Serial: The podcast that you need to know about.

by amy

First off, I have to give credit where credit is due. I first heard of the new serial podcast from This American Life called Serial from Jenny Rosenstrach’s blog Dinner: A Love Story. Though I love the idea of serial installments (which may explain my affinity for soap operas while in grad school), I’ll admit that the idea of a true-crime podcast didn’t quite pique my interest. Though I am entertained by the melodramatic (see: General Hospital), the gritty world of CSI-type investigations is not usually my cup of tea. But here is the caveat: Ira Glass is involved in the project AND Rosenstrach’s 12-year-old daughter listens to it. So I figured that it would be high-quality and not too gruesome for my taste.

I am happy to report that I gave it a chance and here’s why I think you should too.

The story begins in 1999, when high school Hae Mihn Lee disappears one day after school. Six weeks later, her classmate and former boyfriend is arrested and charged with her murder. The podcasts, which are uploaded on Thursday mornings vary in length (the first is approximately 50 min), most others are in the 30-40 minute range, making them the perfect length for an average work commute. When I tell you that the story is riveting, I am not kidding. And the website has a lot of really cool ancillary media (like this map, for example).

But here is perhaps the most interesting (and problematic) fact of the story: it is based on an actual case. And as The Guardian reports, this is causing some issues including investigation interference on Reddit.

If you are looking for a riveting, epidodic narrative that is not driven by a teleological force–i.e. creators say that each Serial season will stay with a non-fiction story for “as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it,” look no further.

Suffice it to say, if upcoming seasons are as engaging as this one, This American Life has a true hit on its hand. Download epidodes via iTunes, or listen on the website. If you are new to the series, start here, with Episode 1: The Alibi.