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Serial

10 Crazy Serial Theories

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Serial

In the five weeks since Serial debuted, it's become a veritable phenomenon. Averaging roughly one million unique listeners an episode, it reaches an audience on par with the most recent season of America's Next Top Model. But Serial isn't found on network television: It's a podcast. A modern-day radio program. And its viral popularity has reached a fever pitch.

A spin-off of the popular NPR radio program This American Life, “Serial is a podcast where we unfold one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season,” the podcast’s website says. “We'll stay with each story for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it.” 

So, as co-producer (and This American Life veteran) Sarah Koenig unravels the story of Adnan Syed, the Baltimore boy who, at age 18, was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend in 1999, the audience listens along in rapture. We rejoice when Koenig reveals potential breaks in the case and struggle with the same feelings of doubt when she gets stuck. We have become armchair investigators, looking for clues in a real-life crime. And as such, we’ve developed some theories of our own.

1. Adnan Killed Hae

The simplest solution may in fact be the most difficult to believe (or at least, it is for me). And that is that Syed really did plot to kill his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and then strangle her in the Best Buy parking lot after school on January 13, 1999. In short, it all went down just as his friend Jay told the police—or, it all went down one of the ways Jay told the police. Adnan acted alone and then asked Jay to help him hide the body, just as Jay claims. And the Asia letters? And the sketchy testimony? And the questionable cell phone evidence? And Adnan’s continued insistence on his innocence? Forget ‘em. 

2. Adnan and Jay Were in Cahoots 

If Adnan was involved with Hae’s murder, it seems more likely that he had some help from Jay. The call log, which the prosecution put so much stock in, seems to indicate that the boys were together for most of the afternoon. It shows multiple calls made to Jenn—a friend of Jay’s, not Adnan’s—between noon and 4 p.m. on the 13th. Because Adnan wasn’t friends with Jenn, these calls were most likely made by Jay. 

The two boys aren’t placed together until they arrive at Cathy’s house in the evening. Adnan, Jay, and Cathy all agree that they spent a bit of time—stoned—at her apartment. And it’s here that Adnan gets a phone call from the police (on the log, the incoming call at 6:24), asking whether he knows where Hae is. After leaving Cathy’s, Adnan’s cell phone pings a tower near Leakin Park, supposedly confirming that Adnan and Jay went there to bury Hae’s body.

For members of the Serial subreddit (a rabbit hole I don’t really recommend you go down), the most convincing bit of evidence that Jay and Adnan conspired to kill Hae together is an under-his-breath comment made by Adnan during the trial. In an early episode, Koenig reveals that during the trial, Adnan murmurs a comment that sounds like “pathetic” under his breath during Jay’s examination. Reddit commenters have a whole thread about this point, feeling that Adnan’s aside corroborates Jay and Adnan’s partnership. What a strange choice of words: pathetic. Many commenters believe it indicates that Adnan was angry at Jay for breaking an oath and ratting him out.

3. Jay Framed Adnan 

Full disclosure: This is where I’m leaning. Call me naive, but Adnan’s professions of innocence sound sincere. And there is nothing unusual about his lack of memory about the day in question—do you know where you were on a Wednesday afternoon six weeks ago? I sure don’t. So Asia’s pronouncement that he was in the library and Adnan’s assumption that he was at track practice seem equally likely. Jay, however, by his own confession, was in possession of Adnan’s car and his telephone. The vast majority of the calls made by said cell phone were to people that only Jay knew. And the two boys were not seen in the same place until Cathy’s apartment, after sunset. So really, what prevented Jay from killing and burying Hae before ever meeting up with Adnan in the evening?

Oh right, the Nisha Call.

4. The Nisha Call is a Red Herring 

I’m not convinced the Nisha Call, in capital letters, is as much of a smoking gun as Koenig makes it out to be. In fact, I think it only further corroborates my theory that Jay (with a little coverup help from his friend Jenn) killed Hae on his own and then pointed to Adnan. Because if you were in possession of your friend’s car and your friend’s phone, how would you make it look like your friend was with you? By calling someone in your friend’s phonebook whom you did not know.

During the trial, the lawyers question Nisha about a time in which Adnan called her and then put Jay—at Jay’s insistence—on the phone to say hello. While Nisha confirms that such a call did happen, she is adamant that it was made from the adult video store where Jay worked. The thing is, Jay didn’t start working at the adult video store until a few weeks after Hae’s murder. So it’s clear that the phone call Nisha remembers, and testifies about, is not the same phone call that took place on January 13. According to the call log, the phone call made to Nisha’s home phone (not her cell) on January 13 was placed at 3:32 p.m. and lasted two minutes and 22 seconds. Since Nisha testifies that this number is not connected to an answering machine, someone must have answered the phone and spoken for a little over two minutes. Since this was Nisha’s home phone, any number of people (her parents, any siblings she may have, anyone spending time at the Nisha Family Homestead) could have answered the call. And who’s to say that Jay didn’t either chat this person up under false pretenses—say, pretending to be a telemarketer or a friend of Nisha’s from school?

All I’m saying is, there’s no proof Adnan himself placed this call and spoke to Nisha.

5. Jenn Killed or Helped Jay Kill Hae 

Based on what we’ve heard so far, there’s no substantial proof that Jenn—or Jay, for that matter—had any motive to kill Hae. What we do know is that Jenn’s knowledge of Adnan’s alleged murder seems pretty dang convenient. And also that Adnan’s phone called Jenn’s home or pager seven times on January 13. Seems mighty fishy to me, and I’m hoping we clear up some of this murkiness in Thursday’s episode, which will focus on Jay.

6. The Streaker Killed Hae 

The police were a little quick to exonerate “Mr. S,” the streaker who found Hae’s body buried in Leakin Park, if you ask me. By Koenig’s own admission, Hae’s body, despite being buried in such a shallow grave, was incredibly hard to see—especially by a person who had just pulled his car over to the side of the road for an emergency pee break. So then, how did Mr. S know where Hae was buried? He was the one to bury her there, of course. Here’s how it all went down: Hae came across a nude Mr. S in the woods. Surprised, she screamed and started to run away. Not wanting to be arrested again, Mr. S. ran after Hae and attempted to subdue her. He accidentally killed her in the process. Plausible, right?

This theory has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese (How did Hae’s car get to the park and ride? Why would Jay make up such an elaborate story if he had nothing to do with the crime? What was Hae doing in Leakin Park?), but it brings up an important point... 

7. Someone Completely Random Killed Hae 

Hae’s murder may have been a random event. Or, as Deirdre Enright, director of investigation at the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project, and her team suggest, it may be the work of an unidentified serial killer. As revealed in Episode 7, Enright and her students’ preliminary investigation unearthed a few possible bits of evidence that were dismissed out of hand by the law enforcement officials handling the case. Once Jay stepped forward, they zeroed in on Adnan—perhaps to their detriment. 

8. Stephanie and Jenn Killed Hae 

Here’s where things get a little crazy. If you dive deep into the Serial subreddit (again, not recommended), you get some pretty out-there—but then, maybe not so far out-there?—theories. One that crops up again and again is the idea that Stephanie, Jay’s girlfriend and Adnan’s close friend, was involved with Hae’s murder. Despite being close with both Jay and Adnan, no calls were placed to Stephanie on January 13. This is especially strange because January 13 was Stephanie’s birthday, and the whole reason Jay needed to borrow Adnan’s car was to buy Stephanie a birthday present. 

To add more fuel to this theory, Adnan did speak to Stephanie twice on the night of January 12. Could it be he told her something about Hae that angered her? Made her angry enough to kill Hae? If Stephanie was Hae’s murderer, it would make perfect sense for her to turn to Jay—her boyfriend—to help her cover it up.

9. Some Dude Named Roy Davis Killed Hae

Leave it to reddit to hone in on a specific, seemingly unrelated suspect. But maybe the craziest part about this theory is that it might not be so crazy at all. In 2004, DNA evidence helped to convict a 50-year-old man named Roy Sharonnie Davis III of raping and strangling 18-year-old Woodlawn resident Jada Lambert. Lambert’s murder happened in May 1998—just nine months before Hae went missing. Even creepier, Davis lived just six miles away from Woodlawn High School and even closer to Campfield Early Learn Center, the school where Hae was supposed to pick up her cousin. The redditor points out that Davis was also charged in 1996 with possession of marijuana. Could he possibly have purchased said marijuana from … Jay?

