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The Case Against Adnan Syed: The story from Serial is becoming an HBO series

The Case Against Adnan Syed: The story from Serial is becoming an HBO series
Adnan Syed in high school. (Photo by Syed family/HBO)

The podcast Serial was inspired by a documentary reality series about a mysterious death, and now the crime covered in Serial is becoming a documentary reality series.

The Case Against Adnan Syed will air on HBO as “a four-hour documentary series” that offers “a cinematic look at the life and 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and conviction of Adnan Syed, from the genesis of their high school relationship, to the original police investigation and trial, through to the current day, when Syed faces a new trial after serving 18 years in jail,” according to HBO.

The new HBO series, which does not have a debut date, is directed by Amy Berg and HBO says she’s been working on it since 2015; the podcast started airing in the fall of 2014. HBO’s press release acknowledges that Serial brought the case to the world’s attention, and Adnan’s attorney, Rabia O’Chaudry, tweeted:

“it was Amy Berg’s documentary ‘West Of Memphis’ that I watched one night on Netflix, turned off the tv & got online to search for a reporter to investigate Adnan’s case. I found that reporter same night, Sarah Koenig. Now Amy is directing this series.”

Syed was convicted of murdering his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999; the podcast examined evidence and, as its executive producer Julie Snyder told NPR, showed that “the story that the state presented at trial could not have happened.” Since the podcast aired, a series of court rulings have held that Syed should be granted a new trial.

HBO makes an interesting claim: that “the outcome” of Adnan’s case will “possibly [be] shaped by the investigation pursued within the series itself.” They seem to be hinting at some kind of bombshell evidence.

Here’s how HBO describes its version:

“The series will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, a case brought to global attention by the hugely popular “Serial” podcast. …

… The Case Against Adnan Syed closely re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, from high school romance, forbidden love and cultural conflict, to the aftermath of her disappearance, the original police investigation and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial. Presenting new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case, and featuring exclusive access to Syed, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement, the series traces how the rush to justice and Syed’s conviction in 2000 raised more questions than answers about what happened to Hae Min Lee, underscoring the instability of memory and conflicting eyewitnesses.”

The series will have a soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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