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PBS Takes the Constitution for a Ride

Forget the man-on-the-street shtick. NPR personality Peter Sagal became a biker on the beat during his almost two-month road trip across the country for PBS’ new historical series “Constitution USA.”

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)
(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Rather than dwell strictly in the past, the four-part production — set to debut 9 p.m., May 7 — leapfrogs throughout time and space, giving the Founding Fathers their due while also checking in with modern man on what the living document that established this nation hath wrought.

Each installment bores down on a different tenet of the Constitution, including: freedom, individual rights, equality and the separation of powers.

In a highlight reel shown to attendees at a Capitol Hill screening last week, Sagal rolls from teachable moment to teachable moment aboard his patriotically appointed Harley. The opening sequence played like a cross between Dave Attell’s “Insomniac” and Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” with Sagal sucking down a few cold ones with everyone from heavily tattooed ex-Marine bikers in Arizona to bow-tied historians in Philadelphia.

Along the way, Sagal crosses paths with a who’s who of headstrong Americans, including: one of the original Little Rock Nine; Albert Snyder, the father of slain U.S. soldier Matthew Snyder, who sued Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred W. Phelps Sr., after the headline-grabbing group protested his son’s funeral; a proponent of same-sex marriage currently before the Supreme Court; and a Northern California marijuana grower named “Swami.”

“It’s going to enjoy a long life in classrooms across America for generations to come,” one of the series’s producers suggested.

Former social studies teacher cum Rep. Betty McCollum, meanwhile, was just happy she could finally share some work-related intel with the general public.

“It’s the first time I’ve been in this auditorium that I can talk about what I’m about to see here when I leave,” the Minnesota Democrat told those assembled in an auditorium usually reserved for top-secret security briefings.

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