10. Jay Is a Criminal Informant

One rather imaginative redditor proposes that Jay was actually a criminal informant. According to this commenter, this would explain why the police were so quick to trust Jay and rely on his testimony, and would also explain why there is no record of a private meeting that was known to take place between Jay, his lawyer, and the judge residing over his plea hearing.

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20 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. Show
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You never need an excuse to look back at Mr. Show with Bob and David, but given that today is co-creator Bob Odenkirk's 55th birthday, now seems to be as good a time as any.

1. BOB ODENKIRK AND DAVID CROSS’S FIRST MEETING DID NOT GO VERY WELL.

Following four years of writing on Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk was in Los Angeles in 1992 as a writer for the Chris Elliott Fox cult classic Get a Life. David Cross was a comedian in L.A. after performing for years in Boston. One boring afternoon, Cross asked friend and fellow stand-up Janeane Garofalo if she knew anybody that played basketball. The two went to Odenkirk’s house, and Garofalo introduced David to Bob and then asked if he wanted to play basketball. He said no.

2. ODENKIRK AND CROSS FIRST WORKED TOGETHER ON THE BEN STILLER SHOW.

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two ended up having numerous fruitful collaborations, starting with their work on The Ben Stiller Show. Odenkirk was a writer/performer on the short-lived but Emmy award-winning sketch show with Garofalo, Stiller, and Andy Dick. Cross was brought in in the middle of the show’s 13-episode run as a writer.

3. THE CO-STARS FIRST PERFORMED ON STAGE TOGETHER AS "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ."

Odenkirk and Cross performed sketch comedy together at the Diamond Club in Los Angeles, with a third improviser that, the joke went, would either be deceased or out elsewhere getting high.

4. "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ' WAS ALMOST THE TITLE OF MR. SHOW

Odenkirk also pitched the title Grand National Championships, but David Cross was never a fan of it.

5. JACK BLACK, SARAH SILVERMAN, AND OTHER FUTURE STARS APPEARED ON THE SHOW BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS.

Black was in four episodes of Mr. Show, starring in the classic Jesus Christ Superstar parody “Jeepers Creepers.” Silverman was a performer in 10 episodes. Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe on 24, was a featured actress in the first two years. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, was a series regular for a majority of the run. Scott Adsit, a.k.a. 30 Rock’s Pete Hornberger, was in six episodes.

6. PATTON OSWALT WARMED UP THE MR. SHOW CROWD.

In addition to performing stand-up before tapings and keeping the studio audience interested in between scenes, Oswalt played Famous Mortimer in the episode “Operation: Hell on Earth” (but was credited as “Patton Oswald.”)

7. HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE NOT KIND TO THE ORIGINAL SETS.

Because the pilot episode was shot at a “down and dirty,” small Central Hollywood club, the sets had to be placed outside, where homeless people defecated on them.

8. YOU MIGHT ALSO RECOGNIZE SOME OF THE WRITING STAFF.

Dino Stamatopoulos was already on the original writing staff of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and had written for David Letterman before writing for Cross and Odenkirk. He would later create three shows and play Starburns on Community. Writer/performer Scott Aukerman co-created and executive produces Between Two Ferns, and created and stars on Comedy Bang! Bang!. Writer/performer Paul F. Tompkins hosted VH-1’s Best Week Ever! and currently hosts the satirical debate show No, You Shut Up!, where he moderates discussions by a panel full of puppets. Bob Odenkirk’s brother Bill has written ten episodes of The Simpsons.

9. THE DIRECTORS OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE LEARNED HOW TO DIRECT COMEDY FROM MR. SHOW.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton were known for directing music videos like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” and decided to direct two Mr. Show episodes to expand their filming vocabulary. The husband and wife team were behind the camera for the classic sketch “Monk Academy.”

10. ONE SKETCH WAS INFLUENCED BY LOUIS C.K.

One of the first sketches in the show’s history involved Odenkirk playing a priest forced to do rather unpleasant and un-priestly things. The idea sprang from a conversation David Cross had with fellow young Boston comic Louis C.K., where Louis talked about annoying people that try to claim a prize on a bet that their friends never agreed to in the first place.

