A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Young Pope is a drama about the fictitious first American pope. Jude Law plays Lenny Belardo turned Pope Pius XIII. Despite the name change, Lenny's no saint. In a dream, Lenny rails against Catholic teaching and encourages all kinds of behavior (masturbation, premarital sex, abortion, priests being allowed to marry, euthanasia). In his waking hours, his abrasive personality and scheming for total power over the Vatican angers many, including the Vatican secretary of state. While the show is beautifully produced and teens may learn a little about the higher-ups of the Catholic Church, Lenny is such an unpleasant character that it sours the show.
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What's the story?
THE YOUNG POPE begins with newly elected Lenny, aka Pope Pius XIII, shocking the faithful by telling them to do many of the things the church has always told them not to do. It's all a dream, and Lenny wakes up to an actual day with no controversial speech-giving, but nonetheless he creates controversy every time he opens his mouth within the Vatican walls. That is, until Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), his special assistant, arrives. We see shots of her as a young nun with Lenny at the orphanage where she helped raise him. His other guide is the Vatican confessor; Lenny convinces him to break the confidentiality of the confessional and spill everyone's secret sins so he can hold them again his rivals. After closing down the Vatican art collection for a private viewing, Lenny seems more introspective, but later we hear him in a rooftop confession telling the confessor that he doesn't believe in God. Will this extremely fallible pontiff find a way to redeem himself, or will someone try to "redeem" him out of the job?
Is it any good?
If there was only one thing -- anything -- to like about Jude Law's character, Lenny Boello, this series would be a lot more fun to watch. But Lenny turned Pope Pius XIII is such an ego-drenched, dreadful person that even the scenes of him as a child don't give him enough of a human side to make him a care-worthy character. The pace of the nearly hour-long-per-episode series feels quite slow. There's only so many discussions about church politics and policies that can sound interesting, especially when the pope just wants to talk about who's going to serve him and how he can insult them.
The plus sides of The Young Pope are definitely the beautiful shots of Rome, St. Peter's Square, and the rest of Vatican and the supporting cast, including Diane Keaton as Sister Mary, a nun from Lenny's childhood. Sister Mary seems like she may be the only one who not only can handle but find something to love in Lenny.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about power struggles in huge institutions, such as churches, governments, and corporations and those on The Young Pope. Why do people in high places often fight for even more power?
Does the fact that Lenny was an orphan make a difference in how you perceive him? How about that he's an American? That he's younger than the typical pope?
Talk about Sister Mary, Diane Keaton's character in the series. Is she a "good guy" or a "bad guy?" Why does Lenny trust her?
For kids who love drama
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