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Serial season 3 to follow story of 'one courthouse, week by week'

The podcast will follow host Sarah Koenig as she attempts to understand the US criminal justice system.

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Sarah Koenig is back with a new story to tell us, week by week.

Serial/Screenshot by Katie Collins/CNET

Popular podcast Serial is back for a third season, starting Sept. 20, after a hiatus of two and half years, producers announced on Wednesday.

In a trailer posted on Serial's website, host Sarah Koenig gives listeners a glimpse of what they can expect from season 3 of the show. Koenig explains that the season will follow her as she spends more than a year inside a courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

"We chose Cleveland because they let us record everywhere -- courtrooms, back hallways, judges' chambers, prosecutors' offices," she says. "And then we followed those cases outside the building, into neighbourhoods, people's houses and into prison."

The tagline for the season, produced by This American Life, is: "One courthouse, told week by week -- you'll see what we saw from the inside."

It marks a departure from the standard formula for Serial, which in the past was described as: "one story, told week by week." Listeners can expect to hear many different stories from this season, rather than following the thread of a single narrative.

Serial started in 2014 investigating the conviction of Baltimore teenager Adnan Syed for the murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The podcast became a viral hit and in 2017 it was widely reported that season 1 had been downloaded over 175 million times.

Season 2 of the podcast aired between December 2015 and March 2016 and focused on the story of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for five years by the Taliban and then charged by the Army with desertion. In between seasons 2 and 3, This American Life and the producers of Serial released a standalone podcast in 2017 called S-Town, hosted by Brian Reed. All seasons won awards for investigative journalism, but Syed's case and season 1 of the podcast have continued to intrigue people -- in no small part because in March Syed was granted a retrial.

In many ways, season 3 of Serial sounds like more of a natural continuation of the series than either season 2 or S-Town.

"Ever since that story aired, people have asked me and the people I worked with, 'What does that case tell us about the criminal justice system?'" says Koenig in the trailer. "And the answer is, the case of Adnan Syed wasn't typical in any way."

Rather than attempting to understand the system by just interrogating one extraordinary case, she explains that this season is about exploring it through ordinary, everyday cases. If that sounds dull compared to the interrogation of a potential wrongful murder conviction, Koenig keeps us on tenterhooks with this artfully crafted nugget.

"Every case we looked into, there came a time at which I said, 'Wait, this can't be happening,'" she says. "And then, it did."

Count. Us. In.

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