I will keep this brief because I’ve only had time to watch one episode, so far, and I want to watch a few more before I make a real assessment on the show, although I suspect that some of our European readers — many of whom have already seen the series — can offer their own opinions in the comments. I will say this about HBO’s The Young Pope, however: It’s probably not what you think it is. It’s daffy in a way that I did not expect, and certainly goofier than I might presume a show about the Pope might be. There’s a certain Ryan Murphy/Paul Verhoeven quality to it, sort of like The Pope meets Showgirls.
I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s definitely watchable. There’s a certain playful charm to the way it refuses to take itself too seriously, and I expect it will be met on social media with a mix of appreciation and derisiveness. It’s a joke you can both laugh with and at. After all, it’s an easy show to make fun of, you know, because Jude Law plays The Pope, a Pope who likes to drink Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast and who fantasizes about telling a Vatican-city crowd to go out, fornicate and get abortions! That sort of thing. He also may or may not believe in God.
I suspect, however, the The Young Pope is going to deal largely in church politics, and in this way, the HBO series treats the Vatican like the mafia. A bunch of Cardinals get together to elect a young Pope they think they can control, but once he takes over, he installs his own people (including his mother, played by Diane Keaton) and basically turns on the crooked establishment. Only he’s kind of crooked himself, I think. Or maybe he’s just really open-minded.
If you’re looking for something on Sunday night to watch, tweet about, and make fun of around the social-media water cooler on Monday morning, I think The Young Pope fits the bill. If you’re looking for a semi-campy The Sopranos set in the Vatican, maybe this will scratch that itch, too. However, if you’re looking for a serious drama to fill the Game of Thrones or Westworld void, I doubt The Young Pope is going to do it for you. Homeland, however, also returns on Sunday night, and it may be more to your liking.