I love police and legal procedurals, often the freakier, the better. I also have a long, fond history with This American Life (shared a few WBEZ pledge drive shifts with Ira Glass - he's taller than you'd think, likes fresh muffins). So when you put those two together, I should be all over the Serial podcast: it's a real life, ongoing whodunnit from the makers of TAL. What's not to love?
Two major things...
- What I enjoy about procedurals isn't the gore or the scandal, but the
conclusion; I want to know who, and especially WHY, and prefer when the bad guys suffer. There's no guarantee that anything will resolve at the end of Serial - it's still being researched and recorded. We may -hell, probably will- end up exactly where we started.
- Serial isn't fiction. It's about the death of a real person, and while someone has been punished for her death, he might not actually be her killer. Even if Serial closes with a clear bad guy and appropriate retribution, it won't reanimate Hae Min Lee, and it won't rewind the last fifteen years for Adnan Syed.
I am happy to poke fun at the ripped-from-the-headlines-ness of Law & Order, or shiver over the creeps on Criminal Minds, but those narratives aren't real; I can step away from them with a clear conscience. Sarah Koenig obsessing (and often laughing) over how and why Hae was killed feels ghoulish and cheap.
None of which explains why I keep listening.
A bunch of media sources I admire are fixated on Serial: Slate, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Jezebel. I look forward the Thursday morning release of Serial, not for the podcast itself, but to review the outside analysis and try to understand the attraction.
I do not find this story engaging, I do not find these people compelling. I do not think Sarah Koenig is a good storyteller, I do not consider this an interesting podcast. But I keep listening because it sparked something for people I respect, and I'm trying to understand why.