At a brisk pace, Sebak breaks and enters into strangers' basements (only twice was he detained by police), sets off firecrackers in tunnels, has a sexual rendezvous in a mushroom farm with a girl who claims to be 18, and sabotages "the big, scary looking" machinery beneath the Dormont pool ("Well, this pool won't be fit for humans this summer," he smirks). And, as he always does, Sebak encounters some amusing characters along the way. It's an impressive skill to find these folks -- including a woman who reads a book while riding the "T" and declares, "I am tired today, I was up doing laundry until midnight" -- but I have an idea Sebak doesn't have to work too hard at it.
Then it's off to some talking-egghead to lend the show a dose of legitimacy. "I think there's a natural, primordial, instinctive tightening of the sphincters, so to speak," says Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator John Rawlins about the urge people have to hit the brakes when entering any of the tunnels around Pittsburgh. Sebak, at that point, has the camera move up and down, nodding in agreement, a technique he has never tried before (frankly, after the fifth time he does it, you're hoping he won't do it again).
One of the specialties of Sebak’s shows is making a Pittsburgh connection to someone famous. In this offering, he and his crew go underground and dig up the grave of Andy Warhol. “Not so hip now, are you?” Sebak muses as the camera pans Warhol’s skeleton. Then he jokes, “In fact, there’s his hip bone.”
And, what would a Pittsburgh special be without food? Sebak answers this query by treating us to a visit to a bug plantation owned by Noah Swayne of Mt. Troy. There, Sebak dines on a bowl of fresh cicadas. “They really stay crunchy in milk – even at the bottom of the bowl,” he says as he gobbles the last spoonful.
"Underground Pittsburgh" is an informative hour -- so much so that QED had to insert their entertaining pledge breaks just to give our brains a break -- that proves once again the dirt under one man's feet is another man's treasure trove of storytelling.