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I am behind the times, my friends! When it comes to entertainment, I haven’t the foggiest notion what the young h!psters are into these days. Just look at my Netflix queue; It’s a miscellany of partially watched sitcoms and documentaries about North Korea. You’d think I’d have gotten onboard with the latest “hip” shows, but au contraire! What with the Walking Deads, Game of Thrones, Sons of Boardwalk Anarchy, it’s just too much to manage, yo! My life runs like a Rube Goldberg machine, so carving out time for “my shows” is rare. In other words, it takes a helluva lot for me to get reeled-in or obsessed with something, and when I do want to sit down and unplug, it better be riveting! I’m the guy that walked out of Hunger Games like “mehh.” I just can’t justify buying into the hype when there are literally 37,582 shows that I am supposed to be obsessed with at any given time according to my friends. How ya’ll manage is beyond me. But, once I do find something I like, I take the plunge with hook, line, and sinker. My latest semi-addiction: Serial.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Serial is a spinoff of the podcast, This American Life. Journalist Sarah Koenig takes us on weekly adventures analyzing and dissecting the murder trial and subsequent conviction of Adnan Syed, who was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The case was presented as a “crime of passion” – two lovers whose enchantment violated their families’ norms. When Hae ended their relationship, Adnan brutally strangled her in the trunk of a car in a parking lot. How Shakespearian. But Koenig is skeptical. Each week, she reveals new kernels of info, conducts interviews, seeks legal advice, and heavily scrutinizes the prosecution’s testimony to bring a new perspective to this case. It begs the question if Adnan is even guilty at all. If not him, then who is? Anyway, if you haven’t listened to it, or only followed a few episodes, here is why you should – and continue to – listen to it, and why it, in all seriallyness, is kind of a big deal!



              Serial strings you along as a jury of public opinion. The stakes are nil for the listener, and the drudgery of courtroom legalese is freshly vetted to give you a plain and concise synopsis of what’s going on. Koenig’s painstaking combing of endless papers, transcripts, and files gives us the key points, bit by bit, so we can attempt to reconstruct just what happened on that January day in 1999 when Adnan, allegedly, killed Hae. Each week, we as listeners are forced to remember these details, think about them in relation to other details, individual witness testimony, and decide what (and who) we believe. Naturally, almost every episode throws in some kind of “WTF?!” curveball. And that is the $#!+ that gets my insular cortex all in a fracas!



              Unlike a traditional story or script, which has a definite conclusion and an omniscient author, we are very much in lockstep with Koenig on her journey to peel back the pages of Adnan’s case. We aren’t sure what reveal she will share with us, what new things she will find, and odds are – she doesn’t either. This is largely unprecedented. The popularity of crime dramas, mystery shows, and whodunits extends decades, but unlike the dramas of primetime, Serial chronicles the living, breathing people directly involved in Syed’s case in real-time. We ultimately don’t know how each season will end and millions of listeners are all waiting with heavily bated breath!



              People who knew both Adnan and Hae have come forward to share information with Koenig since listening to the podcast themselves. Two informants in particular gave compelling information that potentially shook up other witnesses’ testimony and the timeline by which the state of Maryland used to convict Adnan. Let’s be clear… Serial is not the first public odyssey searching for a culprit, but it’s probably the first to be so massively accessible, succinct, and digestible in its short time span. It doesn’t hurt that Koenig’s voice is equally pleasant to listen to, either! The very fact that people who knew both Adnan and Hae – people sometimes excluded from the trial – have come forward to share information with Koenig has the potential to completely change everything.


              I’ve volleyed back and forth, ad nauseam, about whether or not Adnan is guilty. Ultimately, we will have to see what Koenig reveals. It’s entirely possible that she will make some groundbreaking discovery that proves Adnan’s innocence. Or, she may find the exact opposite – something that affirms his guilt. We just don’t know, and that’s what makes it so darn exciting for us as listeners! Nevertheless, even a big reveal that changes everything won’t necessarily get Adnan off the hook. And as one legal expert pointed out, just proving his innocence falls short of actually finding the killer.

Let’s be clear that there are critics – people who believe we’re capitalizing on the death of young woman and the incarceration of a man solely for a quick dopamine fix. Some argue that Koenig is getting too involved and she may be on a fishing expedition – seeking and zeroing in on details she thinks can help prove Adnan’s innocence. Even family members of Hae have come out publicly deriding the emotional rollercoaster the podcast has taken them on. Regardless of these criticisms, I think it’s hard to deny the far-reaching affect Serial has had on reimagining storytelling and giving us another reason to get all giddy on Thursdays. So, if you want to get even more sucked into this sort of hype, you can find blogs, vlogs, and Reddit subthreads, and even other podcasts about this podcast (yes, it’s a thing)! Serially, check it out!

Serial’s Website:

Louis Bertenshaw

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