HBO is currently running a dark little miniseries called "The New Pope," which is basically a reboot of the 2016 series "The Young Pope." Both sprang from the mind of Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, and both are scabrously anti-Catholic, which never hurts you when it comes to the elites in Manhattan and Hollywood.
"The Young Pope" starred Jude Law as the first American pope, painted as so doctrinaire that he wanted to end the sexual abuse problem in the Catholic Church by drumming all the homosexuals out of the priesthood. A cardinal protested saying: "It would be a war that would leave the ground littered with corpses, Holy Father. Do you want to know how many corpses would litter the ground?" The pontiff replied, "Two-thirds of the clergy." Then they both compared the church to a Third World dictatorship.
"The New Pope" stars John Malkovich as an effete English pontiff who threatens to shred the Bible and open the church to same-sex marriage. The first show ended with the pope going into cardiac arrest. Now he's in a coma, having had three failed heart transplants. In his place the cardinals elect a Franciscan named Francis II, but he proposes selling off all the church's wealth, and he ends up dead. Then they turn to the Malkovich character, who chooses the name Pope John Paul III. This is a wicked little joke that suggests Pope John Paul I, who died 33 days into his papacy in 1978, was bumped off.
This new pope is enamored with American celebrities who are the opposite of Catholic such as rock singer Marilyn Manson. His 1996 album "Antichrist Superstar" included a song that mocks God with these lyrics: "'He is the maker/ He is the taker/ He is the savior/ He is the raper."
Later on, Sharon Stone pleads for an end to the "pointless taboo" on gay marriage. "Can't the Bible be upgraded?" she asks. He replies, "Alas, the Bible is not an iPhone." And yet, at the end of this episode, HBO's fantasy pope proclaims: "I intend to state that I am in favor of marriage for priests both gay and straight. We have to legitimize possible love so as to divert people from aberrant love, which is a form of violence. ... A small step and hopefully less tears in the great ocean of human history."
The TV critics are split. Hank Stuever of The Washington Post found the second miniseries quite inferior to the first, insulting it as "the longest Madonna video ever made." He concluded that the show was so dull "even the most faithful watchers will have lapsed into their own comas."
John Anderson at The Wall Street Journal touted it as "outrageous, audacious, seductive, sexy and byzantine, to say nothing of visually voluptuous." He adores the "writing that is pure mischief."
It's not just Catholics in the crosshairs at HBO. Last year, it ran "The Righteous Gemstones," centered on a greedy televangelist family who runs a megachurch. The patriarch is played by John Goodman. In the show's first hour, the F-word was used 41 times, and the Lord's name was taken in vain 28 times.
Speaking of "pure mischief," imagine the possibilities of Bill Maher's channel going off in a different direction with a mischievous miniseries called "The New Ayatollah." Instead of uncorking wild and crazy conspiracy theories in Vatican City, it could be based in Tehran. Iran's highest religious authorities could be shown to be corrupted by power and addicted to sex. Hollywood celebrities could drop by to demand a Quran upgrade.
Somehow, the Christians are always caricatured, and the Muslims are never touched. So how brave are these godless showrunners?
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.