Podcast Recommendation: Radiolab’s 'More Perfect'

(Screenshot/WNYC)

(Screenshot/WNYC)

Picking a new podcast can be a challenge. There are so many options to choose from and not everybody have time to sort through hour-long podcast episodes, so recommendations may be necessary. After a year-long break, Radiolab’s “More Perfect” is back for a second season and seriously deserves a listen.

The podcast is about Supreme Court cases, both past and future. The highest court in our country may not be the first thing people think of when looking for a new podcast, but the pod’s structure allows it to be many things at once and never fails to be interesting.

The series varies between episodes describing past cases and their impact today, and upcoming cases before the court. The first three episodes of season two are indicative of this structure. Episodes one and two focus on what happens when the Supreme Court fails to uphold the Constitution, specifically in the cases of Japanese internment during World War II and the Dred Scott decision of the 1850s.

The two episodes delve into the negative effects of the Court’s lapse in judgment and the legal reasoning behind the decisions. They then bring those conversations into the present day and connect them to Trump’s travel ban, which is currently barreling towards the Supreme Court.

Episode three looks forward to an upcoming string of cases that will present mathematical solutions to the unending problem of gerrymandering. This structure makes the show doubly topical, in that it can give legal precedent to current issues and recommend important topics in the future that might not be front-page news.

What makes “More Perfect” so unique is its creator’s ability to find small pieces of gold in the stories they are covering. Without fail, every episode has some bit of information or anecdote that is truly fascinating, like in season one’s episode “The Political Thicket.” The episode details a judge who had a nervous breakdown from the pressure of a decision and started speaking his punctuation aloud.

Episode one has the stand-out moment of season two so far, when 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner describes the reasoning behind the Supreme Court upholding Japanese internment, stating, “We do not have courts so that presidents can be checked in situations of national emergency. That’s not why courts were set up.”

This is such a striking quote because it undercuts the problems that could arise from a podcast focusing on the Supreme Court, which is the glorification of the institution as an all-powerful force of good in our country. Posner believes the court is far less powerful than the presidency during war, and the episode provides a situation when the court was objectively wrong in its decisionmaking.

The Supreme Court is a refreshing topic these days because of its lack of political bite. Many politics-related podcast have been driven further to the right or left following last fall’s election, but “More Perfect” dives into issues that are not decided by what side of the political fence a listener lies on. Issues like gerrymandering are less party-affiliated, which could be a breath of fresh air for some listeners.

Episodes of “More Perfect” come out roughly every week during the season.


Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.craven_jr@uconn.edu.