11. HBO ONLY CENSORED THE SHOW ONCE.

Throughout four years and 30 episodes, the lone note Odenkirk and Cross got from HBO was to get rid of a line where one character tells another to have sex with a baby. Odenkirk admitted that being told to edit it out “wasn’t too much to ask.”

12. THEY ONLY RECEIVED ONE VIEWER COMPLAINT.

The only angry letter that Odenkirk and Cross were ever made aware of was from a military veteran who was offended by the sketch in “Who Let You In?” where Cross’s performance artist character attempts to defecate on the American flag. The two stars actually called the viewer and discovered that he didn’t watch the entire sketch, and therefore never realized that Cross’ character was never able to actually go through with it.

13. ONE SKETCH WAS CUT FROM THE SHOW SIX TIMES AND NEVER MADE IT TO AIR.

A sketch called “Party Car,” a joke on old, low-quality shows filled with '70s celebrities was cut from half a dozen scripts and never filmed. It would have featured Nipsey Russell, Zsa Zsa Gabor, (or reasonable facsimiles), and a baby in a balloon-filled car.

14. BOB ODENKIRK GOT IN TROUBLE FOR USING A PICTURE OF HIS DEAD GRANDFATHER.

Because the sketch “Old Man In House” needed a photo of an old man, and the elderly gentleman was not the butt of the joke, Odenkirk thought it would be fine. Instead, some Odenkirks were “very upset.”

15. CROSS WAS PAYING OFF HIS STUDENT LOAN DEBTS THROUGHOUT MOST OF THE SERIES.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Despite executive producing and co-creating a series on television, Cross had trouble paying off his student loan debts from his time at Emerson College. Figuring that the person calling from the bill collection agency wouldn’t believe that he couldn’t pay if he knew his job status, Cross pretended that he worked at Mr. Show as a messenger.

16. ONE PERSON WAS GIVEN A "SPECIAL THANKS" IN THE CLOSING CREDITS OF EVERY EPISODE AS A JOKE.

As Cross once explained, Rick Dees was thanked in the credits of the pilot episode, even though he was “certainly nobody we would ever thank, or be in a position to thank.” Some personalities that were thanked for no discernable reason were Greg Maddux, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Gabe Kaplan, and Howard Zinn.

17. HBO CHANGED THE TIME SLOT FOR ITS FINAL SEASON, AND IT WAS "DEMORALIZING."

After airing Fridays at midnight for the first three seasons, HBO moved the show to Mondays at the same time, confusing some loyal viewers, and the ratings decreased as a result. Bob Odenkirk told a reporter that, after 30 episodes, HBO was still treating the cast and crew as “second-class citizens,” and that they were “demoralized” by the slot shift.

18. BOB AND DAVID TOLD A STUDIO AUDIENCE THAT THEY HAD JUST WITNESSED THE FINAL EPISODE, AND THEY WEREN'T JOKING.

“Patriotism, Pepper, and Professionalism,” the 40th and final episode of Mr. Show, was taped on November 21, 1998. After the final sketch was filmed, Odenkirk and Cross made their announcement, although the show’s cancellation wasn’t made official for another few months.

19. THERE WAS A MR. SHOW MOVIE THAT WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.

Run Ronnie Run focused on David Cross’s redneck criminal character Ronnie Dobbs. It was filmed in 2001, but never made it to theaters. Bob Odenkirk admitted that the movie wasn’t perfect, but he blamed the poor quality on director Troy Miller, for not allowing himself and Cross to edit the movie.

20. THE TWO HAVE REUNITED A FEW OTHER TIMES.

David Cross and Bob Odenkirk star in 'W/ Bob and David'
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

In 2002, Bob, David, and Mr. Show writer/performers Brian Posehn, John Ennis, and Stephanie Courtney (Flo in the Progressive commercials) toured the country to perform some of the show’s sketches and material from their unproduced screenplay Mr. Show: Hooray For America! The next year, Odenkirk guest starred as Dr. Phil Gunty on a season one episode of Arrested Development, alongside Cross’ character Tobias Fünke.

In 2012, Odenkirk, Cross, and Posehn went on a six-city tour to promote their book filled with more unproduced material. Bob and David appeared briefly together the next year on an episode of Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! In 2015, 20 years after Mr. Show's debut, Netflix premiered W/ Bob and David, a five-episode sketch comedy show created by and starring the duo.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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