Imagine taking your favorite crime-drama and making it a reality. That’s what the Serial podcast series does.
The podcast is a product of the same creators of This American Life, a public radio show and is
hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig. The plot of the podcast is a somewhat unsolved murder of a high school senior, Hae Min Lee, which happened in 1999. Authorities who worked on the case back then came to the conclusion that her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, had committed the murder. Syed, on the other hand, claims that he had nothing to do with it.
Koenig investigates the murder story some 15 years later to try and make sense of the case. She’s in constant contact with Syed, who is now in a maximum security prison in Maryland. The story of the murder has many holes, seeing as Syed, and other parities, like friends of the victim, don’t really have a clear memory of the day Lee was murdered.
The best part about this podcast is that it’s a true story and it’s seriously addicting. However, if the story was simply published in a newspaper or magazine, it would not be as interesting. The narration by Koenig, catchy music and actual phone calls to and from Syed makes the story seem more like a television series, but in real life.
Koenig’s voice is calming, smooth and clear. She doesn’t even seem to be reading a script. Her tone is very conversation, like she’s legitimately telling the audience her story off the top of her head. Sound bites from phone calls to Syed and other people, whether they are possible alibis or just old friends of the couple, put the story in perspective. The listener can actually hear the voices of the sources and visualize the reporter and the source having a real-time interview.
At one point in the show, Koenig tries to reenact the events of the day of the murder. She goes in and out of her car multiple times and drives down the same path Syed or Lee would have taken to get out of school. Throughout this segment, the listener can hear other voices, the wind, the car, footsteps, all kinds of natural sound. This nat sound helps paint the picture even further. If the show was just Koenig’s narration, it would be hard to close your eyes and really visualize what’s going on.
Another thing Serial does so well is music. The podcast has catchy background music at certain points within an episode. The music helps disintegrate any background humming and gives the episode some character. A podcast definitely needs some sort of catchy tune to accompany the nat sound.
This is the second time I have listened to the first season of Serial and it’s even better than the first. Re-listening to the podcast, I found that there were some things that I had missed the first time and now I’m able to put together the pieces of the story fully and I’m even more ready for the second season.
For a podcast to be well rounded and popular, a clear and concise speaking voice is needed. Also, the host of the podcast should write the script they way they speak or just speak normally with no script. A conversational tone is needed to make the show seem less boring and more engaging. Also, there has to be an interesting story with multiple voices of different people. If the podcast just has a host talking and no other sound bites, it will get dry. The speakers should be changed up a bit so there’s a bit of diversity.