tight lock on them. There are many others I haven't seen such as the cemetery special. Some can be found online, while others can't. I'm hoping soon to see them popping up, officially, online so that they are all available for everyone to enjoy his work.