Friday, November 21, 2014


A curious phenomenon is taking over pop culture this fall. People all over the world have become obsessed with—wait for it—a Podcast. It's called 'Serial,' and I am among the hooked.

Produced by the team from This American Life, the show is narrated by Sarah Koenig. She takes listeners along with her through a (true) story she unravels in weekly episodes. She's reopened a murder case from 1999, in which a high school honor role student, Adnan Syed, was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend. He's been serving a life sentence ever since. 

I have never been much of an NCIS or SVU watcher, crimes shows don't particularly interest me. However, for me, Serial is gripping. It's fascinating and entertaining and incredibly detailed. It's also complicated and filled with emotion on behalf of the convicted, his family, his friends and also those who believe he is guilty. Not to mention Koenig, who's excellent storytelling pulls us into her own conflicted feelings about the case, the further she digs.

I'm no stranger to listening to stories: My parents and I listen to books-on-tape read aloud on our way to Sun Valley all the time. But, to have a story broken down into episodes like a television show adds this element of suspense and fuels speculation and chatter on behalf of the audience. Serial has inexplicably gotten huge throngs of people (to the tune of about 5 million downloads) excited to sit and do nothing but just listen.

But that's part of what makes it great. You can take the story in while you're out doing other things—which you can't exactly do with, say, Netflix. Suddenly, you find yourself wishing your commute was just a little bit longer.

I began episode 1 on my commute to work yesterday. I arrived at my desk before it had ended, and just sat there with my headphones in, unable to begin working or do much of anything at all until it had ended. I listened to episode 2 and 3 on my way home and at the grocery store, and then broke into 4, 5 and 6 as I made and ate my dinner. Though it was designed not to be binged upon, playing catch-up has caused me to do exactly that. I'm anticipating that I'll be fully caught up by the weekend, and left to wait impatiently for more—along with everyone else.

Serial releases new episodes every Thursday, and with the exception of Thanksgiving, they will apparently continue into mid-December with the conclusion of the season. All I can say is, pour yourself a glass of cider, cozy up and catch up! There are nine episodes out so far, but we have to wait until December 4 for the next one.

[Read a much more detailed and articulate case for listening to 'Serial' from the WSJ. And thank you MEGHAN  for turning me onto this!]

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