True crime podcast Serial is finally coming back. The podcast announced this morning that its long-awaited third season will begin airing on September 20th, and released a trailer for the season, which will spend a year within the Cleveland court system, exploring the less exceptional cases that go in and out of the court system.
In 2014, This American Life debuted its first season of Serial, which followed a man named Adnan Syed who was tried and convicted of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. The series set a record for listenership and was a big factor in the explosive growth of the podcast industry in the years since. After a second season in 2015 following the story of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the series went dark while its team worked on its third season. That was expected to launch in 2016, but the studio instead released a spinoff podcast, S-Town, last year, and made some incremental updates to their prior two seasons as those stories developed.
Now, after that long wait, Serial announced this morning that its third season will launch on September 20th, and released a 7-minute preview that gives a taste of what’s to come. The new season will return to the story of the criminal justice system, but rather than focusing on one, overarching case, host Sarah Koenig and reporter Emmanuel Dzotsi spent a year exploring Cleveland’s court system.
the new season will focus on ordinary cases in Cleveland
In the trailer, Koenig notes that the Adnan Syed case was an extraordinary situation, and that most cases don’t go through a lengthy trial. To better understand the criminal justice program, “ordinary cases are where we need to look,” says Koenig. This season will use anywhere between one and three episodes to examine a case in a different Cleveland courthouse each week in order to take a look at the entire criminal justice system and its impact on the people involved. The first two episodes of the show will drop on Thursday, September 20th, while new episodes will follow weekly.
Serial says that it choose Cleveland because “they were given extraordinary access to record inside courtrooms, judges’ chambers, back hallways, and attorneys’ offices,” and used their time to look at everything from drug possession to “the most serious felonies,” and will examine just how the courts work to mete out justice.
The shift in focus from a longer, overarching story to a look at the court system as a whole could be a good one: while the first season was extremely popular, many were disappointed with its lack of concrete conclusions (although there have been developments since then), and while the second season offered a bit more closure, it was still a story that continued after the fact.