Serial, Its Hype, and Misconstrued Expectations

About a year ago, I was spending my usual Sunday evening winding down listening to This American Life‘s newest episode. At the end, I heard Ira mention in his speedy, rhythmic, nasaly voice that the following week’s episode would also be the debut of TAL‘s first spin-off podcast. Never would I have thought a podcast would become so popular that it could form its own spin-off. Surely it couldn’t stick?

After listening to the first installment of Serial during the following week’s TAL episode, I was hooked. Soon after I was talking about it with my sister, my podcast bestie. Then, Mama G joined our discussions. I was happy my existing podcast pals at work were into it, too.

A few weeks later, I started to noticed some peculiar happenings.I logged on to Facebook and–hold up–that girl I know, who would fit the shitty label of “basic,” was posting about Serial. Then that guy I was friends with in college started sharing theories from a Serial subreddit.

Wait, there’s a Serial subreddit?

The following week, my co-worker came in proudly wearing a shirt that said Mail Kimp…? Err, Serial has merch now?


I was thrilled that a public radio podcast became a part of the mainstream, pop culture conversation. What was once something I could only chat about with a handful of people quickly became water cooler talk (we even made a dedicated channel to talk about it internally, called Serial For Breakfast *rimshot*). As the episodes unfurled, we were all consumed by Sarah Koenig’s brilliant storytelling.

And that’s what I think many of us forgot–or never even understood–about Serial. It’s storytelling. It never guaranteed a solution.

As the final episodes drew near, the new podcast fans were colorfully expressing their disappoint with the show, and why won’t they give us more details about what they know? In a world of popular crime dramas with neatly tied-up endings, a lot of folks became incredulous at the fact that no, maybe Sarah won’t solve Adnan’s case.

Sorry, folks. We can’t all be Ice-T when it comes to reading up on crimes.

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Anyway, I digress. A few months after the first season ended, I would see the occasional article about Serial shared on social media. Every now and then I do a Google News search to see if there are any updates (other outlets will report minor progressions with the appeal process). It wasn’t until this week, in fact, that Sarah had an update that she deemed worthwhile to share.

Basically, the ~*~cell phone expert~*~ who testified to corroborate Jay’s patchy story with the phone records wrote an affidavit earlier this month saying that, due to a missing fax cover sheet (?), his initial testimony was not accurate. The cover letter essentially had a footnote that said the data provided in the documents is only valid for outgoing calls, not incoming.

I’m not going to get into the minutiae of my stance on whodunnit, but rather mention that my initial excitement was not reciprocated from the folks who, one year prior, were all astir with anything to do with Serial. Not a peep from the girl, not a “like” from my college friend. Not gonna lie, it was a little disappointing.

Is it because people stopped caring about the show once the it ended unsatisfactorily for them? Or maybe because 12 months have passed, and Serial was the only podcast that ever piqued their interest, but now said interest has waned?

Fortunately, I still have my longtime podcast pals to deliberate with about these new developments, but I can’t help but get bummed out that the hype has died down… for now. Let’s hope season 2 is equally captivating, and brings public radio podcasts back into pop culture.

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