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Nine Very Legitimate Questions About The Upcoming HBO Series ‘The Young Pope’


The Young Pope is an upcoming series that was developed by Sky Atlantic and Canal+ for European audiences and will be shown in America early next year on HBO. It stars Jude Law and Diane Keaton, and was created by Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty). It is also my favorite show in the entire world even though I have yet to see a single episode. It had me at the title The Young Pope and that picture of Jude Law in his fancy pope sunhat. Just based on those two things alone it’s already better than, say, Ray Donovan. I don’t know. I’ve never seen Ray Donovan, either. Does Liev Schreiber ever wear a hat that looks like the one Jude Law has on up there? No? Hmm. Well I guess I stand by my point, then.

I have been thinking about the show pretty frequently since I saw the teaser trailer last month (not an unreasonable amount, just like 6-7 hours a day), so what I’m going to do is collect some of those thoughts and lay out what we know so far about it, with the goal of explaining why this whole thing lives in my brain now. Here are nine questions about The Young Pope.

What is The Young Pope about?

Let’s get this straight from HBO:

‘The Young Pope’ tells the controversial story of the beginning of Pius XIII’s pontificate. Born Lenny Belardo, he is a complex and conflicted character, so conservative in his choices as to border on obscurantism, yet full of compassion towards the weak and poor. The first American pope, Pius XIII is a man of great power who is stubbornly resistant to the Vatican courtiers, unconcerned with the implications to his authority.

And Sorrentino says it will focus on “the inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as Pontiff” as well as “how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one’s neighbor.”

So, to sum it up in a sentence, it appears to be kind of like House of Cards, but if Frank Underwood cared about poor people and was Catholic.

Did you catch the thing in there where Jude Law’s character was named “Lenny Belardo” before he became pope?

Because that’s important. Jude Law is playing an American man from New York named Lenny Belardo. Lenny Belardo. What a perfect name. It just rolls together perfectly, almost like one word. Lennybelardo. It sounds like the name of a union boss on Law & Order who knows more about a murder than he’s letting on. I really recommend, if you want to get the full experience here, that you try saying “Ayyyyy it’s me, Lenny Belardo, the Young Pope” in your best cartoon New Yorker voice. I promise you that you won’t be able to stop. I’ve been doing it for a full month now.

It’s also fun to imagine how you would react if an American guy named Lenny Belardo got elected pope. Or maybe like a guy named Trevor. Or maybe a pope with a more normal name who decides to go by Pope Trevor once he gets in there. A pope can do that, you know. There are really no rules to the whole naming business. There are generally accepted practices, sure, like choosing the name of a previous pope or religious figure they’d like to emulate, but it’s not like anyone is gonna stop you. No pope had ever gone by Francis until the current one chose it. And even if someone did want to stop you from picking “Trevor,” I mean, who could? You’re the pope.

Does this pope negotiate?

This pope does not negotiate.

How can we be sure, though?

At one point in the teaser trailer, someone — possibly Lenny Belardo himself — says the following: “This pope does not negotiate… on anything… or with anyone.”

What kinds of things would you do if you were The Young Pope?

I would do all sorts of things if I were the Young Pope. Examples include:

– I would ride a motorcycle around the Vatican while wearing a leather jacket over my my full, all-white robe, and a white helmet decorated to look like a pope hat, and I would speed by people on the street causing them to get momentarily furious at the maniac on the bike until they realize that the maniac in question is me, the Young Pope.

– I would cruise into services close to late but always perfectly on time. Like everyone would be really worried I was gonna miss it but I’d be all “Start the service, I’ll be there,” and I’d zip up on my motorcycle as the opening hymn was playing and be taking off my helmet and leather jacket as I made my way to the alter for the opening prayer.

– I would have special robes made so I could flip up the collar on mine real dramatic-like while I was playing pool or preparing to leave a room.

– I would rig some of the organs in the Vatican to start playing hymns when I hit them with my elbow or give them a little kick, like the Fonz used to do to the jukebox in Happy Days.

Now that I think about it, I would basically just be the Fonz. Pope Fonz.

When you heard there was a show coming out called The Young Pope, you totally pictured a toddler pope, or maybe a teen pope, right?

I definitely did. My mind immediately jumped to a tiny adorable pope in a tiny adorable hat, and then shifted course to a surly teen pope slamming the door to his bedroom in the Vatican and screaming into his pillow because the cardinals won’t let him go out for a sleepover the night before Easter Sunday. But Jude Law as Lenny Belardo will also work.

How does this relate to my pitch for a film called Pope Swap, in which a pope who just wants to have a little fun for once (Jeffrey Tambor) and a rock star who wants people to take him seriously (Channing Tatum) wish on the same shooting star in Rome one night and wake up the next morning in each other’s body, leading to numerous shenanigans like rock groupies being awkwardly turned away and bottles of Jack Daniels being blessed for communion?

It does not relate at all, technically, other than providing me an opportunity to shoehorn it into the conversation over and over again, kind of like I did just.

Why can’t I have this show now?

Well, because it doesn’t premiere in America until January 15, even though it premiered in Europe in October. But that actually might be a blessing in disguise, because…

There no chance this show will be everything I’m imagining, right?

It almost definitely will not. I really don’t see how it can be, to be honest. It will probably be, like, good, given the track record of both HBO and its Oscar-winning creator. (It’s getting pretty solid reviews so far.) I will actually be a little sad if this happens, like I was when a USA drama titled Mr. Robot somehow had one of the best first seasons in recent memory. This is unfair of me, I admit. I have nothing against the show or the people involved. It’s just that now I have these expectations.

And even if it is bad, it will probably be more blah Vinyl bad than fun “Wait, did Bob Benson from Mad Men just slap a four-star general and demand to know the location of a sloth” bad, like my beloved Zoo, but about a renegade American pope named Lenny who refuses to negotiate with anyone. It almost makes me not want to watch it, just to keep this dream of it forever burned into my brain.

Ahhh, who I am kidding? I will 100 percent watch The Young Pope. I love hats.

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