When Serial first debuted, it was nothing short of groundbreaking. It transcended the normal podcast format, going far beyond the usual talk-show mentality and digging into real, investigative reporting. Host Sarah Koenig took it far beyond its original intention, drawing in record-breaking audiences and keeping the whole country on the edge of its seat for the entirety of its 12-episode run. During that run, we got a look inside a 16 year-old murder case that most had forgotten about. By the time episode 12 wrapped up, nobody could forget about it anymore.
The basic rundown of the show: Adnan Syed was convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, but went to prison under some incredibly strange circumstances. His own lawyer made numerous errors in his defense, the prosecution’s star witness had a story that changed virtually every time he told it, and not even Adnan could quite remember where he was on the day of the murder. Serial‘s first season broke all of this down into digestible pieces, laying all the facts out on the table, leaving it up to the listener to draw their own conclusions. The end result was an audience of millions, a Peabody Award for excellence in radio journalism, and a 2-season renewal funded entirely from donations.
With all these accomplishments comes even higher expectations for the future of the show. Season 2 kicks off “sometime later in 2015,” and all we know so far is that it will be “very different from Season One, but no less interesting to us.” The story of Adnan was brought to Koenig’s doorstep by a friend trying to win his freedom, after which she did absolutely stellar work unraveling the thread. But the question then becomes simple: Can Serial strike gold again with a new story?
Given the talents of Koenig as an investigative journalist and master storyteller, there’s reason to be at least tentatively excited. Not every story can be as page-turning as Adnan’s though. There was no way anyone could have known how deep that rabbit hole would go when Koenig first started looking into the case. She probably understands that fact as well as we do, making the decision to do something “very different” a wise one. There’s no sense in trying to recreate a one-of-a-kind story, leaving her with the unenviable task of looking for a new one that enraptures in the same way.
In many ways, that’s the double-edged sword of Serial: Finding a fascinating human-interest story isn’t necessarily hard, but what they have to do is find the best human-interest story. That task can very much be like searching for a needle in a haystack, and there’s a safe bet that Koenig’s inbox is bursting at the seams with pleas from readers to tell their tale. From here, the new Serial can be anything. It can be another criminal justice narrative, or it can go in an entirely new direction. Whichever it chooses though, it’ll succeed based on the strengths of its first season; things like the tenacity of Koenig, the complexity of the story, and of course the compelling way it’s delivered.
What exactly the future of Serial‘s next two seasons holds remains to be seen. Baring a huge collapse though, we expect it’ll be equally as stellar as what we’ve seen. A creative team that skilled at digging up the truth and spinning that into a intriguing tale is the one you want handling this challenge. Luckily Serial has just that team. Here’s the to the next story.
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