Quite a few of us here at FAC like to listen to podcasts while we work. One that’s been buzzing around the office lately is Serial, the new spinoff from our beloved This American Life. For those unfamiliar, each week the producers at This American Life chooses a theme and puts together different kinds of stories on that theme. The notable thing about this show is that it tells stories that its listeners wouldn’t otherwise hear, and blurs the line between art and journalism in the process.
Serial takes this storytelling technique one step further: they’ve chosen one story (in the case of Season One, a murder that took place in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1999) that they’re telling week by week. They’re specifically investigating the events that occured over a 21-minute period one afternoon. The date is January 13, 1999, which is the day that Hae Min Lee, a popular senior at Woodlawn High School, disappears. Her body was found about a month later in a park in Baltimore. Six weeks after the day she went missing, Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested. He’s been in prison ever since. He says he’s innocent, but can’t prove his alibi. In fact, the case against Adnan rests almost entirely on the fact that he can’t remember where he was during the 21-minute window when investigators think Hae was killed.
The story is very reminiscent of Twin Peaks, another high school murder mystery set in the 90’s, and I personally feel like I’m constantly flipping between thinking Adnan is guilty and innocent. Each episode takes the story a bit deeper, and introduces a new doubt for the listener to have (whether it be a doubt about Adnan’s guilt or his innocence). The thing is, unlike Twin Peaks, this story is true and real people’s lives are affected by what Serial may unearth.
Serial has released three episodes so far, with another 9 to come this season. You can listen on the Serial podcast website.