More Perfect: An excellent podcast about the Supreme Court

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What it is: A six-episode podcast mini-series that tells the story of seven or so major Supreme Court cases and their impact on America today, all meticulously reported by the team behind WNYC’s acclaimed Radiolab podcast.

What I’ve listened to: All of it.

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Is it good? Yes. And... educational. Surprisingly emotional, too. The final two episodes are arguably the best. The badly titled penultimate episode, Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer, focuses on the incredible historical plot twist that allowed the original, toothless six-justice (!) Supreme Court to become as influential as it is today. The finale, Object Anyway, details the remarkable case that barred lawyers from removing black people from juries. That case generated a most unexpected friendships.

Quick thoughts: Podcasts tend to sprawl. Episodes run for hours and pile up in the queue. More Perfect is pleasantly succinct, accomplishing a lot in its six episodes, most of which run about 40 minutes.

The show doesn’t tell a single story or attempt prove an overarching theory about the Supreme Court. Instead, it performs the same trick a bunch of times: showing how a small thing turns into the kind of dilemma that winds its way into a Supreme Court argument and decision that in turn change the way life (and death) plays out in America. That small thing that develops into a grand thing might be a police officer’s response to a report of a man with a gun on the outskirts of Houston, an odd event that leads to the decriminalization of gay sex in America. In another episode, it’s an Oklahoma medical examiner’s musings about a more humane way to execute people that leads to a new method that seems better than the firing squad, until many people eventually decide it’s worse.

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More Perfect is history at its least stuffy. The hosts are casual. The reporters are thorough, engaged and obvious about their biases regarding the thorny cases they cover. Musical riffs help pep up the telling of some complex arguments, but substance trumps style in episode after episode. This is, after all, the Supreme Court they’re covering. The substance tends to be fascinating.

You can listen to More Perfect at WNYC’s website or through iTunes.

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