'Serial' Season Three to Follow Cleveland Criminal Court System

Courtesy of Serial Productions
Emmanuel Dzotsi and Sarah Koenig

The popular podcast will return in September.

Serial is returning for its highly anticipated third season. 

More than two years after the conclusion of its second season, the Sarah Koenig-hosted podcast will explore the Cleveland criminal court system.

The new season will debut with two episodes on Sept. 20. Episodes will be released on subsequent Thursdays. 

The team behind Serial says that the new season will explore a year inside the Cleveland criminal courts, telling the many stories of a single courthouse — from weed possession to the most serious felonies. Joining Koenig as co-reporter is Emmanuel Dzotsi, a former fellow from sister show This American Life who grew up in Ohio.

The first season of Serial became a near instant hit, introducing listeners to the podcasting medium with its reinvestigation of the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. After fielding questions from listeners about what that first season said about the criminal justice system, the Serial team decided to devote the third season to the topic by looking at ordinary cases in a typical courthouse. Koenig and Dzotsi were granted significant access, from courtrooms to judges' chambers to back hallways and attorneys' offices. 

"Every case Emmanuel and I followed, there came a point where we thought, 'No, this can’t be how it works,'" Koenig said. "And then we were like, 'Oh! Oh my god. This is how it works! This is how it happens.' People who work in the system, or have been through the system — they know this. But millions more people do not. And for the past year, I've had this urgent feeling of wanting to kind of hold open the courthouse door and wave people inside. Because things are happening — shocking things, fascinating things — in plain sight."

Added This American Life host and Serial editor Ira Glass, "I love how hard it is, what they're doing this season, how big the target is, that it's the entire system. Even listening to early drafts, which is basically just Sarah reading the scripts to a bunch of us over Skype and playing quotes off her computer, I had this dumbass fanboy 'OMG it's Serial!' feeling, just totally caught up in the characters and what happened to them, and in Sarah's deeply Serial-ish super-methodical, annoyingly well-reasoned investigation into the deeper truths that underlie all the stories."

Returning as executive producer is Julie Snyder, who has been with Serial since its first season and also created the S-Town spinoff podcast with Brian Reed.

Season one of Serial was released in 2014 and followed the story of Syed. Season two premiered in December 2015 and looked at the court martial of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Serial has been downloaded more than 340 million times since its debut and was the first podcast to win a Peabody Award.

The new season will be available to download via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Pandora.