The New Pittsburgh, Same as the Old Pittsburgh?

Back at last from summer travels, I'm learning about plans for Hollywood to shoot movies in the region and to set yet another TV series here. (As the PG noted, the spate of film productions is a win for the region's economy -- and wouldn't be possible without a state tax break.)

I'm still waiting, however, for the media and entertainment industries to fully escape their stereotypes of "true" Pittsburgh. Rob Owen wrote this in today's coverage of "Three Rivers," a coming medical drama:

... Pittsburghers ... often wonder why characters on Pittsburgh-set series never evince a Yinzer accent. Barbee said a scene was shot for the "Three Rivers" pilot using a local actor that got cut.

"There's a scene where Andy is paged to come to the ER and there's a guy from the neighborhood -- Eddie, a working-class guy -- who got in a bar fight and figured if he asked for Andy he'd get seen sooner," Barbee recalled. "It was a wonderful scene that gave a sense of Andy's connection to Pittsburgh and this one neighborhood. We cast a guy from Pittsburgh and he did the whole Yinzer accent and he was hilarious, doing the whole Yinzer thing. But once we got into editing we found it slowed the pilot down."

I don't wonder that. Do you? Count me as a Pittsburgher (of course, not a native Pittsburgher) who doesn't need to hear a Yinzer accent in order to validate something or someone as "true" Pittsburgh. Who can do without the images of molten steel that so often illustrate Steelers football on Monday night television. Who is thrilled that the "true" Pittsburgh that will be represented at September's G-20 summit includes the Andy Warhol Museum and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. I hear a Yinzer accent and I think "Pittsburgh," but I'm certainly capable of thinking "Pittsburgh" without hearing a Yinzer accent. I trust that Tom Sokolowski and Richard Piacentini and their institutions will be tremendous ambassadors for today's Pittsburgh -- with no Yinzer accent as part of the package.


2 Responses to "The New Pittsburgh, Same as the Old Pittsburgh?"

Anonymous said... 8/07/2009 9:36 AM

I agree... I cringed when I read Rob Owen's paragraph about Yinzer accents.

Anonymous said... 8/08/2009 11:12 AM

While I certainly agree that there is more to being a Pittsburgher than an accent, the only reason I asked the question is because anytime a Pittsburgh-set show airs, I *always* get multiple calls/e-mails from viewers who want to know why no one on the show has a Pittsburgh accent.
Despite what the producer said, I doubt many characters on this show will have the accent. Certainly none of the series regulars. As a producer of another Pittsburgh-set series once told me, viewers in the rest of the country would probably be confused or put off by an accent that they're unfamiliar with.
Thanks for reading,
Rob Owen

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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