Television: It’s not just a cornerstone of American culture. Because these United States of America have structured so much of our modern identity around TV—watching it, hate-watching it, binge-watching it, endlessly dissecting it on pages both paper and screen—it’s sometimes easy to forget that the heathen residents of non-America nations have also forged their own crude attempts at televisual programming. In an attempt to mimic the pallid hue of actual British citizens, many American viewers have shut themselves in to feast on offerings from the BBC. And though we may not realize it, many of America’s finest programs came down from the north as Canadian exports. I’m referring, of course, to Canuck Buffy The Vampire Slayer knock-off Big Wolf On Campus, about a high-school senior who must use lycanthropic abilities to fight off—actually, you should really just watch it.
Italy is no different, overcoming its natural disadvantages as the Earth’s most boot-shaped nation to produce original televisual content all its own. And at that, it has the pull to attract award-winning, internationally renowned filmmakers to head up a big premiere. I’m alluding to Paolo Sorrentino, director of such films as This Must Be The Place and The Great Beauty, the latter of which secured the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2013.
Variety reports that Sorrentino has taken the reins of a new series for Italian TV called The Young Pope. Described as “high-concept,” the show centers on the appointment of the first-ever Italian-American Pope, a staunch conservative specifically selected to counteract a recent trend of liberalism in the Roman Catholic church. The program will undoubtedly give Sorrentino ample opportunity to further explore his pet subjects of religion, politics, and the current state of Italy. For those viewers unfamiliar with the sociopolitical topography of Italy, there will most likely also be ravishing visual opulence to keep us occupied.
But now a plume of white smoke has begun to drift from whatever Italian production office shall oversee this project: Sorrentino appears to have found his Pope. Though we’re still awaiting confirmation, an early report from Variety claims that eXistenZ, A.I., and Gattaca star Jude Law (man, remember how fun late-’90s Jude Law was, back when he worked primarily in bizarre sci-fi?) is in “advanced negotiations” to don the huge chapeau and flowy robe. This could be a winning combination; in coaxing the most restrained Sean Penn performance in years during This Must Be The Place, Sorrentino proved that a language barrier doesn’t hinder him from extracting great work from his actors.
The Young Pope will shoot its eight episodes primarily in the English language, which bodes well for exhibition Stateside. No date on the horizon as of yet, though this is worth keeping an eye on. Sorrentino’s the latest cinematic talent lured to TV by the promise of creative freedom and serialized storytelling. After the sweeping grandeur of 2013’s The Great Beauty (my second-favorite film of 2013, for the folks keeping track at home), I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with TV.