Podcasts,Reviews

Review: Serial

20 Nov , 2014 | Jack Tremper  

The best new show isn’t on TV. Or Netflix. Or Amazon.

Instead, it’s streaming to whatever device you use to listen to podcasts. Yes, you read that correctly. Podcasts.

The show is Serial, the brand new podcast from the people who bring you This American Life.

Told in single episodes released weekly, Serial is a non-fiction investigation/story that will have you riveted and hooked instantly. It’s hosted by Sarah Koenig, a producer for This American Life, who has done an incredible job thus far narrating episodes, being our guide/storyteller and more than anything keeping us just as interested in the story as she clearly is.

This first “season” is a simple setup as Koenig investigates the 1999 murder of a teenage girl by her ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend, Adnan, was convicted and has been in jail for 14 years. But something about it all doesn’t quite add up. How was Adnan convicted on such a thin premise? Why can’t Adnan account for certain time periods on January 13, 1999? We don’t know the answers to these questions, and neither does Koenig, but it’s her relentless curiosity that drives the show. Every new fact she finds changes our opinion of Adnan just as she hasn’t made up her mind either.

Anyone who is familiar with This American Life will feel right at home listening to Serial. It retains its world-class reporting and the near-perfect tone in which stories are told. Koenig never feels like a reporter, but she feels like any one of us. She has the same questions we would have and the same response we would have when she is presented certain facts or potential leads.

The show at times feels surreal as Koenig interviews the convicted murderer, Adnan, over the phone constantly. They have a relationship that forms, and we as the listeners do as well. Just hearing from him makes it hard to imagine him as a killer and puts a very interesting spin on how we feel about the case. Gosh, he just seems so nice. We also hear from friends and former teachers of the two who do their best to remember what happened more than 14 years earlier.

At this point, Serial has posted eight episodes with at least an additional four more to go. There isn’t a bad episode in the bunch. There aren’t any detours that feel like a waste of time. The way they lead us as listeners is both guided and completely organic to the information that is discovered. Nothing feels biased in the way everything is presented, which is incredible when you consider that this is a show that has to hook people in. Instead, it simply feels honest.

I couldn’t tell you a negative about the show. It’s that incredible. If anything, I’m a tiny bit worried that the ending and resolution to the show will not satisfy me completely or something could be left open ended, but even if that’s the case, I fully trust that Koenig and the producers of the show will handle it as skillfully as they up to this point.

Serial is top-notch. Easily the best thing I’ve seen, watched or heard this year. It’s rare for me to look forward to getting in the car to drive to work but every time a new episode is out, I can hardly wait. I can’t think of any higher praise than saying the show is so good it makes me want to go to work just so I can listen to it.

 

Jack Tremper

Jack Tremper is a screenwriter in Los Angeles that pays the bills by fixing computers for a giant software company you've probably heard of. When not writing or clearing out viruses, he spends his time with his awesome wife and baby girl, allowing the wins and/or losses of the San Francisco Giants dictate his mood far too much, and sneaking out late at night to go see movies.

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