The Serial Sessions

Podcasts are the new Netflix don’t you think?

There seem to be eleventy billion podcasts out there, right? I doubt there’s a topic you could Google that wouldn’t have a podcast dedicated to it, from cat hair braiding, to Oprah’s spiritual teachings, to modern art, to eavesdropping on one of my favourite rad ladies BabyMac chatting with her neighbour ‘Over the back fence’ (check it out here).

I’ve noticed in the past few years that people love to keep their ears full – listening to music, audio books, and now podcasts. I don’t think it’s good to keep your ears full all of the time, because then you never get to enjoy quiet times; like listening to the birds as you go on your morning walk, or the dinging of your tram as it trundles along. Occasional earbud-produced noises as well as natural, environmental noises can both be great.

Of the eleventy billion out there, the podcast that utterly captivated me last year was Serial, produced by the clever team at This American Life.

Last season, the Serial team investigated a murder case, which resulted in the conviction of Adnan Syed. From the Serial website:

On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body was found in a city park. She’d been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was sentenced to life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae’s body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

I was absolutely hooked from the first episode, and knowing that I was listening to an investigation into an actual case made the experience seem both voyeuristic and like CSI was coming to life in my car as I listened in the library car park.

The host of the how, Sarah Koenig, is an experienced journalist and investigative reporter. Her handling of the subject matter was respectful, curious and I thought, balanced. Plus, she has a GREAT radio voice, and the production quality of the podcast is top notch. Podcast listening takes a little getting used to, with its pauses and quirky music, to me it is well worth persevering with.

Since the first season of Serial aired, Syed’s legal team has won the right to appeal certain aspects of the original trial, which is extraordinary! Podcasts can be powerful.

One of the things I like about the format is how it’s the antithesis of a good binge watching weekend, unless you are prepared to wait several months to jump on the bandwagon. Serial airs one episode per week, and follows one story per season.

It’s a slow unfolding, rather than a wham bam thank you ma’am kinda deal, and I found that really appealing and a little frustrating. We’re so used to RIGHT NOW aren’t we, to spoilers and nicely wrapped up endings.

So, all of that, brings me to this, Serial is BACK!

Season 2 began this week and I am already ALL OVER IT. There’s quite a bit of all caps action in this post isn’t there?

I’m a tad excited. I may have downloaded the first episode at midnight on Thursday, and listened to it immediately.

This year the Serial team has decided to follow a story that has made headlines all over the world. It feels like the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster; a military thriller replete with national security concerns, negotiations with terrorists, and at its centre, a young, perhaps foolhardy soldier named Bowe Bergdahl.

Direct from the Serial website:

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

President Obama announced Bergdahl’s return in the Rose Garden, with the soldier’s parents at his side. Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, planned a big celebration to welcome him back. But then, within days—within hours of his rescue, in fact—public reaction to his return flipped. People started saying Bergdahl shouldn’t be celebrated. Some of the soldiers from his unit called him a deserter, a traitor. They said he had deliberately walked off their small outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory. 

Hailey canceled its celebration. The army launched an investigation. Finally, in March, the military charged Bergdahl with two crimes, one of which carries the possibility of a life sentence. Through all of this, Bergdahl has been quiet. He hasn’t spoken to the press or done any interviews on TV. He’s been like a ghost at the center of a raucous fight.

Now, in Season Two, we get to hear what he has to say.

You can download the first episode here and subscribe, sign up for newsletters and updates there too.

To share the love, I’ve decided to start a Facebook group for other people who might get a bit ALL CAPSY about Serial season two.

You can make your request to join the group, which I’ve nattily named The Serial Sessions by clicking right there. Go on, I’ll approve you in a jiff.

I haven’t sorted out the format of the group yet, there could be weekly live chats and there will definitely be ‘oooh, I didn’t see that coming’ moments. You might find great links on the back story or the latest insights that you’ll want to share.

If readers can have book clubs, why shouldn’t podcast listeners have chatty clubby Facebook groups?

It won’t be a ranty political space, unless the story merits that kind of discussion, which we’ll conduct respectfully. It won’t be a shouty, meme dropping space either. It’s a clubhouse where enthusiasm, curiosity and manners are paramount. Serial lovers of the interwebs unite!

Are you in? I’d love to see you there.

Click here to join the Facebook group, and don’t forget to download and listen to episode one this weekend.

All of a sudden I’m craving a bowl of Corn Flakes, go figure…..

I am in countdown mode for episode 2 already.

Yours in ALL CAPSY excitement,



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