The Constitution

I’m happy to announce that next week, I’ll begin shooting a four part documentary for PBS called (provisionally) “The Constitution,” in collaboration with director Stephen Ives and his production company, Insignia Films.

Stephen came to me a few years ago with an idea to do a series on the Constitution as a living document; that is, as it affects people here and now, in terms of civil liberties, government powers, and individual lives. Stephen knew he didn’t want to do a “typical PBS doc” — ie, David McCullough intoning narration as the camera pans over 18th century engravings of Founding Fathers. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

So he approached me to be the on camera host and narrator, and we’ve developed a plan for a show that will have me cris-crossing the country, talking to people both famous and obscure whose lives have been profoundly affected by Constitutional issues.

The Constitution has been invoked a lot in public life of late, sometimes, to my mind, tendentiously and inaccurately. (It is not true, for example, that if the Constitution does not explicitly name a function of government, then that function of government is unconstitutional.) The Constitution was, and is, an imperfect document, and its strength lies in the ongoing arguments about its meaning, as much as what’s in the original text. I’m looking forward to digging into this stuff with Steve and his talented crew.

And also, getting to ride a motorcycle.

The above link goes to a short “teaser trailer” that we did here at Navy Pier in Chicago for a recent convention of PBS programmers. Look for the real thing on PBS in 2013.

5 Responses to The Constitution

  1. myles May 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Can’t wait!

  2. Noemi May 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Sounds rad. I wish you better TV motorcycling luck than Alton Brown had. Gonna swing by DC and talk to the US Park Police about how the National Park Service handles first amendment stuff? And this is your big chance to open carry in an apple orchard! In the name of TV!

  3. alice May 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    This is great!

    I mean, I am a Mexican so I am just marginally interested in The Constitution (as in your Constitution) but I really like to hear about your different projects. This one sounds really cool and I wish you much success.

    As I always say when I come and comment here, I hope to see you again sometime this year for a taping :D

  4. Carriep May 23, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Feasting on Amendments?

  5. Carl Ackerman May 29, 2012 at 10:45 am #


    It was great to have you as our guest in Philadelphia today. You were amazing with the students. I like how you kept pressing the students to think about how the Constitution actually affects them as individuals. Often times students try their best to give the teacher the answers they think we want to hear. You helped the students to actually deliberate about the Constitution. My favorite discussion included traveling back in time to the 1787 Constitutional Convention to speak to the delegates – “What would you say?” And, if the students had the power and authority to change anything about the Constitution – “What would you change?” This helped students to really think about the Constitution, government, and their role in a much more concrete way.

    If you are ever back in Philly, please stop by.

    - Carl