Although I listen to the radio show This American Life from time to time (which I hold in high regard), I only just came upon their spin-off show, Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. The premise of the show is to report on a true story over the course of an entire season comprised of twelve chapters.
Per Serial's website, Season 1 is about the following story:
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 turned up 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 convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his 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.
My opinions of the show and its journalistic purpose oscillated back & forth throughout the 12 episodes, at times I believed in the journalist's pursuit and at others, I felt completely disheartened, wondering whether the story was worth telling. I told myself that I needed to look at this as if it were a documentary but even then, as I listened on to the often reality TV show'esque reporting, I kept finding myself querying what story I was being told - is this a story about a man wrongly convicted of a crime? is this a story about the failure of the justice system in the US? or is it a story about the trials & tribulations of an investigative journalist? is it maybe a story to stimulate the listeners to cross the fine line between justice & injustice? all of the above? The show states that the questions we're hoping to find answers to are, "How can you know a person's character? How can you tell what they're capable of?" (my answer to both these questions is that you cannot, and I did not need this show to tell me that).
By the end of the last episode, it was completely unclear to me what I had just experienced. I cannot deny how gripping the show was and at times, I wondered if my annoyance with it was my fault, because as an avid absorber of fictional material, I felt dissatisfied by the conclusion, or lack there of: we never find out if Adnan Syed did in fact kill Hae Min Lee, and that's life, we cannot expect to have answers to everything. A devils's advocate may even say it is a sign of societal malaise that we cannot rest with uncertainty. I say, dear reader, give it a go and let me know what you think. Was it worth your while?
PS: while we're talking radio shows, I also discovered that Alec Baldwin has (or had, this may be a legacy show) his own show, Here's The Thing. I have had a crush on Alec Baldwin ever since 30 Rock, and his charisma transpires through his show ever so brilliantly, I am now happily making my way through his archives. Mr B is an auspicious interviewer, he asks questions I never knew I wanted to know the answers to! Check him out!