There won’t be a new episode of the Serial podcast this Thursday (Jan. 13). The show announced on Tuesday that it was changing its format for season two to a biweekly format. Host Sarah Koenig explained the reason for the schedule adjustment on the podcast’s website and in an email to subscribers.
“I know… it’s maybe not what you wanted to hear. But, there’s a good and exciting reason, which is that we’re adding more material. This story goes in so many directions, and as we’re reporting it we’re getting access to more of the key people close to Bergdahl’s case, and to more information than we initially thought we would. Which is great. And which means we’re going to be adding at least one extra episode to the series. To do that—or at least to do it right—will take some time. Hence the change.”
Previously, Serial had been released on a weekly basis, other than taking a week off for holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day.
The need for more reporting speaks to a key difference between the stories Koenig and her staff have covered in its two seasons. The Bowe Bergdahl case for season two is an ongoing investigation with breaking developments or new information that can immediately affect the story being told. Season one essentially reopened a cold case, Adnan Syed being convicted for the murder of Hae Min Lee. That story wasn’t going anywhere and the show could control what was revealed in each weekly episode, building the narrative. With the Bergdahl case, circumstances can change very quickly.
“There are more paths we need to go down,” executive producer Julie Snyder told the New York Times‘ John Koblin. “Since we started broadcasting the show, we have gotten more people willing to talk, and because of that, it has opened up more avenues of reporting.”
Koblin asked if that reporting has turned up anything of news value, which would be curious since Bergdahl faces a court-martial for disappearing from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Snyder declined to comment on who the show would be talking to.
In December (one week after Serial‘s season two debuted, it should be noted) Gen. Robert. B. Abrams recommended that the sergeant be put on trial with a five-year sentence for desertion and a life sentence for “misbehavior before the enemy” at stake. Bergdahl was kidnapped and kept captive by the Taliban for five years before the Obama administration negotiated his release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in 2014.
Going to a biweekly schedule could further affect a podcast that isn’t drawing the same buzz that its first season generated. Season one was like a whodunit, a soap opera playing out on a weekly basis. Season two doesn’t have the same lurid quality, feeling more like a documentary than a reality TV show. Koblin points out in his NYT piece that the number of downloads has decreased with each new episode, though producers project an increase.
With the new schedule, Serial‘s second season is expected to increase beyond its projected eight to 10 episodes, but Snyder would not commit to an exact figure. (Season one ran for 12 episodes.) The show will likely last until late March, possibly through April.
You can read our recaps of Serial here.