Now that Serial, Season 1, is over, I’ve been thinking about some stories that would be better told in the Serial format, slowly examining one angle at a time, with the soul of the story building over time.
If you’re unfamiliar with the This American Life spinoff podcast series called Serial, which is produced and narrated by Sarah Koenig, you’re technically in the minority. Somehow, it went from nothing to being the most successful podcast in history, and has roughly 5 million active subscribers and counting.
The first season was a who-dunnit murder mystery about an actual murder in the Baltimore area in the late 1990s involving a teenage female victim, and her ex-boyfriend who pleads innocence and ignorance, a drug dealer who claimed to have helped the ex-boyfriend commit the murder, a random guy who claims he merely discovered the body when he pulled off the side of the road and walked very deep into the forest to go pee, girls who claimed to have gotten calls from the two boys at different times in places that may not even exist, a prosecution team who secretly helped the drug dealer secure a good lawyer in order to further their own offered plea deal for him that would set him free and put the ex-boyfriend in prison, a prosecution who opted to not test any of the DNA evidence taken from the crime scene, a jury who openly had issues with the ex-boyfriend being middle-eastern, and other classmates of the victim who actually saw the ex-boyfriend at school, but were never called on in the trial, because the trial lawyer was maybe throwing the case so she could earn extra money in the appeals process to pay for her secret but serious health condition she was suffering from.
The entire story is a mess, and practically nothing anyone says feels or sounds true, but that is exactly why this iterative series of evidence scrutiny is the perfect format for this type of complex story, because to the ex-boyfriend, this story is that complex, and he’s been sitting in jail for 16 years now, even with the very real possibility that he didn’t do it, and almost no physical evidence supporting the verdict.
The thing is, though, despite the truth of everything, one doesn’t truly understand the nature of the case until they go through everything, and that takes time and attention. So, while listening to that podcast series, it made me think, “wow, there are a lot of stories that would be better told in this format”.
Here are some stories that would make epic Series seasons:
The killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson
This is a really complex story. Was the officer really in danger? Does this police department really have a history of racism and police brutality? Was the teenager really a criminal? Were the key witnesses for the officer telling the truth? Were the key witnesses for the teenager telling the truth? Seriously, so many gray areas in this story.
The famous Pacquaio-Bradley boxing match upset
Boxing match fixing has been one of those things that has been talked about for a really long time, and while everyone says its obviously possible that match fixing really happens, is it so clear? Who would have to be paid by whom in order to fix a match? Who would benefit from a Pacquaio loss? How is it possible that Pacquaio could have a technically provable score almost double that of Bradley? Why is the scoring process so secretive for the Nevada State Boxing Commission?
The possible voter fraud surrounding the 2000 presidential election recounts
When it comes to money and influence, having your guy in office is about as valuable asset as you could ask for. So, the question is, did Bush really win that election that resulted in the Florida recounts? Who were the interested lobbyists and political interests that stood to benefit from the election? What money went where at that time? Who was in charge of these counts?
Edward Snowden and the Prism program data leaks
Oh man. This is a juicy one. What did Snowden have to gain and lose by doing this? What did the government stand to gain or lose by running the Prism program? Why is social network data so valuable to the Government? Come on, you could think of a hundred interesting questions about this one.
My point is, there is definitely a class of issue or topic that falls into the category of “needs iterative expository” and the above topics definitely would work well in those formats. I’m excited to see what Sarah Koenig decides to run with.