At the rare times the Supreme Court pops into the consciousness of the public, it is usually because of a vexing case or, more recently, a personnel change or two. Rarely is there a chance to step back and look at the Court’s history or its evolving role in the life of the nation.

PBS makes a vitally important effort to do just that in a four-part documentary, “The Supreme Court,” which begins airing this week. It is a must-see series that takes the viewer back to the pitifully weak early days of the Court, then all the way forward to its current incarnation as a center-of-the-universe powerhouse. It perfectly tees up the current air of anticipation over just how conservative the new Roberts Court is — or will be, with another vacancy or two.

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