The Serial podcast crew is expanding under a new production company, reports Vulture. Appropriately named Serial Productions, the company will produce additional podcasts on top of future seasons of the main podcast, Serial.
On top of this announcement came the news that Serial Productions will be producing a new show titled S-Town. According to Vulture, Serial senior producer Julie Snyder described the project as “arty” and “novelistic.” Rolling Stone reports that Snyder and S-Town producer Brian Reed had been working on the show long before Serial ever launched.
Vulture also published a section of the Serial Productions press release, which includes hints as to the content of S-Town. The story follows a man in a small Alabama town who wanted a reporter from This American Life to investigate claims that a member of a local wealthy family had gotten away with murder. The story spirals from there into “a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure and the mysteries of one man’s life.”
Furthermore, International Business Times reports on comments from Crime Writers On podcast host Rebecca Lavoie, who says that S-Town may also involve a real-life treasure hunt of special note for the Alabama listeners. Lavoie speculates that the treasure hunt will focus on the search for a cache of gold worth about $100,000.
This isn’t the first time a podcast has expanded to encompass a certain brand of storytelling. The immensely popular Welcome to Night Vale began in 2012 as simply a podcast; now, it headlines the independent podcast company Night Vale Presents, which features several shows that are wildly different in content but maintain the surrealist tone for which the Welcome to Night Vale podcast is best known.
With S-Town, Serial Productions is preparing to do the same thing for serialized nonfiction stories. It’s a smart move, because Serial‘s explosive internet popularity led to a renewed interest in true-crime stories, just as Welcome to Night Vale generated interest in more fiction podcasts. In addition to the deluge of true-crime and other serialized nonfiction podcasts, the television industry jumped into the field headfirst as well, with everything from Netflix’s Making a Murderer to the award-winning American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson on FX.
Serial originally launched in October 2014 as a spin-off of This American Life. The first season told the story of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and her convicted ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, as the podcast’s team (including the on-air voice of Serial, Sarah Koenig) sifted through the evidence, court trials, and interviews with the people involved to determine Syed’s innocence or guilt.
Season 2 was co-produced with Mark Boal, the writer-producer of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, and his production company Page One. Boal and the Serial team had a common interest in Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier charged with deserting his Army unit in Afghanistan. Bergdahl was subsequently captured and held by the Taliban for five years until then-President Barack Obama cut a deal for his release in May 2014. The season’s big mystery focused on whether or not Bergdahl’s reasons for deserting the Army base were justified.
The subject of Serial Season 3 has yet to be announced, but International Business Times notes that Koenig and other producers of the podcast have been spotted at the trial of a Cleveland, Ohio man accused of murdering three people in a barbershop. This may indicate that Season 3 will return to the true-crime drama of Season 1 after the second season’s examination of the Bergdahl case left some listeners feeling unsatisfied.
Serial Productions has yet to set a launch date for Serial Season 3 beyond the vague “summer 2017” window, but S-Town is set to premiere in March. If the series follows Serial Season 2’s bi-weekly episode releases, that means the show could easily hand off to the parent show at its conclusion, giving listeners a long-term podcast commitment for the hot summer days to come.
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