Friday, October 24, 2014

Serial

I've always enjoyed the radio show This American Life - but I seldom get to listen to it due to when it airs on our local NPR station.

Note: this is the part where I admit I'm an idiot for not considering that This American Life would also be in podcast form until about 3 months ago. All those years, wasted. Sigh.


Anyway, I now listen to This American Life each Monday on the way to & from work, thanks to the magic of iTunes. Also, I'm enough of a fanboy to think it was cool that Ira Glass & the staff were in the Veronica Mars movie.

So when they started teasing that they had a new podcast-only show coming called Serial, I was curious. And when they took an entire TAL episode to give us the first episode of Serial...

...I was hooked.

Let's start with the "official" description of what Serial is...
Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
Which, I'll admit, sounds a little dry. Until you realize that the first story they're exploring is this:
On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t. 
Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she's been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

It's a real-life murder mystery - with all the confusing turns, dead-ends, questions & a-ha moments that make it both fascinating & frustrating... and absolutely riveting listening. I can't recommend it highly enough.

You can download episodes each Thursday on iTunes... and you should start from the beginning. (Episode 5 released yesterday.) Other information (maps, photos, letters, etc.) related to the story are available on the Serial website.

Note: the language & subject matter is occasionally non-family-friendly, as befits a murder mystery.

1 comment:

erikarneson said...

I'm listening, too, but I'm more skeptical. I worry that there will not be a big payoff at the end. (I don't have a set picture of what the payoff needs to be -- just that there needs to be one, given how much time I'm investing in listening to this one story.) But we'll see!