You Should Be Listening To: Serial

Serial

Looking for your next show to binge-watch? How about a binge-listen?

We’re venturing into new territory here on Becca on Broadway: the land of podcasts. I’m pretty new to the experience, having only been introduced in September, but now I cannot get enough. Today we focus on one in particular.

If you’re a regular podcast listener, then you likely already know alllll about Serial, which is currently the top station. It’s a spinoff of This American Life, the popular public radio show hosted by Ira Glass. Each episode of TAL has a theme and is typically split into three acts as we hear different peoples’ stories (it was also a television series on Showtime back in 2006). Serial began in September, coincidentally right after I started subscribing to the podcast world. Sarah Koenig, a journalist and producer of TAL, is the host and executive producer. The primary difference between the two podcasts is that Serial focuses on one nonfiction story over the course of the whole season, each episode diving deeper and deeper into the details. There have been nine so far, ranging from 30-45 minutes each (it’s still TBD how many episodes there will be).

This first season is about a murder case from 1999. A Baltimore high schooler named Hae Min Lee was strangled, and her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison not long after her body was found. Fifteen years later, Adnan is an inmate at a Maryland correctional facility. But when we start to look into the case against him, it’s not the most clear-cut. Between the conflicting testimonies, confusing phone records, and lack of follow-through on examining the evidence, how sure are we that Adnan was rightfully convicted of this crime?

Not to say that’s all the podcast is about. Sarah Koenig isn’t just trying to prove Adnan’s innocence. He very well may be guilty (many listeners firmly believe he is), but either way, Sarah ultimately wants to get to the bottom of it. So she starts from scratch and is now reviewing the case piece by piece all these years later. This leads to many new mysteries as she interviews friends, family, and witnesses from the winter of 1999 – kids who are now grown adults. We also get to know Adnan, as Sarah has weekly phone conversations with him in prison.

Honestly, no matter what I say it won’t begin to cover how compelling this story is. I don’t know how they do it, but every episode is better than the last. Listeners are incredibly invested in this case, and it’s actually easy to forget sometimes that it’s real life. These are not characters in a movie. This isn’t a mystery novel. This is a tragedy that really happened which took one girl’s life and forever shaped her classmates’ futures. Episodes cover all kinds of emotions. I’ve had friends text me about crying on the subway as they listen. I’m pretty sure I often look stunned, with my mouth hanging open, as I listen on my commute.

Along with the captivating evidence reveals, testimonies, and recordings from the trials, Sarah is also a fantastic host. She’s riveting and relatable. We are going along on this journey with her, and she is just as stumped as we are. Her delivery is calming and smart, and she asks all the right questions (although the parody that’s going around right now is hilarious and a pretty spot-on impression of her intonation). While we’re on the topic actually, for you fans out there, I also suggest checking out these great charts (thanks for sharing, Dina!).

Want more reasons to listen? The theme music. The editing. The pacing. And the MailChimp ad at the beginning which somehow we’ve all grown to love and look forward to every Thursday morning.

So here is your assignment:
1) Install the Podcast app on your phone.
2) Subscribe to Serial.
3) Download the episodes.
4) Start with Episode 1: The Alibi (note: you definitely want to start at the beginning.).

They’re off this week due to Thanksgiving so it’s the perfect time to start catching up. Go with my blessing, friends. Give thanks, and binge!

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