The final episode of Serial season one arrived amid a flurry of online excitement. The thinkpieces flowed like lava from a volcano — an apt metaphor given the temperature of some of the takes. Speculation about the perceived guilt or innocence of the show’s principal subject Adnan Sayed ran rampant, as did spirited debates about whether the series owed its captive audience a definitive conclusion. The show’s prominence grew so rapidly over its first three months that it warranted a Funny or Die parody starring Michaela Watkins and an SNL parody starring Cecily Strong.
It was a strange moment of mass adulation for what was, at its root, an act of thorough, rigorous journalism, blown out to epic proportions with the help of Sarah Koenig’s compelling delivery, eerily catchy theme music and the production’s team savvy week-by-week rollout. Suddenly, media outlets and pop culture consumers tackled a podcast about the localized failures of the American criminal justice system with the same fervor that they would the latest superhero movie or hourlong TV drama. When the dust settled, attentions quickly turned to speculation about the show’s seemingly endless possibilities for next steps.
Then a year went by. Radio silence.
The story on Serial began with a meditation on the malleability of the truth and ended with a much better-informed meditation on the malleability on the truth. The story of Serial began as a humble This American Life spinoff and ended as a phenomenon of iTunes sales, Slate thinkpieces and metapodcasts. In between, this unique marriage of TV crime drama tropes and investigative reporting instincts led listeners on a journey that plumbed the baffling depths of the American criminal justice system, exposed the blurry line between unbiased reporting and biased speculation, and asserted the audio podcast as a viable storytelling medium. Oh, and Mail Kimp exists.
The M&M Report, my podcast with my friend Devin Mitchell, is on hiatus this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. In case you’ve missed our first eleven episodes, you can catch up here. We’ve scrutinized TV pilots, debated the merits of Kanye West and Justin Timberlake, dissected thrilling Oscar contenders and revealed our pop culture preferences. Our friends Matt Waskiewicz, Chloe Johnson, Rachel Lomot and Alex Patel have joined us to chat about Breaking Bad, Arcade Fire, Gilmore Girls, Key and Peele and more. I’ve really enjoyed working with Devin to put together a fun and (hopefully) substantive show each week, and it’s been very exciting to see the podcast evolve.
Now that we’ve taken a week off, though, you’ve probably got a 40-45 minute hole in your weekly schedule. (Right? Roll with me here.) I’ve got you covered. Here are three pop culture podcasts worth checking out in your spare time.