The team behind podcast hit "Serial" are premiering the latest season of the investigative series — digging into the inner workings of Cleveland's criminal court system — later this month.
The first two episodes of "Serial" season 3 will debut Sept. 20, with subsequent episodes to be released weekly on Thursdays. Instead of telling a single story over the course of the show, as the first two seasons did, the third run will follow many different stories with some spanning two or even three episodes.
When "Serial" first launched in 2014, the spinoff of NPR's "This American Life" became an overnight podcasting success.
In the first season, Sarah Koenig narrated an investigation into the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore. (The show led to Syed being granted a retrial in the case, which remains pending.)
Season 2 of "Serial" documented the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who was captured by the Taliban. The first two seasons of "Serial" have been downloaded more than 340 million times.
Now, with season 3, "Serial" tells the stories of ordinary cases as they wind through the justice system in Cleveland. Producers said they chose Cleveland because they were given unusually free access to record inside courtrooms, judges' chambers, hallways and attorneys' offices.
For the latest season, Koenig and reporter Emmanuel Dzotsi — an Ohio native and former "This American Life" fellow — spent more than a year in the city, looking at small criminal cases like marijuana possession and disorderly conduct and more serious ones including felonies. The duo say they documented various manipulations, distortions and justifications that they say produced a disparity between what people did and what they were punished for.
The show comes from Serial Productions, formed by the podcast's original producers in 2017, and is partnered with "This American Life," which is produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media. The executive producer of "Serial" is Julie Snyder, who also created the company's "S-Town" podcast with Brian Reed that launched last year.
"Every case Emmanuel and I followed, there came a point where we thought: 'No, this can't be how it works,'" Koenig said in a prepared statement. "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."