Notes on Serial Podcast, Season 1

I saw that HBO has a docu-series on the main story from the Serial podcast, season 1, and I was interested enough in the docu-series that I finally sought out the podcast. In this thread, I’m going to jot down thoughts and ideas. Here are some from the first two episodes:

1. One of the central ideas in the first episode involved being able to remember what you did several weeks in the past, with accuracy and detail. As the podcast points out, this seems especially difficult when nothing noteworthy or out of the ordinary occurs on the specific date. I was a glad to hear other people, including people much younger than me, struggle, because I know I would be awful with this. The more I think about this, the more I think most people would be really bad and unreliable–again, unless something really memorable occurred to on that date. 2. In a strange way, I like that the two principles characters are Asian-American. This is strange because the circumstances involve a murder, a potential crime of passion or something worse. On some (again, admittedly weird and maybe inappropriate) level, I like that we’re having a story like this about Asian-Americans. For one thing, it pushes against the stereotypes–that Asians are polite, good citizens, and maybe not really known for sexuality and romance. Additionally, the podcast really humanizes the two main figures. What comes through is these two people and their friends are just normal Americans–their culture, ethnicity, and religion feel almost secondary, and I really like that about the two episodes so far. Of course, the situation is awful, but Asian-Americans do awful things and are victims of tragedy–and the white Americans are not always the villain.

8 thoughts on “Notes on Serial Podcast, Season 1

  1. I listened to the first two or three episodes of this because I thought it was a very well-produced fiction. When I realized it was non-fiction, I kind of lost interest immediately. I’m just not interested in most true-crime content anymore.

    Although I guess you could say Spotlight, All the President’s Men, and The Post are a kind of true crime. Maybe journalistic dramatizations are the exception.

    1. When I realized it was non-fiction, I kind of lost interest immediately. I’m just not interested in most true-crime content anymore.

      Why is that? I’m kinda the opposite. If I found out this was fiction, I’d lose interest. I think I feel this way because I’d find the details to be uninteresting, cliched, or unbelievable, if it were fiction.

      By the way, this happened to me recently with the Netflix show, American Vandal. At first I thought it was a documentary, but then I realized it wasn’t, and I lost interest.

    2. The recreation of fuzzy phone conversations, the lyrical narrative by the podcast host, the artistic vision and statement behind the racial issues and immigrant issues: these things as a created project engage me and impress (or fail to impress) me. But there’s no voice-acting, or technical challenge in the recorded phone calls — they’re just recordings of phone calls.

      Crimes happen and I’m aware of this. I don’t usually need to be reminded.

      But a new way of making a podcast, a new creative way to tell a story? Yeah, sign me up for that.

      1. I’m unclear of where you’re coming from. It seems like you’re saying that you would have enjoyed the podcast more if the fuzzy phone conversations were a created, not actual conversations. That is, the fact that the phone conversations are real, they’re less cool because they aren’t creative.

        On some level, I can see what you mean, but there is still a lot of creativity involved in the editing and organizing of the material. My sense is that this is far more creative storytelling and quite removed from something like objective journalism or cinema verite.

        Crimes happen and I’m aware of this. I don’t usually need to be reminded.

        This seems extremely reductive and an unfair rendering of the podcast. I mean, if this was accurate, I wouldn’t be interested in the podcast, too! To me, the podcast involves a real life mystery–Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee? Additionally, the story features minority characters and portrays them in a humanizing way–something that I think is still too infrequent in our culture and society.

        1. I’m not saying the crime itself isn’t interesting or that the podcast isn’t creative. I’m saying I was interested in it when I thought it was one thing, but when I found it was something else, I was a lot less interested. The stuff that brought me in turned out not to be there. As you (once?) knew, I read The Stranger Beside Me and Helter Skelter, so I’m not saying I have no interest in a well-told true story. I’m saying that I was really turned on by what I thought it was, and disappointed when I found it it wasn’t.

          1. I’m saying that I was really turned on by what I thought it was, and disappointed when I found it it wasn’t.

            Ah, OK, I got it.

            Plus, yeah. True crime doesn’t turn me on that much. I don’t think it’s very healthy media consumption.

            I think this is a valid point. I’m not really interested in true crime that involves serial killers, but at one point (starting with A Thin Blue Line) really interested in true crime that involved unjust convictions. But I’ve also lost a lot of interest in those type of stories. For some reason, the new HBO series on Syed piqued my interest, and I wanted to listen to the podcast before watching the series.

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