Open Forum Friday: What Did You Think of Serial: Season One?


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since podcasting was born, a fact that Slate recently celebrated with a series of features on the history if the medium. It seems fitting then that on this significant anniversary the podcasting world has arguably found its first real breakout hit. Serial, a true crime podcast hosted by This American Life producer Sarah Koenig, has recently taken the internet by storm, pulling in an average of 1.2 million downloads per episode and sparking discussion like no other podcast has before. But is it a masterwork of non-fiction storytelling or is it just a sensationalist sham of questionable journalistic credibility?

Focusing on the 1999 murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, the podcast has been trying to shed new light on the case one episode at a time. While the initial presentation of evidence had a lot of people hooked, the show has increasingly relied on speculation and hearsay to continue the investigation (largely because so much time has passed). Somehow this seems more acceptable when framed by Koenig’s gee-whiz narration, and while some have questioned her motivation, to be fair the podcast has potentially helped Syed get a new appeal. So what do you think? Are you a fan of Serial? Was the final episode satisfying or was it just a wet noodle? Who do you think killed Hae Min Lee? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

  • Jonny Ashley

    It’s interesting when compared in the same lane as paradise lost and the staircase. The last episode confused me as it was basically a large roundabout disclaimer that her speculation could be completely wrong. The last four episodes should have been one final episode. Just a big wet noodle.

  • theGOAT

    Boring as all hell, couldn’t finish the first episode, turned it off and went back to an old episode of this show. ¯_(?)_/¯

  • Dan Day

    I enjoyed it but then I like true crime stories. She definitely ran out of material in the last couple of episodes and seemed to be repeating herself. The conclusion was frustrating but I don’t see how she could confirm Adnan’s guilt or innocence considering the case is ongoing.

    So it was flawed but overall worth listening to. Sean I hope you cover it on the show.

  • Derek

    Full disclaimer: I haven’t listened to it but I already tired of hearing about it. From what I can tell it’s just a true crime story, ala Dateline, but with the “This American Life” name attached so it’s drawing in a “more respectable” audience. But, again, I haven’t listened. I am actually more interested in checking out The Staircase.

  • iammattz

    I thought it was really great for the first few episodes, but I’d say that the series has a very noticeable dip in quality starting right after the “innocence project” episode. The last two episodes are especially boring to listen to as Koenig starts reaching further and further, taking calls from just about anyone who claims they knew Jay or Adnan in order to further her narrative. I mean, she spends about half of the second last episode on how Adnan stole some money from the mosque (somewhere between $10 and thousands of dollars) – was the amount of time spent on that really necessary? If the point of all that was to call Adnan’s personality into question and make us think he might be a sociopath, I think she failed big-time.

    To me, this all speaks to Serial’s biggest problem: Koenig had no direction for where this story was supposed to go. In the end, we end up hearing the same theories we’ve heard for 11 episodes being mulled over, no new revelations, and the “revelation” that sometimes innocent people might go to prison, but that we can never really know for sure. It was a bit of a let down considering how great the first few episodes were.

    I think the second season of Serial would benefit from being recorded in advance of distribution to the general public. Koenig could then just use the opening or ending 10 minutes to discuss new information that comes to light over the course of the season. At least then there would be a starting point and ending point for her narrative.

  • Lori Cerny

    The Staircase is riveting. I watched all of it, nearly 6 hours, in one sitting. Highly recommend if you like police procedurals.

  • 1138sw

    I for one enjoyed it and thought Sarah Koenig and Dana and her other producers did an excellent job.
    As for the conclusion of the series, I didn’t mind it…to me it sounded like how life has the tendency to be….vexing, frustrating, tantalizing, exciting and at the same time lead you nowhere and perhaps nothing or perhaps pure hell.

    I didn’t expect SK to solve the case but at least give Adnan and his family a chance to reclaim his innocence. And in this situation based on the numerous articles I have read about the series it has.

    The show gave a layman’s point of view of a case…almost like a good samaritan helping to solve a crime…SK wasn’t a criminal investigator or a investigative reporter for that matter…but a journalist trying to shed some light on a case where a man might just be innocent…and for all the negatives and positives of the show, she might have done just that.

  • MisterQuigley

    Loved it, as the first episode was that weekend’s This American Life. But by episode 3 when everyone and their mom was discussing it, ugh. I enjoyed it immensely, and don’t want to discus it ever again.

  • Flo Lieb

    I like cereal

  • Captain Morgan

    I loved it. I’m pumped for season 2. I also like true crime stories. Yes, there was some element of repetition, but I think that was kind of unavoidable with all the names and facts flying around.

  • I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you go into the series expecting the case to be solved. It’s like Sean’s silly reason for not liking Zodiac.

    I enjoyed Serial because I love procedurals. One of my absolute favorite parts was trying to find if there was ever a payphone at the Best Buy. It’s such a small detail but I really like all of the attempts to track down evidence a decade and a half later.

  • devolutionary

    Yeah for me, the best part about the podcast was that they made all the documents and findings (ie: phone records) available for all us amateur sleuths to go through. There seemed to be a real sense that Sarah was going through the case file only slightly ahead of her audience. I only hope that next season’s case is able to maintain more consistency as you could feel the wheels slowly spinning out of focus in the 2nd half when most of the episodes struggled to reach 30 minutes.

  • Captain Morgan

    On it. Thank you sir!

  • filmstache

    The staircase has a great performance by some guy that looks like Dustin Hoffman trying to get away with murder. Also if you compare the two lead suspects of two series they have completely different ways of proclaiming their innocence.

  • filmstache

    I think you have to give her credit for getting into the minutia of speculation. If you are going to compare it to Dateline then this is a hundred times better because, Dateline doesn’t care about the outcome. I’ve seen many Datelines end up with a conviction based on lousy cases, and they are only concerned with the verdict.