Peter Sagal’s ‘Constitution USA’: You have the right to remain hammy

tags: Peter Sagal, Constitution USA, TV reviews



PBS’s four-part “Constitution USA With Peter Sagal” rides along with the humorous host of NPR’s popular “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” quiz show as he traverses the nation in a too-cheeky-by-half attempt to find and narrate evidence of the U.S. Constitution in glorious action. This mostly means Sagal interviews legal experts, historians and even the people who advocate those low-flow toilets that drive libertarians ape. He also hangs out with gun proponents, medical marijuana sellers and the like, while trying to look casual.

A chunk of the first episode, premiering Tuesday night, is spent outfitting Sagal with a star-spangled Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which will put him on the road and directly in touch with the people.

“Do I look like a dork?” Sagal asks a saleswoman in the Harley boutique as he tries on a helmet and snug leather jacket. (“You are so conceited,” she replies, in a spot-on comment that should entitle her to a lifetime supply of answering-machine messages recorded by Carl Kasell.)

You can see Sagal and his premise coming from many miles away, making precisely the irritating jokes and wry asides you’d expect him to make. The effect — educational or otherwise — rests somewhere in a parched canyon between “Schoolhouse Rock” and a “Daily Show” segment; it is reminiscent of that hammy American History prof hoping to grease the tenure track by being funny and well liked....



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