The Young Pope was a comet streaking across the television sky, burning fast and bright and filling the black night with a sparkling glow. There’s really no other way to describe it. Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO series ran just 10 episodes, with two debuting each week for about a month, and in that time it managed to tell a moving story about loss and loneliness and family and redemption and the frustrating resilience of large institutions and about five other things, too. It was beautiful in story and beautiful in looks and just straight-up unlike anything else on television before or since.
It was also, if we’re giving a full and fair picture of the show as a whole, as crazy and chaotic as a bag of snakes. Australia gave the Pope a kangaroo and the kangaroo roamed the garden in the Vatican until it was murdered by protesters. Diane Keaton played a nun who would unwind by shooting hoops and it pleases me to report that Diane Keaton is very bad at basketball. The Young Pope — played by Jude Law — actually said “I am the young pope” at one point. At another point, he said this, which is one of the greatest lines of dialogue I’ve ever encountered.
This is just a sketch. You can’t truly explain The Young Pope in one paragraph or even two. I insist you watch it. I insist you all watch it. It is somehow much better than you think it is and much crazier than you think it is. You won’t even believe it. It’s almost definitely the most flabbergasting show I’ve ever seen, and I have seen a television show in which a character played by Judith Light does a line of cocaine out of an ornate golden box at a rodeo and then says “Mmm. Mama like.”
All of which is a preamble to the real news of the day: The follow-up series to The Young Pope, the exquisitely titled The New Pope, is becoming more real by the day and I could not possibly be more excited. Here’s the first official teaser trailer. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Hmm, I wonder if Jude Law will be strolling down a beach in a Speedo while throngs of women alternate between playing volleyball and gawking at him,” then buddy, you have a pretty good grasp on what kind of show we’re dealing with. Look at God and be thankful for Him.
Perhaps, as you watched that clip, you noticed the presence of a second character, one who looks a lot like John Malkovich. There’s a good reason for that: John Malkovich is also in The New Pope. In fact, John Malkovich is The New Pope. There is a television show on the way in which Jude Law and John Malkovich both play popes. Please think about that for a while. At least 10 minutes. Preferably not as long as I’ve been thinking about it (every single second since the casting was announced, even in my dreams and when I’m driving a car on an unfamiliar road), just for your own sake. Let’s top it out at 30 minutes for now.
“Ahhh,” you say after thinking about it for 10-30 minutes as requested. “But how? How can there be two popes at the same time?” Oh, I am glad you asked. I am so glad you asked. Look at this quote from Sorrentino in a recent Variety interview: