Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is "Serial" going to do for podcasts what "The Wire" did for TV?

I knew Serial would be good before I actually heard it because word reached me from the right places. I knew I'd hear it eventually so I didn't try to find out more about it. I didn't want to know any more. I still don't.

I knew it was by the same people as This American Life, which was good enough for me. They've got a style you don't find on British radio. In the case of Serial - and this is all you need to know - they've presented a whodunnit as a series of one-hour podcasts.

You encounter the story through the thoughts of a reporter who's puzzling over a fifteen year-old murder case. You hear her interview tapes, eavesdrop on her phone conversations. I don't know if the voices belong to actors, civilians or a mix of the two. It really doesn't matter. The beauty of Serial is there's nothing to compare it to.

I may not stay to the end. I don't know how many episodes there are and, where whodunits are concerned, I'm more interested in the journey than the destination.

All I know is this. Radio couldn't begin to do what Serial is doing.


  1. You could be right David;I read Miranda Sawyer's piece in the Guardian and then she pops up on the BBC's Media Show yakking on about it but I'm still not tempted. As it's been described didn't the recent HBO hit 'True Detective' lightly toy with this method.

    You suggest that radio couldn't begin to do what Serial is doing but could television? Or would it be a confusing visual mess as opposed to an intriguing aural puzzle?

    Now you've made me talk myself into listening to it.

    As for the pleasure of 'the journey' I am reminded of an early 90's(?) BBC documentary about bare knuckle fighting within the British gypsy communities.* The film-maker realised early on that he was being taken for a ride by the gypsy tough he had befriended and was to guide him into the demi-monde.

    Gradually he started to suspect that something 'wasn't quite right' and expressed his fears in the narration. There was a little revelation involving a photograph and it ended with the gypsy tough explaining his motivation.

    I'm not sure that the film-maker wholly enjoyed the journey but it made memorable television.

    *As ever the rectitude of my memory is open to correction.

  2. I reckon Sarah Koenig's attractive narration was a major plus-point. She sounds as befuddled as her listeners (about certain aspects of the case) and that kinda lends it that unique "we're in this ride together" style.