With the rise in popularity of visual media and easy access to services such as Netflix and Hulu, audio entertainment and radio programs have become less and less prevalent. However, recently there has been a huge surge in the popularity of podcasts, especially one in particular: “Serial”.
“Serial” is a podcast spin-off of the National Public Radio program, “This American Life.” On “This American Life,” every show has a topic and various stories are told relating to that topic.
Producer Sarah Koenig, however, wanted to tell one story over a series of episodes, so she started her own podcast.
The first season of the podcast follows the true story of a Baltimore boy, Adnan Syed who was convicted of a murder. He was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. The conviction was based on indirect evidence with no physical proof connecting Syed to the murder. Every episode of the podcast re-examines and reinterprets evidence, building a narrative of what could have really occurred that fateful day.
The podcast has all the makings of any crime drama you might see on TV. Fans like myself appreciate the show’s ability to communicate emotion and suspense through audio without need for a visual element.
“Serial” has been downloaded over 5 million times on iTunes, becoming the most popular podcast ever. And for good reason, too. “Serial” has all the makings of any television crime drama, but effectively expresses a narrative strictly through audio.
Koenig has a knack for making the listener feel involved in the investigation. It’s like you’re right there with her combing through the evidence. She presents the facts in a way where the listener comes to their own conclusions but at the same time lets her opinion be known.
I don’t know whether or not Syed committed the murder, but I believe the primary witness, Jay Wilds, is involved. Wilds was able to locate Lee’s car, the one she was driving the day she disappeared. He proved to be unreliable, changing his story drastically over a series of police interviews.
He claimed to have helped Syed bury the body. However he and Syed were just acquaintances, not good friends. Why would Syed ask a person he knew very little to help him commit such a serious crime?
These are the things Serial fans debate about endlessly on Internet forums such as Reddit. Everyone has an opinion and a strong one at that. People have petitioned to release Syed and sue the state for his unlawful imprisonment.
The popularity of the podcast has sparked new interest in the investigation and the idea that Adnan Syed is innocent. His conviction was based on his lack of a solid alibi, making him unaccounted for at the time of the murder.
Listening to Serial is like riding an unstable roller coaster. You don’t know what turn the story will take next or what will happen around the next corner. Once the storyline was established, I quickly got invested in the series. I kept myself up at night thinking of all the possible scenarios that could’ve led to Lee’s death.
But whether or not Syed is innocent, “Serial” has accumulated mass popularity through a combination of intense interviews, shocking evidence, and classic storytelling. I can’t wait for the second season, which I’m sure will tell an equally captivating story.