This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The watercooler show of the moment isn’t something you watch — it’s something you hear.
Serial, a true-crime podcast from producers of This American Life, is the current object of media fascination, with each Thursday-morning episode drawing 1.26 million listeners and dominating iTunes charts. “Our optimistic side hoped for 300,000 [listeners],” says production and operations manager Emily Condon, who adds that the show’s staff of four, plus producer Ira Glass, is “very, very surprised” by its success.
Hosted by TAL vet Sarah Koenig, Serial offers a reexamination of the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Baltimore high school senior Hae Min Lee. Shortly before Lee went missing, she had broken up with Adnan Syed, a then-17-year-old honors student who was later tried and convicted for a crime of passion. Now 33 and serving a life sentence for the murder, Syed professes his innocence to Koenig in a series of engrossing telephone interviews.
Since the Oct. 3 debut, leading Hollywood storytellers such as Darren Aronofsky and House of Cards creator Beau Willimon have been effusive about Serial online. Meanwhile, TV and film producers keen on adapting the property are approaching Glass’ UTA agent, Keya Khayatian. While it’s not without precedent — a version of TAL ran for two seasons on Showtime — Condon says the team is “not engaging in those kinds of discussions” until after the last episode has aired, likely in mid-December.