Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A sober and restrained review of the Undisclosed podcast

Millions of people around the world can agree that Serial is a good candidate for the best podcast that has ever been made. It's gripping but a breeze to listen to; complex yet simply told.

The same cannot be said for its bastard step-child, Undisclosed. By the Adnan fangirls, for the Adnan fangirls, over the last four months it has smeared poo all over Sarah Koenig's masterpiece.

The brainchild of Rabia Chaudry, a family friend of Adnan's, Undisclosed also features Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, two legal geeks who became convinced of Adnan's wrongful conviction and blogged extensively on the matter.

Pretending they want to solve the murder of Hae Min Lee, when all they really want to do is chat about how lovely and cute and innocent Adnan is, the concept is inherently flawed and why Undisclosed was always doomed to fail. For the same reason I don't choose to sit and watch QVC for its honesty and realism, listening to three lawyers colluding to get Adnan released under the pretence of investigation is really quite irksome.

Our first defendant is Susan Simpson. I have no idea if she is a real lawyer or some kind of fantasist. Now I have this theory that people with alliterated names are bonkers - and Ms Simpson only convinces me further. But the real problem - and it's a fairly important thing when someone is speaking on a podcast - is her shrill, grating voice. Poor Susan Simpson suffers from a life-threatening case of vocal fry extremis - and I would gladly donate a large amount of cash to get her some speech therapy classes. She also speaks faster than a chipmunk on helium - I've checked several times to see if my podcast speed was x2, but nope. I've never heard a woodland creature sound so frightened.

"HGKGFFDGHJGFDRFDGKH," she trills. "HGGFDJLOPIIUYYTRRASFCVBK." And I'm like, for Christ sake, take a breath, babe. Mid-sentence, mid-clause, mid-word. Just sloooow the fuck down and enunciate those syllables. Isn't there some trick speech therapists do, where they put something between your front teeth? Well, get one to Ms Simpson before next episode, stat. Or remake every episode with a vocal actress playing her part. Undisclosed's popularity would probably shoot up within hours if they did. I'm going to be blunt and say it sounds like someone shoved an object inside poor Susie and made her read her blog out at knife point. (Now I think about it, maybe Rabia did do this.)

And her blog. Apparently she's written 300 page posts on why Adnan Sayed DEFINITELY DID NOT KILL NO GIRL. If she is an actual lawyer, I'm guessing work must be pretty thin on the ground if she's got all day to dick about doing that.

Next we have the waspy Colin Miller. Colin is, in some ways, a very different creature. A slimy toad. America's own Mr Loophole. I've a feeling that, in some prophetic way, Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons was based on him years ahead of time. He is a snake oil salesman. If I had a dog, I wouldn't leave it with him. I can hear his shiny suit through my earphones. Deception is leaking from him, but at least he can allow the air from his lungs to travel through his vocal chords in a way that doesn't make my ears bleed. But if sounding like a patronising c*nt is wrong, Colin doesn't want to be right.

Both the lawyers speak a constant barrage of boring, hooky legalese. You long for the easy honesty of Serial, but there is certainly no honesty in this. You long for one of SK's witty asides. I don't think Miller or Simpson are capable of making a witty aside. Humour and personality are not to be found here. They drone on and on and on, repeating their phrases and saying that everything in the whole world is a conspiracy theory. Not Adnan though. That boy is a saint.

Episode five had Simpson and Miller reduced to reading the terms and conditions of a 1999 mobile phone contract - for an hour. At that point I wondered if they were trolling, but could a pair of androids really do such a thing?

They take 50 minutes to say what SK would have said - nay, illustrated - in five. They try so hard and so patronisingly to hammer home a point, that when they finally do make it, I realise I've been in a reverie the entire time. There is no clarity in what they say, ever. Tbh listening to Undisclosed is more like hard labour in a concentration camp. I wish I could get the hours back. In episode seven, when Colin made a particularly dire metaphor, I felt an actual tear rolling down my cheek.

At least the podcast's production has improved since the first episode. That sounded like they'd put socks over their mics and gone in another room with the door closed.

The third presenter is Rabia, who is a milder legal eagle and family friend of the Sayeds.

Voice-wise, Rabia is fine. She doesn't sound like a distressed woodland creature or a Lawyer4U. It's the small matter of her sanity that concerns me more. She is on Twitter 23 hours a day telling people to fuck off if they slightly disagree with her. Did no one ever tell her you get further with honey than with vinegar? Now I understand why SK discreetly dropped her from Serial and never mentioned her again. Her scarily aggressive obsession with Adnan's case is embarrassing. I'm glad he is safe in prison because she would probably stalk him IRL and he would have to pepper spray her (or strangle her).

The stupid thing is, it's actually counter-productive. She's turning people against him with her fanaticism and combativeness. If she'd puff-puff-chilled when Serial ended, the case would still be taken seriously. Instead, it's becoming an unfunny joke.

Rabia can be a bit pompous or condescending at times on Undisclosed, as though this is the platform her ego has been waiting for all its life. Her evangelical zeal over the case can be weird, too. She says things like, "I knew Susan Simpson would be the person to solve this case," as though Susan were the new Hercule Poirot. 

Hae's family must be upset at the way Undisclosed has positively shredded the poor girl's remaining dignity. SK took extreme care in leaving the gory corpse talk out of Serial, but the Undisclosed episode which concerned lividity totally undid all that discretion in the most graphic way possible. Oh dear.

In contrast Rabia preserved Adnan's modesty when she told the story about how one of the cops told Adnan he was going to get his prostate tickled in big boy jail.

Together, Rabia, Colin and Susan are sounding more and more like stir-crazed loons. For their own safety, and that of the public, I hope they will soon destroy their microphones and internet-enabled devices. But I don't think they will. They are going to keep going with this, probably until they are in their 90s, in nursing homes. They will scream, "Adnan is innocent, I tells ya!" at the nurses. Susan Simpson will seceretly hide all her medication and use it to create a "cell tower evidence should be illegal" flow chart on the wall behind the wardrobe. A similar thing happened on a French film I watched. 

I can see that Rabia is deperate to keep the Serial train rolling. But it's a shame that in the process I've stopped caring about Adnan and Hae and their families. Instead, I'm wondering how or why I ever cared. On a human level, I feel sorry for Adnan that his case is being harmed by Simpson et al's buffoonery. Maybe it's time to let Adnan and Hae both rest in peace.


  1. Okay. Please provide one piece of hard evidence that Adnan is guilty.

    1. I'm literally so bored of it I can't even remember. Which one was Adnan again?

  2. I just listened to the first episode of S2 of Serial, and since I can't binge-listen, I decided to give Undisclosed a try.

    UGH. I was so bored that I googled "undisclosed boring podcast" and ended up here chuckling in agreement.


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